français article # 56



by Pierre Gagnaux ©
(click on photos to enlarge)


The illegal production of something counterfeit involves, as an antecedent condition, the intention to deceive someone. A copy is only the reproduction of the object without respect of the dimensions, signatures or injuries caused by its use. What follows up is only the consequence of the honesty of the seller and of the gullibility of the buyer.

Some time ago friends merchants told me of the arrival in Switzerland of a lot of false Febergé offered for sale by a 'solicitor'. This information suggested to maintain awareness at the greatest level, but when I tried to photograph one of these precious rarity an adamant 'niet' was the owner's response.

Moreover my warning against another category of fakes in antique Russian silver, the icon, caused the resentment of the antique dealer who, based on his long experience, had no doubt of its authenticity.

An analyse through the images will be more explicit than a long speech.

At first sight the 'riza' icon, probably St Gregory, looks to be made of solid silver. Saint Gregory icon

After a deeper examination, the 'riza' proves to be an electrotype copy executed in silver-plated copper from an original ancient item. It is hallmarked in the correct way as the marks are the exact copy obtained by electrolysis from the original icon.

The following step is to disassemble the icon.

When the 'silver riza' (protection of the painting) is removed I have the confirmation of my original thought: the image of St Gregory is painted only in the visible parts, as the forger has omitted to paint the complete figure of the Saint.

On an authentic icon the 'riza' is only an addition made by a silversmith to protect the painting, and, obviously, it may be removed without diminishing the decorative value of the object.
partially painted image

Therefore, the icon also is not an authentic ancient painting with votive function covered by a false 'riza' to improve its value....
In conclusion, the marks are stamped in the 'right' way and correspond to the town of Nijni-Novgorod.

They are present in all the welded parts and were obtained by electrotyping from the original silver 'riza' used as a model.

inside of the riza The examination of the back of the 'riza' reveals that it is not a 'repoussé' work and shows evident traces of foundry or electrotype work. Its edges were tin-welded before silver plating.

fake hallmarks The hallmarks are reproduced in a perfect manner. It would be difficult to detect the forgery if a solid silver support would be used.

authentic hallmarks These are authentic hallmarks on a round container.
The marks are stamped in the geometrical center, with silversmith's mark upside down (this was a rule in Tsarist Russia).

This piece has a known provenance and was imported from Greece in the 1970'.
The owner was unaware of its background and our conclusion is that this piece was not manufactured with real criminal purposes and was not intended for an antique dealer.
Its destination was likely a 'collector of forgeries'. People fond of 'objet d'art' sometimes love to collect fakes to mock someone too sure of his knowledge, but the marketing of these objects, without specifying their nature in a written invoice, involve the risk of being led to court.
Pierre Gagnaux
photos by Pierre Gagnaux
English version translated by Giorgio Busetto and revised by Jayne Dye