"That thing," he said, "should be in a museum."
March 12, 2018 2:45 PM   Subscribe

The Wadsworth Atheneum has acknowledged that a secretary-bookcase purportedly built as a memorial to a real soldier who died at Antietam is actually a fake. The forger, Harold Gordon, constructed not only the secretary, but also a backstory and supporting documentation.

The Maine Antiques Digest has the full story of how the forgery was identified, along with pictures of the original, unembellished secretary in the same place in Mr. Gordon's living room as the very fancy memorial secretary. The piece fooled an online Civil War blog (here and here) and Allan Katz, the antiques dealer( and Antiques Roadshow appraiser) who bought it from Mr. Gordon. The Wadsworth Atheneum has removed it from display and is reconsidering their accession process. Mr. Katz, who sold it to the Atheneum, has returned their money. Mr. Gordon says his life has been ruined.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure (17 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
That would be self-ruin, so weird to see him complaining about it. Quite the story!
posted by tavella at 3:24 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

The maker was supposedly able to cut perfect Times New Roman lettering, yet was unable to master something as simple as a five-pointed star? Come on.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:44 PM on March 12

I much preferred the original secretary to the forged version! (But I've always been a huge fan of secretary desks; my china cabinet is a secretary from the 1830s, thanks to living in an area where you can't walk five feet without tripping over antiques.) You just couldn't get quite that much cash for it.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:54 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I think it is still, actually, a beautiful piece of folk art — just modern fantasy folk art. Some museum somewhere SHOULD buy it, and display it with the whole story.
posted by Malla at 3:55 PM on March 12 [7 favorites]

Funny Malla, I came in here to say that I think it looks absolutely ghastly. I much prefer it in its original state. De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:59 PM on March 12

MetaFilter: It was a terrible thing, but I did it for the money—I didn’t do it for the glory.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:23 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I love how baroque and over the top it is! I guess I prefer that more is more folk aesthetic — and with a made up narrative back story! It is not tasteful, no; but the craftsmanship and care just seem to point to a neat and kind of obsessive vision on the part of the artisan.
posted by Malla at 5:10 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]

I'm really puzzled by Gordon saying his life is ruined. Pulling off this kind of fake is an accomplishment to be admired, in my book. The dealer, Katz, has repaid the Wadsworth Athenaeum. Gordon should repay Katz, and then they should all go out for a drink together. Cheers!
posted by beagle at 5:17 PM on March 12 [5 favorites]

I'm using this post as an excuse to mention that my long-lost relative made this Entirely Genuine Armoire Which Belonged In A Museum, so that's where it is.

Also, we have Abraham Lincoln's pie cabinet where I work.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:24 PM on March 12 [6 favorites]

It feels like there should be a joke somewhere in between "pie cabinet" and "Team of Rivals".
posted by XMLicious at 9:35 PM on March 12

Forgers are fascinating. He's gonna get some weird email requests now for sure.
posted by sio42 at 1:27 AM on March 13

there is a great doc (on netflix) about a painter named beltrachi. "the art of forgery" it's fantastic and the main character in that one has a lot more bravado around his craft than this furniture character. oh how many times he fooled the art world! in the movie he's in jail and it's wonderful to see how open his life is given it's a european non-violent jail. basically he leaves jail each day to go paint at his studio. ;)
posted by danjo at 11:35 AM on March 13

The 19th century held unimaginable hardships, but (some) people had dedicated pie cabinets. How wonderful!

My grandfather was once complaining that his step-mom packed his step brothers larger pieces of pie for lunch. I was thinking, you got PIE in your lunchbox?
posted by sjswitzer at 12:33 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]

we have Abraham Lincoln's pie cabinet where I work.

Please tell me that you're putting it to its original use today.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:04 AM on March 14

we have Abraham Lincoln's pie cabinet where I work.

Please tell me that you're putting it to its original use today.

Oddly enough, today is Pi Day...

It's in our Special Collections. The provenance isn't clear - it came from a collector of Lincolnania who may not have vetted all of his purchases carefully, but it is thought to have been in the Lincoln family and therefore probably in proximity to Abraham at some point. We have far more ghastly Lincoln souvenirs.

So what it is it exactly? Kind of a large cabinet with shelves for pies, and doors covered with screens (or maybe punched tin - haven't seen it in awhile) to keep the flies off the pies while they cool. People used to make lots of pies.

We must have a record for it, but this is the only mention I've been able to find quickly.
posted by lagomorphius at 9:41 AM on March 14

I had to revisit to determine if the post title was a pullquote or Indiana Jones shout-out.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 6:20 AM on March 15

See also: Orson Wells' F for Fake
posted by mikelieman at 6:24 AM on March 15

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