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]

10 Killer Gifts for True Crime Fans

Ulysses Press/Little A
Ulysses Press/Little A

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Humans have a strange and lasting fascination with the dark and macabre. We’re hooked on stories about crime and murder, and if you know one of those obsessives who eagerly binges every true crime documentary and podcast that crosses their path, you’re in luck—we’ve compiled a list of gifts that will appeal to any murder mystery lover.

1. Donner Dinner Party: A Rowdy Game of Frontier Cannibalism!; $15

Chronicle Books/Amazon

The infamous story of the Donner party gets a new twist in this social deduction party game that challenges players to survive and eliminate the cannibals hiding within their group of friends. It’s “lots of fun accusing your friends of eating human flesh and poisoning your food,” one reviewer says.

Buy it: Amazon

2. A Year of True Crime Page-a-Day Calendar; $16

Workman Calendars/Amazon

With this page-a-day calendar, every morning is an opportunity to build your loved one's true crime chops. Feed their morbid curiosity by reading about unsolved cases and horrifying killers while testing their knowledge with the occasional quizzes sprinkled throughout the 313-page calendar (weekends are combined onto one page).

Buy it: Amazon

3. Bloody America: The Serial Killers Coloring Book; $10

Kolme Korkeudet Oy/Amazon

Some people use coloring books to relax, while others use them to dive into the grisly murders of American serial killers. Just make sure to also gift some red colored pencils before you wrap this up for your bestie.

Buy it: Amazon

4. The Serial Killer Cookbook: True Crime Trivia and Disturbingly Delicious Last Meals from Death Row's Most Infamous Killers and Murderers; $15

Ulysses Press/Amazon

This macabre cookbook contains recipes for the last meals of some of the world’s most famous serial killers, including Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos, and John Wayne Gacy. This cookbook covers everything from breakfast (seared steak with eggs and toast, courtesy of Ted Bundy) to dessert (chocolate cake, the last request of Bobby Wayne Woods). Each recipe includes a short description of the killer who requested the meal.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Ripped from the Headlines!: The Shocking True Stories Behind the Movies’ Most Memorable Crimes; $15

Little A/Amazon

In this book, true crime historian Harold Schechter sorts out the truth and fiction that inspired some of Hollywood’s best-known murder movies—including Psycho (1960), Scream (1996), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). As Schechter makes clear, sometimes reality is even a little more sick and twisted than the movies show.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Deadbolt Mystery Society Monthly Box; $22/month

CrateJoy

Give the murder mystery lover in your life the opportunity to solve a brand-new case every single month. Each box includes the documents and files for a standalone mystery story that can be solved alone or with up to three friends. To crack the case, you’ll also need a laptop, tablet, or smartphone connected to the internet—each mystery includes interactive content that requires scanning QR codes or watching videos.

Buy it: Cratejoy

7. In Cold Blood; $10

Vintage/Amazon

Truman Capote’s 1965 classic about the murder of a Kansas family is considered by many to be the first true-crime nonfiction novel ever published. Capote’s book—still compulsively readable despite being written more than 50 years ago—follows the mysterious case from beginning to end, helping readers understand the perspectives of the victims, investigators, and suspects in equal time.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide; $13

Forge Books/Amazon

Any avid true crime fan has at least heard of My Favorite Murder, the popular podcast that premiered in 2016. This book is a combination of practical wisdom, true crime tales, and personal stories from the podcast’s comedic hosts. Reviewers say it’s “poignant” and “worth every penny.”

Buy it: Amazon

9. I Like to Party Mug; $12

LookHUMAN/Amazon

This cheeky coffee mug says it all. Plus, it’s both dishwasher- and microwave-safe, making it a sturdy gift for the true crime lover in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Latent Fingerprint Kit; $60

Crime Scene Store/Amazon

Try your hand (get it?!) at being an amateur detective with this kit that lets you collect fingerprints left on most surfaces. It may not be glamorous, but it could help you solve the mystery of who put that practically empty carton back in the refrigerator when it barely contained enough milk for a cup of coffee.

Buy it: Amazon

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13 Gorgeous Coffee Table Books for Anyone on Your List

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Taschen

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This holiday season, give the gift of a gorgeous, conversation-starting coffee table book. Here are 13 that you can get for anyone on your list, whether they're obsessed with history, art, or cats.

1. Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; $50

W.W. Norton/Amazon

Deborah Willis’s incredible book features more than 200 photos—many that were previously unpublished—organized by theme. There are famous figures like Josephine Baker, Lil Kim, and Condoleezza Rice, as well as anonymous Black people in the neighborhood, reading magazines, and getting a cut from the barber. Willis spent 10 years doing research and combing through archives to create the book, which has been hailed as “a definitive history of black beauty … a treasure, a triumph and a singular achievement that invites fresh and enduring insights with each viewing.”

Buy it: Amazon

2. Parks: United States National Park Service Maps from the Collection of Brian Kelley; $57

Standards Manual/Amazon

National Park enthusiasts will love this book, which pulls together more than 400 maps and other incredible visual treasures dating as far back as 1910.

Buy it: Amazon

3. America 1900; $70

Taschen

This stunning, 588-page behemoth of a book (it weighs almost nine pounds!) features the first color photos of North America, produced between 1888 and 1924. Taschen also has books devoted to France, Italy, and Germany at the same time period if you’re looking to gift a set.

Buy it: Taschen

4. Walter Chandoha. Cats: 1942-2018; $50

Taschen

After snapping photos of a kitten he’d rescued in 1949, Walter Chandoha—who had previously worked as a photographer for the Army during World War II—started to photograph shelter cats … and didn’t stop taking photos of cats for the next 70 years. This book pulls together his incredible images (which influenced Andy Warhol) in one place, and it’s a gift that any ailurophile/bibliophile will appreciate.

Buy it: Taschen

5. Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home with Books; $24

Clarkson Potter/Amazon

This tome, which features drool-worthy home libraries from history and around the world, will inspire (and possibly enable!) any book lover.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Cabinet of Natural Curiosities; $70

Taschen

This reprint of Albertus Seba’s prized natural history book weighs in at more than 10 pounds and features incredible, colorful illustrations that will delight lovers of the natural world.

Buy it: Taschen

7. The Photography of Game of Thrones; $43

Insight Editions/Amazon

Pop culture aficionados who miss the fiery palace intrigue of Game of Thrones can revisit Westeros with this book of photos by set photographer Helen Sloan. Not only does the book provide gorgeous shots of the show and its iconic characters, but it also provides readers with a peek behind-the-scenes of Thrones. (The Night King doesn’t look so scary snapping a selfie, now does he?)

Buy it: Amazon

8. The NASA Archives. 60 Years in Space; $150

Taschen

Anyone who has dreamed of going to space will love this nearly 13-pound book, which includes more than 400 photos from NASA’s history, rare illustrations, and text by former NASA historian Roger Launius, Apollo historian Andrew Chaikin, and journalist Piers Bizony.

Buy it: Taschen

9. Dog People; $35

teNeues/Amazon

Sandra Müller’s hilarious collection of photos of pups dressed as people is the perfect gift for any dog owner who’s constantly anthropomorphizing their pooch.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Patterns of India: A Journey Through Colors, Textiles, and the Vibrancy of Rajasthan; $22

Clarkson Potter/Amazon

Brighten up the dull winter months with Christine Chitnis’s 288-page book that features more than 200 lush and bright photographs of life in Rajasthan, India. One reviewer called Patterns of India “an inspiring celebration of one of the most visually compelling and engaging destinations for travelers and photographers, where every detail, from the mundane to the sacred, is a divine expression of ancient and modern artisanal mastery.”

Buy it: Amazon

11. Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks; $23

Running Press/Amazon

The perfect gift for the person who loves sipping a cocktail while listening to their favorite record, Booze & Vinyl has been billed as “the ultimate listening party guide.” The book is organized by mood and features 50 albums released from the 1950s to the 2000s. (Under Rock, for example, you’ll find The Clash’s London Calling, while Dance features Lady Gaga’s Fame Monster.) Each album is accompanied by notes and a cocktail recipe—Bjork’s Debut, for example, is paired with a cocktail called The Swan that originated at The Waldorf before Prohibition.

Buy it: Amazon

12. History as They Saw It: Iconic Moments from the Past in Color; $36

Chronicle Books/Amazon

The colorization of black and white videos and images might be somewhat controversial, but it’s undeniable that adding hues to our views of history can give us a new perspective. This book by Wolfgang Wild and Jordan Lloyd brings color to 120 photos of unforgettable historical events, including the building of the Eiffel Tower and the sinking of the Titanic, making it a beautiful gift for history buffs who wish they could travel back in time and see these scenes with their own eyes.

Buy it: Amazon

13. The Art of Looking Up; $20

White Lion Publishing/Amazon

In The Art of Looking Up, art historian Catherine McCormack gives the backgrounds and stories behind the most incredible ceilings around the globe. The book is split into four themes—Religion, Culture, Power, and Politics—and features incredible eye candy like the glass flowers that adorn the ceilings of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada; the intricately tiled ceiling of the Imam Mosque in Isfahan, Iran; and the stained-glass ceiling above the Toluca Botanical Gardens in Mexico.

Buy it: Amazon

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