Works of Treasured Local Artist Discovered to be Elaborate Fakes

Etienne Terrus

Museum officials at the Terrus museum in Elne, France were shocked to discover that almost 60% of the paintings in its gallery were actually worthless fakes. First reported by the Telegraph (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/28/french-museum-discovers-half...), the fakes were discovered when an art historian noticed that several of the buildings in the paintings were constructed years after the purported artist’s death. This prompted a close investigation of the paintings and it was eventually determined that 82 of the 140 paintings displayed in the museum were not authentic.

The museum in Elne was dedicated to Etienne Terrus, an artist who was from this beautiful area in the south of France. Terrus lived in Elne for the majority of his life, and his landscapes of French Catalonia are some of the most notable examples of local art. Since the museum was created specifically to honor the work of the local artist, the news that so many of the paintings in the museum were forgeries has hit the surrounding community hard.

Large portions of the paintings were purchased by the museum with public funds over the last quarter century. The mayor of Elne described the revelation as a “catastrophe” and vowed to find out who was responsible. The city has filed police complaints for both fraud and forgery, and the authorities are currently trying to track down the guilty parties. Investigators believe that the paintings were the work of a highly organized forgery ring, but they declined to offer any specifics due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation.

Sadly, most art experts do not believe that this is an isolated incident. French authorities believe that many paintings attributed to local artists are actually elaborate forgeries. Some art connoisseurs estimate that upwards of 20% of all paintings attributed to famous artists in notable museums around the globe are actually fakes.

While this is a large setback for the museum, the village is determined not to let it ruin their appreciation for Terrus. The mayor has vowed the city will “continue to promote local art”, though the museum would be wise to ask for a second appraisal before making another large purchase.

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