By Adrian Darmon
Fakes are an incurable plague for the art market and though counter-measure techniques have been increasingly modernised since the second half of the 20th Century forgers have probably some more good years ahead of them.
Historically, forgers did not wait long to make use of their talents especially as the art trade started as early as the 4th century BC. During these times, Egypt and Greece were already exporting art objects and statues throughout the Mediterranean area. When Rome began to build up an empire most temples were already adorned with Greek statues and rich people then soon wished to also acquire some wonderful sculptures produced in Greece by the most skilled artists.
Greek statues were more and more in demand during the first Century BC and Roman merchants often experienced difficulties in supplying their customers. However, some of them found it more convenient to set up workshops in the city of Rome where they produced copies with the help of talented local artists. Such initiative enabled them to reduce import costs greatly and to avoid the risk of losing some of their treasured cargoes in sea accidents. Moreover, they contributed to promote a local industry which eventually freed itself from Greek influence.
There is however no need to say that many of these copies were eventually sold as genuine Greek works by some unscrupulous merchants who took advantage of the growing demand which lasted until at least 300 AD. Undoubtedly, many of these replicas were not meant to be sold as mere copies as long as the emergence of a specific Roman form of art was not in full gear.
Trade went on booming until it suffered a severe blow with the fall of the Roman Empire. Europe then faced a long period of insecurity in the midst of waves of Barbarian tribes continuously sweeping the continent during at least five long centuries.