Phony Tiara Fools Louvre

Phony Tiara Fools Louvre, image courtesy of Archaeology Online

First off, my apologies for not having checked in last week, it is December after all and this would be art detective has had a little more on their plate than normal.

I thought for this week we might focus on a forgery particularly relevant to the Louvre, as, after all, the Louvre inspires this blog in many ways.

This story begins in 1894 with Israel Rouchomovsky, a goldsmith in Odessa. He was approached by two men asking that he create a beautiful gold headpiece in an antique style. He was asked to It was intended for an archaeologist friend of the men, or so they told Rouchomovsky. Instead, it got sold to the Louvre two years later. It was marketed as a tiara given to Saïtaphernes, the Scythian king who is believed to have received expensive tributes in exchange for not razing cities to the ground.

The museum was thrilled with the purchase, believing it to corroborate similar accounts of gifts paid to Saïtaphernes by the Greek colony of Olbia during his siege of the important port.  Unfortunately for the Louvre the tiara was almost immediately attacked by academics and archaeologists alike, arguing that the inscriptions and designs were all wrong and that there  should be more patina or external aging on the piece.  The Louvre denied the allegations as long as possible, until Rouchomovsky finally got to hearing about the tiara all the way back in Odessa, and came in person to claim the tiara as his own.  Only until he reproduced a part of the tiara before their very eyes did the Louvre finally concede defeat, and quickly locked the tiara in the basement and never mentioned it again.

Rouchomosky on the other hand did quite well by the whole escapade, and became a celebrated jeweler in the City of Lights, living in Paris until his death.  At one point there was some speculation that Rouchmovsky was in on the plan himself, what do you think?