Museum publishes a fake porcelain flask as a genuine artifact : ________________________
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Museum publishes a fake porcelain flask as a genuine artifact

by Sten Sjostrand on 10/10/10

A friend of mine sent a scanned page of a well-known museum newsletter which featured an antique --Yuan dynasty flask-- and asked my opinion about its authenticity. It was immediately obvious (even from the scanned page) that the flask was a recent fake. The reply to my friend was short: Quote: If there is one thing the flask is NOT, it is from the Yuan dynasty! I mean, NEVER, ever! Unquote.

 After communicating my initial opinion directly with the museum curator (whom had written the article about the flask) I summarized my observations as follows: Quote: I was also interested in the unusual style of rendering and the use of outlines and the cobalt density. When comparing with the Chinese sample (a similar but authentic flask found in China in the 1970s) the flowers, the scroll, handle and foot ring all appeared --stiff--and out of place. So, I wondered if potters/decorators in the Yuan dynasty had as much variations in their painting as in later times. But, still, the flask is unusual, surprising, and unique and possibly also suspect. Unquote

At this time I was told by the curator that the flask was about to undergo TL (Thermoluminescence) dating. One may of course wonder why the flask was first published as a genuine piece in a museum newsletter and then submitted for scientific dating! Nonetheless, the curator promised to keep me informed about the dating result whenever it would be available. At the same time, the museum curator said: Quote: All your work on the shipwrecks has helped me immensely and it would be great if you could come to (the place of the museum) to give a talk and check all the ceramics in our holdings. Unquote. From this it is evident that even well-educated professional and experienced museum curators are confused by the many --good--fakes in circulation today and recognize that many opinions are needed to ascertain the authenticity of genuine antiques.

 Many months later and numerous email remainders, I have not heard anything from the curator about the TL dating despite her promises to keep me informed. It is very likely that the result was not to the liking of the museum which now tries to avoid a likely embarrassment. Even if the museum were to publish a corrective article about the artifact date (which it should) -the damage is done. Not only to the credibility of the museum but also to the whole art-historical community. If there is one place where we would like to study genuine artifacts, it would be in our museums and from their publications. By not sharing the actual date of the piece and leaving the original article standing, the museum have done a grave disservice to all concerned.

 Sadly, it is not the first time that young art-historians have studied --fake-- porcelain pieces in museums -assuming they were genuine artifacts. One can only wonder in disbelieve what these young art-historians in the future will say about absolute genuine pieces.

 So, again (and this is not mean to promote our own artifacts) the only safe way to purchase genuinely old artifacts is to purchase (directly) from properly excavated and documented shipwreck sites. And not from any shipwreck cargoes (as some shipwreck cargoes are known to have been -mixed up- with newly made pieces) but from people with professionalism and integrity.

To view a National Geographic video about the fakery going on in todays China, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=nanhai+marine&aq=f  and watch the videos titled --Faking China-- Part 1-3

Sten

 

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