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I would like to put a general question, encouraging everyone who reads this post to take 15 minutes to look at my article under February AoM (, and tell me how good they think the art is in such pieces as I have illustrated there. My question is this ‘What importance in deciding if a putative work of art is original, do you attach to its artistic merit?‘ In other words ‘is it possible to fake good art?’

For example, if we take a common Hongshan icon such as the C-dragon and the Zhulong (Pig dragon), enormous artistic licence was used, especially with small pieces. One of the things that appealed when I started to collect Hongshan nephrite jade carvings was the contrast between the often weathered pieces that were flooding out of China illegally (with more than a suspicion of a blind eye), and the sterile-looking pieces found in most of the tourist shops on the Hollywood Road. With agate, which is banded, it is even more obvious that the artists used the natural banding to dictate the piece. And this question becomes even more important if the piece has been buried in soil that is low in fluorine, because water alone doesn’t seem to weather agate.

It is true that there was bad art 5,000 years just as there is today. And there are some truly awful authentic Hongshan carvings. But can a copyist of an excavated piece make the copy look as good as the original? Sure, artistic appeal is only one of many criteria I used in collecting, because I was also interested in the breadth and depth of the iconography, which in turn I presume was dictated by their belief systems. (And while on the subject of belief systems I think it is especially risky to take at face value the opinion of an ‘expert‘ or a dealer who is selling you something because it is very rare, or you are talking to someone who paid a lot for a work at auction). That doesn’t arise with Hongshan because the official view is that it was rare, and therefore anything available at a low price must be fake because there couldn’t possibly be so much authentic stuff! This of course ignores the business model of the tomb robber, especially of an ancient and very advanced culture that needs for political reasons to be kept historically in its (inferior) place!

Maybe on another thread we can discuss what I see as the well-meaning but pernicious effects of UNESCO and UNIDROIT conventions on Hongshan and other ancient art.

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Can good art be faked by a copyist? 1923 drdavidanderson 04-Feb-18 20:19
Re: Can good art be faked by a copyist? 434 Haptabeiðir 05-Feb-18 15:11
Re: Can good art be faked by a copyist? 923 drdavidanderson 05-Feb-18 17:24

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