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Etruscan terracotta warriors: Wikis

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The three Etruscan terracotta warriors are art forgeries, statues made to resemble work of ancient Etruscans. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art bought them between 1915 and 1921. The statues were created by Italian brothers Pio and Alfonso Riccardi and three of their six sons.

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Early fakes

The Riccardis began their career as art forgers when Roman art dealer Domenico Fuschini hired them to forge shards of ancient ceramics and eventually whole jars.

Their first sizeable work was a large bronze chariot. In 1908 Fuschini informed the British Museum that the chariot had been found in the old Etruscan fort near Orvieto and that the Riccardis had been commissioned to clean it. The British Museum bought the chariot and published the find in 1912. Soon after the purchase Pio Riccardi died.

Warriors

The Riccardis enlisted the aid of sculptor Alfredo Fioravanti and created a statue, later known as the Old Warrior. It was 202 cm tall and was naked from the waist down. It was also missing its left thumb and right arm. In 1915 they sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that also bought their next work, the Colossal Head in 1916. Experts decided it must have been part of a 7-metre statue.

The next work was designed by Pio's eldest son Ricardo, who died in a riding accident before it was completed. When finished, the statue stood a little over two meters tall. In 1918 the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought it for $40,000 and published the find as the Big Warrior in 1921. The forgers subsequently dispersed.

Discovery of forgery

The three warrior statues were first exhibited together in 1933. In the following years various art historians, especially in Italy, presented their suspicions that on stylistic and artistic grounds alone, the statues might be forgeries, but there was no forensic proof to support the allegations. A later expert found that these exceptionally large pieces showed extraordinarily even firing characteristics: but he expressed this as cause for admiration, not suspicion. In 1960, chemical tests indicated glaze containing manganese, an ingredient that Etruscans had never used. The museum was not convinced until experts deduced how they had been made. The statues had been sculpted, painted with glaze, then toppled while in an unfired, green state to produce fragments: this was confirmed by Alfredo Fioravanti, who on January 5 1961 entered the US consulate in Rome and signed a confession. The forgers had lacked the skills – and the very large kiln – required to make such large pieces. The fragments had been fired, "discovered" and sold or re-assembled ("restored") then sold. As proof, Fioravanti presented the Old Warrior's missing thumb, which he had kept as a memento. On February 15 the Metropolitan Museum announced that the statues were forgeries.

Notes and references

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