Journal Article

‘Plaguey things’

Julie Dawson and Trevor Emmett

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 24, issue 3, pages 379-398
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online May 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhr049
‘Plaguey things’

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  • History of Art
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In 1946 the Fitzwilliam Museum purchased two striking ‘bronze’ statuettes at auction in London. They were said to be early fifth-century BC in date and of central Etruscan style. Almost immediately suspicion was thrown upon them for their mythological and stylistic eccentricities and their obscure history. The story of the purchase, the debate about the objects as recorded in correspondence in the Museum’s archives and their history in the Museum to the present day is described. A technical study has been undertaken, including examination of the manufacturing technique, analysis of the metal and patina: details of the examinations undertaken and the analytical techniques used are presented in four online appendices. The results are used to characterize the figures and place them within the context of authentic and fake Etruscan copper alloy objects. It seems most likely that they were created in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Finally, reasons why the Museum purchased the statuettes and why it took so long to confirm their status are proposed.

Journal Article.  11466 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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