On September 9th, 2011 I attended a memorial lecture, devoted to George M. A. Hanfmann. The event was hosted by Dr. Richard De Puma of Archaeological Institute of America (AIA). The lecture focused on Etruscan Forgeries and some unknown facts and events, associated with a period in art history that brought our attention to the Etruscan civilization. Known as an early pre-Roman civilization, Etruscans started as a culture around 1000 BC.
Etruscans had their own culture and art with its culmination around 700-500 BC. That is what gave them the title of the most speculated civilization from early 1400s till now, when it was rediscovered by archaeologists. Turns out that Etruscans were the ones, who actually invented Roman numerals, but they were never credited for it. Due to the fact that they used linen to write on, there is very little preserved to be able to read them.Order now
One of those people, who initiated discoveries in Italy, was Annioda Viterbo from Rome. He was a talented artist. His passion for Etruscan antiquities and his linguistic knowledge made the artist use his skills for creating the famous forgery, known as a fragmentary of Etruscan Inscription, which was a sensation for that time. Annioda Viterbo became famous in Italy for digging out those tablets and translating them, which influenced new excavations in that part of the world.
Comparing different pieces of art of Etruscan origin made scientists question the authenticity of some masterpieces that were exhibited in the most reputable museums of the world, such as Etruscan Terracotta Sarcophagus, sold to Louvre in 1861, or another Terracotta Sarcophagus, purchased by the British Museum in 1873. A desire of owning such a masterpiece paid a high price for it, creating competition among antiquity collectors. Therefore, it lead to forgery that was a great way to make money for some people, using their artistic talents and skills.
The topic of the lecture and its content was really new to me. I was amazed how many things are still unknown for us about ancient cultures that developed a very sophisticated art, such as Etruscans. They expanded their painting technique al fresco all over northern and southern-central parts of Italy, which was similar to Greek red-figure vase painting. Unlike Greeks, Etruscans advanced in including space in their art. I really enjoyed learning that passion for Etruscan art inspired many artists to create forgeries, proving how powerful art can be.