Fakes are a bane to the collectors. Fakes, a quick definition in this context, are “artefacts created and/or sold as having a history they do not have”.
As a collector, I am reasonably certain my collection has some fakes. I do see them a lot in uncurated on-line auctions and, sometimes, with dealers.
It is one thing to see a fake listed for sale and another thing to see an antique you own getting faked. That is what happened to me. One of my friends, a keen follower of this website, sent me an email asking me to check out a listing. See the images below.
The Vigraha with black background is in my collection and is published. The photo with white background is from the listing, originating from Germany, on a very popular general auction site. The listing claimed it is a used figure from Nepal/Tibet.
My Vigraha was bought from a local dealer, in the Bay Area, about three years ago. And the dealer mentioned that he had the Vigraha for, maybe, ten years. At first glance, the images match height, decoration, posture, peetha, ornaments, attributes and breakage. Yes, someone has taken the trouble to fake the breakages. See the broken attribute in the upper right hand and missing part of the crown, image’s right side. It shows how far the fakers will go to create fakes.
My initial thoughts were someone had taken a mould before the Vigraha reached my dealer and are using it. But the differences, in addition to lack of details and the patina, are too many for it to have come from a mould of the original. It is quite possible that the photos I published were used to create the replica.
While assessing an antique, I tend to look for age-related conditions (patina, wear and tear), indications relating to usage, appropriateness of the material used, style, congruence of the subject matter (attributes, region, period, posture..) and, above all, ‘just the feel’.
What we see is an example that the fakers are getting better and cleverer. Every one of the criteria listed in the above paragraph is getting challenged. The only exception is ‘the feel’ as in the ability to spot red-flags and research them. How to get “the feel”?
One of the memorable phrases I heard from a seasoned collector is ‘when it comes to collecting a big library is better than a big chequebook’. True words.