Fakes and forgeries go on display at the V&A Museum - History - Life and Style - The Independent

Fakes and forgeries go on display at the V&A Museum

This Saturday the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will open a show that is all about a fake, in partnership with Scotland Yard. The exhibit, Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries, will explore the work of counterfeit mastermind Shaun Greenhalgh, and reveal some of the techniques used by the police to spot fakes.

Over a 17 year period Greenhalgh created fake art pieces that fooled museum experts and sold for sums as high as six figures. Sentenced in 2007 he is currently serving a four year prison sentence. His parents Olive and George Greenhalgh, who assisted in his activities, were given suspended sentences – they were both in their 80s when tried.



Shaun Greenhalgh’s fakes encompassed both the ancient and modern worlds. These include Assyrian reliefs, Thomas Moran paintings and a Barbara Hepworth sculpture.



The Greenhalghs melted down genuine Roman coins in order to create a forged Rizley Park Lanx - a Roman serving plate described in detail by William Stuckley. The art world tentatively accepted it as an original, and the lanx was sold at auction in 1992 for £100,000, before being donated to the British Museum.



But perhaps his most remarkable criminal achievement is that of the so-called 'Amarna Princess' that was sold to the Bolton Museum in 2003 for £440,000. It’s a headless 52 cm alabaster statue that shows what appears to be an Egyptian princess.



Now, this is no ordinary fake. Amarna art is a very unique artform in Egyptian history. It was only practiced for about 20 years – during and shortly after the reign of the pharaoh Akhenaten.



As pharaohs go Akhenaten was a total rebel. When he came to power he threw out Egypt’s polytheistic religion, focusing Egyptian beliefs around the worship of one entity – the Aten, a sun-disc. He built an entirely new capital called Amarna out in the desert and he brought in a new and utterly strange style of Egyptian art.



Unlike the formal prose of earlier pharaohs, art from his reign shows the human body with long spindly fingers, cone shaped heads and intimate scenes such as Akhenaten kissing one of his daughters.



Two years after Akhenaten’s death Tutankhamun came to the throne and art returned to its traditional formal style which is seen so beautifully in the artefacts from King Tut’s tomb. It has been suggested that Akhenaten suffered from a medical condition, such as Marfan's syndrome, that affected his appearance and caused him to bring in this new art-style.



So the fact that Greenhalgh was able to create such a convincing fake of a royal – from such a unique time period of Egyptian art history – is quite remarkable.



The Bolton Museum said in a statement that the rarity of the item actually made it more difficult to out as a fake:



“There were few comparable objects to compare the statue to, apart from a statue in the Louvre Museum in Paris. For this reason the statue’s provenance (ownership history) played an important part in the authentication of the statue,” they said in a release on their website. “Experts at the British Museum also concluded that it was a genuine piece.”



To help peddle the fake, Greenhalgh’s father played the role of front-man. The elder Greenhalgh told the museum a story about how it had been bought by his great-grandfather at an 1892 auction of items from 4th Earl of Egremont’s collection.



Shaun Greenhalgh’s Slip-up



The success of the Amarna Princess appears to have gone to Greenhalgh’s head. In 2005 his father (again playing front-man) tried to sell three faked Assyrian reliefs to the British Museum. They depicted ancient battle scenes and at first glance appeared to be genuine. But the work that Shaun Greenhalgh had done on the details was sloppy.



The errors were numerous. The artwork showed what appeared to be 20th century harnesses on the horses, and there was a spelling mistake in the cuneiform inscription. To top it off, this time the Greenhalgh's cover story about how they came about the artefacts didn't add up.



Museum curator John Curtis told the journal Art and Antiquites that the condition of the reliefs “just didn't fit the story that the piece had been hidden in their garage for decades." While Iraqi deserts may help preserve Assyrian reliefs, car garages in northern latitudes don’t.



Scotland Yard was called and before long the Greenhalghs were exposed.



Their story of fakery was widely reported in the press and the BBC dramatized it in 2009 with a play called the The Antiques Rogues Show.



The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries runs from 23 January – 7 February 2010 at the V&A Museum, rooms 17a & 18a. Admission free.

The Ancient World in London

Other famous and possible fake artefacts on display in museums

Interview with Paul Denis on Fakes & Forgeries: Greek Coins, Zapotec Artefacts and the Internet

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skies as 007 for first time
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Steven Gerrard celebrates after his late winner
champions leagueGerrard and Balotelli ensure victory
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week