Lovely Early Art Nouveau Lady Antique Marble Bust

This example is not an antique marble bust of an Art Nouveau lady carved by hand in the 19th century but a new and modern fantasy carving. It would not even be correct to state that it was carved by an 'anonymous 'artist since for the most part its surface was milled by machine. Some additional features were added later, by a rather unskilled factory worker.

The authentication of stone carvings has always been very difficult. The faking of 'ancient' marble statuary has been carried on for a very long time, so even authentically antique pieces are generally expected to come with some provenance in tow, or their supposed age may justly be viewed with scepticism. At one time owning any type of carved marble statuary would have been prohibitively expensive and so out of pocketbook range for most ordinary people. But today, sculpting in stone is being done quickly and efficiently in countries like China and India with the aid of technology. So, in our modern times provenance has become even more important a consideration when purchasing these types of items.

Computer-aided design software, laser scanners and automated milling equipment such as CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines can scan, copy and recreate a 3D computer model of an object in just minutes. From initial scan to finished product, duplicate copies of 'sculpture' can be produced in any stone in only a few hours.

Marble is a type of limestone and not as difficult to carve as one might think, being as it is relatively soft. There are also a wide variety of other stones that can be carved, and also artificial marbles, or marble substitutes. Blocks of any of these can be turned rather quickly into things like statues, fireplace surrounds, or garden fountains. And it can be very difficult to differentiate a piece that was carved by hand from one that was crafted by a computer and a milling machine. And due to the steady drop in the costs of this kind of technology, too, it no longer takes huge amounts of start-up capital if someone desires to make and sell clones of genuine antique marble statues. Buying from the original source of such replicated articles is not where antiques collectors will run into problems with identification. Because it is illegal all over the world to represent a copy of a piece of art to a buyer as an authentic piece by the original artist those entities don't even pretend that what they are selling is old or authentic. But it is all too lucrative a proposition for some resellers who buy new to not at least try to turn a huge profit on an item later. It is they who will often be guilty of knowingly misrepresenting to unsuspecting buyers a new marble bust or statue they purchased wholesale or for a nominal retail price.

Other than firmly requiring provenance when considering purchase of a marble bust, such as the item in this listing, there are a few characteristics to look for that may sometimes help even a novice identify new fakes or fantasy carvings for what they are.

1. Look for crudely carved features, poor or sloppy detail work.

2. New designs that are fantasies, not direct copies of an antique statue, may have visible anachronisms or make use of faulty iconography. A young lady dressed in 'classical' Greek or Roman clothing, for instance, should not have a face like that of the 21st century girl next door.

3. The marble used should be of high quality and unless a piece has been buried for a few centuries or subjected to decades of acid rain in an open garden, an antique carved marble figure should normally be expected to have a highly polished, smoothed almost to the point of being reflective, surface. If originally made as a piece of art, lovingly crafted by the hand of an ancient artist, and not a modern knock-off on which to hang your hat or purchased to impress the mother-in-law, then even surfaces normally hidden from view will have been nicely finished.

4. Look for indications that the substance into which the piece was carved is not marble, but a marble substitute such as can be made by mixing marble dust or chips with pigments and resins. It is almost impossible to well create the 'marbled' effect for which this type of limestone is known with artificial pigments.

5. Look for areas of damage and closely examine any you find. A few rough corners may be explained away as being indicative of 'age' but in fact may provide the means to identify an item as made from a substance other than real marble.

This particular piece measures 27 inches by 15 inches by 10 inches, but other sizes may be available and the same design may also be found carved in different colored substances.

Item ID: 2007RP000124

Modern Reproductions, Fakes and Fantasies


Ruby Lane, Comparisons, CA   

Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items

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