[Ancientartifacts] Re: Bronze idol

At 11:31 AM 6/13/2008, Ancientartifacts@yahoogroups.com wrote:
Hello Robert, of you see again at

I0ve added two terracotta idols, one with head broken and other
no...and of this type there are many many copies at european auction
house...or are all fake or are not so extramely rare to find
intact...I refer to this type however.

It is really tough to say about the terracotta examples, and I cannot make any determination on the one in your image based on the image (but nothing jumps out at me as wrong).  But they are just two easy to fake and for that reason I stopped buying them about 15 years ago.  I did not believe it was possible to authenticate them without very expensive testing (far more cost than the figures are worth) and there were way too many of them available for what there should be (always a bad sign for any antiquity).  And I never trust a figure just because someone said they tested one in a large group and it was OK, because that tell you only something about that one, which may or may not have been found with the others.

But based on terracotta examples I handled back in the 1980's, I can tell you that nearly every one that I bought that appeared to be intact was just well repaired.  I had several break in shipping, and there was always glue present in the place where they broke, so I started testing them and discovered many more that were intact  in visual appearance, but clearly glued.

The test is pretty simple :

Get a simply spray bottle for water.  The type you use for misting plants.  The lightly mist the figures and several things will happen.

These early "Astarte" Idol figures are fired at very low temperatures and will always be somewhat weathered if they are really between 3000 and 4000 years old.  Old clay that is weathered and low fired, is highly absorbent for water, and so the water is pulled into them very quickly, and they dry very quickly (often only a few seconds).  But if there is glue below the surface, the break lines where the glue is will not dry quickly, so you end up with wet bands across the body after the main body has dried.

Basically :

1) If you get web banding, it is repaired.

2) If it is not highly absorbent is not genuine at all, although being highly absorbent does not prove authenticity because low fire terracotta can be highly absorbent if new (but most forgers are using modern kilns at higher temperatures).

There is a third thing to look for, in that sometimes they are composted of pieces taking from different ones, and stuck together.  When terracotta is misted with water, as it absorbs the water it turns color slightly and then goes back to the original color when dry.  Two pieces of terracotta that look exactly the same when dry, may be very different when wet.  So sometimes you can spot these type of marriages of parts when the top and the bottom parts look identical when dry, turn different colors when wet (usually with a band that dries very slow at the joint).

If you own a terracotta Chinese T'ang dynasty horse, this works well on them to show where all the repairs and replaced parts are.  The last genuine T'ang horse (and I use the term genuine loosely) that I tested this way, when dry looked absolutely right with just the legs repaired. When I misted it, there were glue lines all over the place, with about 30% of the horse made up of genuine parts taken from at least three different horses (three distinctly different colors), and the other 70% was simple modern in fill (parts that would not dry quickly at all).

When it comes to these T'ang horses, if you do find one that is perfect, with no repairs or replacement parts, it is almost certain fake.  China is earthquake country, and these horses were set up standing in the tombs. As soon as an earthquake hits (which will be many times over the 1000+ years they were in the tombs) they fall over and break at least at the legs which are very weak, and usually in many places.  They virtually do not come from the tombs intact.

This test will not work on items that have been glazed, fired at high temperatures and preserved in very protected environments, or items that were burnished.  It only works on low fire plan terracotta.



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