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Real or Forged? Lecture Will Offer Tips on Judging Antiques

November 04, 2000|KATHY BRYANT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"There have always been fakes, even in antiquity," says Charles F. Hummel, author, scholar, lecturer and curator emeritus of the Winterthur Museum in Wilmington, Del. "Think of 'caveat emptor' or 'buyer beware.' Roman collectors then were complaining about fake Etruscan antiques."

Hummel will present a slide lecture, "Fakes and Forgeries," on Nov. 12 at 11:30 a.m. at Glabman Furniture & Interior Design in Costa Mesa. His talk will offer insights into the differences among antiques, which are genuinely old; fakes, which are passed off as antiques, sometimes innocently; and forgeries, which are intentionally made to deceive.

"Any and every material has been faked at some time," Hummel said. "My lecture will focus on American antiques for which record prices are now being paid. It makes forgery very tempting."

The Winterthur Museum features antiques from the estate of Henry F. du Pont and a collection of American decorative arts.

Hummel explained that out-and-out forgeries are actually quite rare. More often, good reproductions made in the 19th and 20th centuries are passed off as genuine to the second or third buyer.

"There is a myth that there were no good hand-craftsmen after the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 19th century. That simply isn't true."

Exploding another myth, Hummel said it isn't just expensive pieces that are faked. "If you can make a 200% markup on something, you're going to fake it." As examples, he cited brass candlesticks and chandeliers that are churned out and passed off as antiques when they're not.

During the lecture, Hummel will use illustrations of furniture from Winterthur's study collections. "We have a study collection of fakes, forgeries and reproductions that allows people to readily see the differences between them," he said. "Not all are from our collection; some were bought and some have been donated to us. I think anyone who collects, whether they be novices or experienced collectors, will want to know or be reminded of the differences in these pieces."

The presentation also will explain how to recognize quality in reproduction furniture. Wood carvers from Kindel, a furniture manufacturer with exclusive rights to replicate pieces from the Winterthur collection, will be on hand to share secrets.

Limited seating is available and reservations are recommended. For reservations, call (800) 298-9055.

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