Friday, October 21, 2011

Authentic Fakery

  Every so often I get an email from somebody who wants to buy, or has bought, a bit of medieval memorabilia on eBay and wants to know whether they are getting good value. Note that I do not answer these queries; that is, I answer the emails but not the question. Everybody has their own idea of good value, and I am not a qualified valuer. Besides, I just might be bidding against them. One writer did once venture the opinion that all medieval manuscripts on eBay were fake. I could not imagine who would take the trouble to produce an authentic looking piece of medieval manuscript fakery for the sort of money that they generally get on eBay. There are 19th century calligraphic pieces in medieval style, but if it looks like a duck and quacks ........
  An item currently for sale has me intrigued. It is a carved and gilded book cover which is advertised as being a modern fake in 15th century style, produced by a well known forger in Siena. It seems that, so far, nobody wants to buy it. Is it because, the object having been identified as a fake, that it is difficult to identify or authenticate that it is the particular fake that it is purported to be? A quick google around art auction websites suggests that fake book covers by this particular forger can fetch several thousand English pounds. He apparently produced a lot of book covers based on some in the city archives in Siena. A known fake painting by the artist was sold to over twenty thousand pounds.
  So what is an authentic fake? Does a fake eventually generate its own authenticity? Is a fake of less value if you cannot authenticate the identity of the faker?
  Meanwhile, back at the coal face, the update to graphics and formatting of the script samples of all Gothic book hands is complete and I am about to start on the document hands. Yippee!

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