Fakes, Forgeries, and Reproductions: A Glimpse into Furniture Connoisseurship Block

Last week, the WPAMC Class of 2018 attended our penultimate furniture connoisseurship class. The theme of the day was identifying fakes and forgeries.

Senior Conservator Mark Anderson came to our class to introduce us to some of the techniques used to determine a faked piece of furniture from an original piece. To do so, he explained, we must begin developing knowledge about cabinetmaking tools and techniques used in the period of construction. This includes wood-working tools and their characteristic marks, different forms of nails and drill bits, changing styles in hardware, and identifying marks left behind in the production of period furniture, such as scribe lines and overcuts for dovetails.

Armed with seven weeks of training, we used our knowledge about construction techniques and tried our hand at identifying fakes from originals. Mark Anderson challenged us to examine the two spice cabinets below. Can you determine the fake from the two spice cabinets below?


Exterior Front of Spice Box #1


Interior of Spice Box #1 – Door Opened

Exterior Back of Spice Box #1

Looks pretty good! But is it a fake? What about the second option?

Exterior Front of Spice Box #2

Interior of Spice Box #2 – Door Opened

Exterior Back of Spice Box #2

Time for your final answer! After close examination we identified unusual wear patterns, use of modern hinges and drawer pulls, and signs of artificial aging. So it turns out both boxes are fake! Pretty good forgeries though – they had many of us fooled!

Following our foray into fakes and forgeries, the WPAMC Class of 2018 visited the furniture conservation lab to learn about reproductions. Mark Anderson talked about using reproductions to repair damaged furniture and emphasized that one or two repairs does not make a piece a fake overall. He also showed us the two trumpet turned table legs below so we could learn to identify reproductions by sight and feel. The leg on the left is the original (it felt more oval to the touch) and the leg on the right will be used to repair a damaged chest.

Two turned legs at the Winterthur Conservation Lab

As class came to a close, we discussed upholstery techniques, and the chair below illustrates the use of horsehair padding. We had a lively conversation about whether we found the chair comfortable when we tried it out!

Rachel Asbury, WPAMC Class of 2018, trying out the chair with horsehair padding

This introduction to fakes, forgeries, and reproductions provided a new twist to our training and introduced us to a new perspective on the skills that we have been developing over the past two months. As we continue in the program, we look forward to growing and developing these skills in new and challenging ways!

By Allison Robinson, WPAMC Class of 2018


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