truscan vessel

On Valentine’s Day in 1961 the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced their gigantic star attraction in the Greek Roman hall since 1933, was a fake. (Below left.) New Technical analysis showed the eight foot tall Etruscan ceramic warrior, dug up in a secret location in Italy with two other massive sculptures, was strictly phony baloney.

etruscan warriorI have seen that statue. Noted its odd proportions–the result of poor planning by Italian forgers who abruptly ran out of ceiling space while sculpting it. The Etruscan warrior hoax is a great story. And one I sometimes think of when ambling through the Met’s collection.

This Etruscan terra-cotta vessel above, for instance, with its strange face, has me wondering. Look at those pop-out eyes and especially check out those eyebrows. They’re too perfect, too slick, so inky black in comparison to the piece’s other painted blacks. The hair around the face is in that same camp — the too even glaze so darkly black. Heavy handed Restoration work could account for this, I suppose. But the face also has an almost comical feel that doesn’t tally with the classical decoration above its head. During that period I believe numerous artisans did contribute to a single piece, so one artist could have painted the tighter controlled upper scene and another the looser, more provincial lower decoration.

Another discordant note is the smooth color and texture of the face above the lips. It looks far newer and fresher than the rest of the vessel – like a face that’s undergone too much plastic surgery — or a face produced by a restorer with an unsubtle touch. Or maybe even… a face open to authenticity questions.


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