David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Food, Forgeries

Food

• Tom Clark of Davidson, North Carolina, is famous for his designs of gnomes. He has designed well over 1,000 gnomes, and in 2006 he estimated that a complete collection would cost a collector approximately $200,000. His fans are around the world, and one fan who brought Mr. Clark to his house to autograph all his gnomes took him as his guest behind the scenes of a movie starring Lloyd Bridges. They ate lunch with the cast of the movie, and the gnome collector showed members of the cast a catalog filled with Clark’s gnomes. A woman at lunch, who also collected Clark’s gnomes, asked if the gnomes were by Mr. Clark, and the gnome collector replied, “Yes,” then he pointed to Mr. Clark and added, “And that’s Tom Clark.” The shocked woman choked on her food and had to be rescued with the Heimlich maneuver.

• In the late 19th century, preachers in the United States were sometimes paid in part in the form of food. When architect Frank Lloyd Wright was eight years old in 1875, dinner in the household of his preacher father sometimes consisted of seven varieties of pie.

Forgeries

• The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City collected three magnificent examples of Etruscan sculpture in the early 20th century: two full-sized fierce warriors and a helmeted head that was over five feet tall. Many experts thought that the sculptures were genuine, but a few argued that they were fakes. In 1960, art expert Harold Parsons proved that they were fakes by finding the man who had created them. Alfredo Fioravanti and his partners had worked in the business of restoring antiquities before they started to create their own. They created pieces that were so large that they couldn’t be fired whole, so they broke them in pieces, then fired them. After creating the pieces, they gave them to an art dealer who then sold them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After Mr. Parsons revealed that the statues were fakes, they were re-examined, and scholars discovered that the “Greek black” glaze of the statues contained the dye magnesium dioxide, which was not available to the Etruscans. Of course, that was enough to prove that the statues were fakes, but Mr. Fioravanti had another convincing piece of evidence. When he had created one of the stone warriors, a thumb had broken off. Mr. Fioravanti had kept the thumb, and when he held it against the statue, the fit was perfect.

• Husband-and-wife children’s book author/illustrator team Martin and Alice Provensen created such picture-books as the Caldecott Medal-winning The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Blériot. This book is about the first man to fly solo across the English Channel, a feat he accomplished in 1909. One of their copies of the book has an inscription written in French. Translated, it says, “For the Provensens — Alice and Martin — with my sincere good wishes, Louis Blériot.” No, the famous French aviator, who died in 1936, did not write the inscription — Mr. Provensen forged it. Inscriptions are not the only things he forged. Before his death in 1987, he frequently forged masterworks by such artists as Picasso and Rembrandt. He hung the forgeries in his and his wife’s home, and he enjoyed watching the faces of their visitors as they tried to figure out how the Provensens could afford to own such masterpieces.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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