Trugare, or one case from the history of the forgery-making
Keywords:Limoges enamels, Rothschild, Simon-Emérique Pierra, trucage, applied arts, forgery, false enamel, XIXth century
The paper is a part of the author’s larger research on the history of restoration of Limoges painted enamels in the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in Paris. It treats about a well-documented case of a French restorer and merchant Simon-Emérique Pierrat, accused in 1858 for selling false Limoges enamels to the members of the Rothschild family. The transcript of this process sheds light on methods and approaches used by some XIXth century forgers in the field of applied arts. Due to the high rank of his deceived clients, Pierra’s case was widely known by his contemporaries, and the restorer himself was considered as a faker par excellence. To succeed in his business, Pierrat, used to acquire enamels produced by his contemporaries and resell them to collectors. To make them look ancient, the restorer used to add some dirt and fire it on the object, so that it looks like the dirt of the time. He also used sophisticated narrative methods to add more credibility to his merchandise. However, sometimes objects talked for themselves. That is why, the presence of decorative elements imitating antique vases discovered during the Herculaneum excavations on a Renaissance enamel allowed an expert to expose a fake at the Rothschild collection and thus put an end to Pierrat’s fraudulent business. The method of his trucage (fr. Process or set of processes used, in the field of decorative arts and fine arts, to make fakes, counterfeits of antiques - Larousse) was largely discussed and denounced, but was also, though rarely, seen as a natural result of collectors’ blind chase over authentic Limoges enamels at the time. As the question of false objects and “honest” imitations rises for museum curators all over the world, such testimonies could be seen as a valuable piste to follow for a better understanding of the XIXth century applied art market context and its actors.
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