A kouros is a statue of a naked youth; this boy is 6.7 feet (2 meters) tall, stands with his arms at his sides, his left foot forward, and he is looking straight ahead. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, Calif., first laid eyes on a now controversial Greek kouros in the 1980s, and is rumored to have paid as much as $12 million for what may or may not be a fake [source: Muchnic].
The museum bought the statue in 1985 from a Basel art dealer after testing and studying the piece for two years. The statue is thought to be from the Archaic Greek period, but the trouble is the Getty kouros has a few qualities that make confirming its authenticity difficult.
Scholars, art dealers and scientists have all taken a crack at the mystery. Scientifically, the statue seems as though it could come from the hands of a late 6th-century B.C. sculptor. The stone, for example, is ancient marble from the island of Thasos, and the tool markings match with the Archaic Greek period. But there is question whether or not the de-dolomitization (the way the surface of the stone has aged) is artificial, and the choice of marble during this time period is also questioned. Stylistically, the Getty kouros is a bit of a problem. It's like a quilt, blending a mix of early and late styles -- and those same stylistic problems also appear on a torso of another kouros that has since proven to be a fake.
Until the sculpture's authenticity is confirmed, the display notes for the Getty kouros remark that the sculpture may date back to 530 B.C., or it may be a modern forgery dating only back to about 1980.
Author's Note: 10 Famous Fake Antiques and the Suckers Who Bought Them
I remember the first time I saw the Mona Lisa. She seemed so small, and not really what I had imagined. (What is it with great works of art that make them seem so large in your imagination?) But she was somehow more stunning than I'd imagined, as well. So when I got to see the Getty kouros in Malibu, I wasn't sure what to expect. Is it fake or not, and if it's a forgery instead of a great antiquity, is it still interesting because of its mystery? I'm curious what they'll find out.
More Great Links
- Alberge, Dalya. "National Gallery Discovers 15th-century Old Master Painting is a Fake." Mail Online. April 16, 2010. (March 29, 2013) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1266586/National-Gallery-discovers-15th-century-Old-Master-painting-fake.html
- BBC News - Manchester. "Fake Statue Amarna Princess Returns to Bolton Museum." April 6, 2011. (March 29, 2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-12987951
- BBC News. "Fake Statue Could Go on Display." Jan. 28, 2009. (March 29, 2031) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/manchester/7855873.stm
- BBC News. "Turin Shroud 'Older Than Thought'." Jan. 31, 2005. (March 30, 2013) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4210369.stm
- Bressan, David. "Frauds, Fakes and Fossils." Scientific American. Feb. 7, 2012. (March 29, 2013) http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/WSS/post.php?blog=22&post=1029
- Davies, Lizzy. "Turin Shroud Makes Rare Appearance on TV Amid Claims That It Is Not a Forgery." The Guardian. March 28, 2013. (March 30, 2013) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/28/turin-shroud-tv-pope-francis
- Elliot, Hannah. "How to Spot a Fake Louis Vuitton." Forbes. Nov. 11, 2010. (March 29, 2013) http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2010/11/11/how-to-spot-a-fake-louis-vuitton/
- Henry Ford Museum. "The Brewster Chair and the Game of 'Fool The Experts'." April 1, 2000. (March 29, 2013) http://www.thehenryford.org/exhibits/pic/2000/00apr.asp
- J. Paul Getty Museum. "Statue of a Kouros." (March 29, 2013) http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=12908
- Jan, Paul Halsall. "Medieval Sourcebook: The Donation of Constantine (c.750-800)." Fordham University. Nov. 23, 1996. (March 29, 2013) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/donatconst.asp
- Janson, Jonathan. "Van Meegeren's Fake Vermeer's -- Discovery." EssentialVermeer. (March 29, 2013) http://www.essentialvermeer.com/misc/van_meegeren.html
- Kimmelman, Michael. "ART; Absolutely Real? Absolutely Fake?" The New York Times. Aug. 4, 1991. (March 29, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/1991/08/04/arts/art-absolutely-real-absolutely-fake.html
- Knight, Christopher. "ART REVIEW: The Jury's Still Out on Getty Kouros: Statue Is Either a Greek Artifact -- or a Classic Fake." Los Angeles Times. Jan. 23, 1993. (March 29, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/1993-01-23/entertainment/ca-1472_1_getty-kouros
- Levy, Glen. "Hitler's Diaries." Time. March 16, 2010. (March 29, 2013) http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1931133_1931132_1931123,00.html
- Lozano, Ann. "Domenech, Emmanuel Henri Dieudonne." Handbook of Texas Online. (March 29, 2013) http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdo09
- MacArthur, Brian. "Hitler Diaries Scandal: 'We'd printed the scoop of the century, then it turned to dust.'" The Telegraph. April 25, 2008. (March 29, 2013) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3636377/Hitler-diaries-scandal-Wed-printed-the-scoop-of-the-century-then-it-turned-to-dust.html
- Manchester Evening News. "Video: Infamous Fake Amarna Princess Statue Goes on Display in Bolton." April 7, 2011. (March 29, 2013) http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/video-infamous-fake-amarna-princess-858022
- Muchnic, Suzanne. "Kouros to Go On View At Getty." Los Angeles Times. Nov. 3, 1986. (March 29, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/1986-11-03/entertainment/ca-14823_1_getty-kouros
- Muchnic, Suzanne. "The Anatomy of a Controversy: Authenticity of Getty's Kouros Will Be the Subject of Scholars in Greece." Los Angeles Times. May 14, 1992. (March 29, 2013) http://articles.latimes.com/1992-05-14/entertainment/ca-3139_1_getty-museum
- Museum of Hoaxes. "The Donation of Constantine, 756 AD." (March 29, 2013) http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_donation_of_constantine
- Museum of Hoaxes. "The Lying Stones of Dr. Beringer, 1725." (March 29, 2013) http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_lying_stones_of_dr._beringer/
- Musseum of Hoaxes. "The Pictographs of Emmanuel Domenech, 1860." (March 29, 2013) http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_pictographs_of_emmanuel_domenech
- National Gallery. "The Virgin and Child with an Angel." (March 29, 2013) http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/the-virgin-and-child-with-an-angel
- NPR. "How Mediocre Dutch Artist Cast 'The Forger's Spell.'" July 12, 2008. (March 29, 2013) http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92483237
- Reif, Rita. "ARTS/ARTIFACTS; Exposing Deceit and Error Under an Eagle X-Ray Eye." The New York Times. Oct. 12, 1997. (March 29, 2013) http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/12/arts/arts-artifacts-exposing-deceit-and-error-under-an-eagle-x-ray-eye.html
- Teichner, Martha. "Controversial New Theories on the Shroud of Turin." CBS News. April 8, 2012. (March 30, 2013) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-57410982/controversial-new-theories-on-the-shroud-of-turin/
- Tolme, Paul. "Self-taught Sculptor Breathes Life Into Wood." South Coast Today. April 30, 1997. (March 29, 2013) http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19970430/LIFE/304309951
Not all conspiracies are bogus. Some have managed to be real, and the work of the government. Stuff They Don't Want You To Know looks at a few.