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Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images
Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images

French Art Museum Discovers More Than Half of Its Paintings Are Fakes

Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images
Raymond Roig, AFP/Getty Images

If you can't tell a priceless work of art from an imitation, don't be discouraged—even experts at the world's top museums have been known to mistake a forgery for the real thing. That's a lesson the Terrus Museum in Elne, France recently learned the hard way when it found that 82 of the 140 paintings in its collection are fakes, as Co.Design reports.

Elne, a village in the South of France, is the hometown of painter Étienne Terrus, a late-19th century artist known for depicting local landscapes. The village has spent roughly $200,000 over the last 20 years buying the painter's supposed works for its art museum, which recently completed extensive renovations.

Ahead of its grand reopening, Terrus Museum guest curator Eric Forcada noticed something fishy about the collection: Some paintings contained landmarks that weren't supposed to be there. In one painting, Forcada spotted a building constructed in 1958, 36 years after Terrus's death. After calling in a panel of experts to examine the paintings more closely, the museum discovered that dozens of them were frauds.

The incident is a reflection of a larger trend troubling the art world. By one estimate, as much as 20 percent of artworks in major museums in the UK weren't made by the painters they're attributed to. Elne's expensive oversight shows just how hard it is to keep inauthentic paintings from ending up on gallery walls.

Forensic studies can shed light on a piece's origins, but older paintings caked with varnish are harder to examine. In some cases, researching and verifying a painting's history can save museums and art collectors buyer's remorse down the road, but this becomes an issue when buyers are looking at a rare piece that someone else might snatch up if they don't act fast. Rushing into an art purchase can lead to enormous financial loss. Last year, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi was purchased for a record-breaking $450 million at auction, even though some people in the art world believed it was fake, and therefore worthless.

When forged paintings do sneak their way into museums, they often go unnoticed by visitors. The difficulty of spotting fake paintings was even the subject of a game show that aired in the UK in 2016. Research by the show's creators found that people are particularly bad at identifying forged landscape paintings.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Pop Chart Lab
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A Visual History of Captain America’s Shields
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

Captain America has gone through plenty of wardrobe changes since his comic book debut in 1941, but it’s his iconic shield that has had the most makeovers. Over the past eight decades, fans have seen the shield change its shape, color, and even the material from which it’s crafted. For the folks at Pop Chart Lab, the shield’s storied history provided the perfect subject matter for their latest poster.

On this piece, the company teamed with Marvel to give a rundown of 50 of Cap’s shields—from the instantly recognizable to the downright obscure. Here we see his classic Golden Age shield, with its slightly different color scheme, and the different variations from Jack Kirby’s time-traveling Bicentennial Battles book. Then there are entries like the vibranium shield he received from Black Panther in Captain America #342 and an adamantium one made by Tony Stark.

Those different shields just scratch the surface of the deep cuts Pop Chart Lab provides. There are also shields from Captain Americas across Marvel’s numerous alternate universes, like the ones used by the Ultimate Universe Steve Rogers and the android Cap from Earth-725.

Each shield is illustrated to match its comic book counterpart and comes with a description specifying the series it debuted in and which Earth it exists on (the Marvel Universe has thousands of different versions of Earth, after all).

The posters will begin shipping on May 23, and you can pre-order yours now starting at $29 on the Pop Chart Lab website. You can check out a full look at the poster below.

Pop Chart Lab's Captain America shield poster
Pop Chart Lab
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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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Art
5 Fast Facts About Tamara de Lempicka
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes artists become more known among the general public for their colorful personal lives than for their artwork, no matter how great their contributions to the art world. Such is the case with Polish/American artist Tamara de Lempicka, who was born on this day in 1898. While Google is honoring what would have been her 120th birthday with a Google Doodle,  here are some highlights from her storied life.

1. SHE BEGAN HER "CAREER" AT THE AGE OF 12.

Tamara de Lempicka, who was born Maria Górska, discovered her artistic passion and skill at the age of 12. Lempicka had sat for a famous painter, but hated the resulting portrait, and believed she could do a better job. Thus she created her first painting ever, a portrait of her younger sister Adrienne, with which she was extremely pleased.

2. SHE MET HER HUSBAND WHEN SHE WAS 14 YEARS OLD.

Though she was only 14 years old when she met Taduesz Lempicki, the teenaged Lempicka became determined to marry him. Just a few years later, when she was 17 years old, she married the "modestly well-off lawyer" with a dowry provided by her "millionaire banker uncle." (She hadn't lived with her parents since they divorced when she was a child.)

3. SHE'S MORE FAMOUS FOR HER SEX LIFE THAN HER ART.

 Gallery technicians at Sotheby's auction house lift a painting by Tamara de Lempicka entitled 'Portrait de la Duchesse de la Salle' from 1925, next to another painting by the artist, 'Portrait de Marjorie Ferry' from 1932
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Although she is considered the most famous Art Deco painter, Lempicka was more famous for her libido than for her art. She was bisexual, and carried on scandalous affairs with both men and women (often her patrons and models). Yet the exact details are somewhat unclear since, according to one source, she "shuffled the facts of her biography as much as she meddled with her birth date"—and she meddled with her birth date quite a bit, even going so far as to reportedly try to pass her daughter off as her sister on occasion.

4. SHE LIVED A LIFE OF LUXURY.

Lempicka lived a life of luxury from childhood. Not only was she born into a wealthy family, her second husband was Baron Kuffner, a wealthy Hungarian baron who had been her patron and lover. Although she initially lost money in 1929 when her bank collapsed, she survived the Great Depression relatively unaffected, painting the portraits of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece during that time. She had been charging as much as 50,000 French francs per portrait by 1927, which was equivalent to about $2000 then, but would be about 10 times as much today.

5. HER ASHES WERE SCATTERED OVER A VOLCANO.

In 1980, Lempicka passed away in Mexico. Per her request, Lempicka's ashes were scattered over the crater of the volcanic Mount Popocatepetl by her daughter, Kizette.

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2008.

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