I agree with Mark's recommendation that the use of available methods of scientific analysis can potentially provide invaluable evidence to support any effort to determine the likelihood of an object's authenticity although there remain some ambiguities regarding the reliability and applicability of methods employed for the diverse range of objects (and materials) to be considered as well as cost factors which disallow the use of such methods by many collectors. Beyond accessing such technologies when available and feasible, I believe that the process of authentication -- and refining one's ability to assess authenticity -- rests upon an approach which combines 1) a broad general understanding of the varied cultural (and inter-cultural), ethnographic and commercial interests that inform the general practice and 2) more region- and culture-specific studies inclusive of indigenous knowledge and perspectives pertinent to the analysis and consideration of the specific classes of objects one wishes to assess.
Among the most insightful essays combining a review of general considerations and revealing anecdotal instances pertaining to the subject of authenticity and authentication is Herbert M. (Kofi) Cole's "A Crisis in Connoisseurship?" which originally appeared in African Arts
(Volume XXXVI, No. 1). A modified version can be found on the author's web-site here
Henri Kamer's oft-cited article, "The Authenticity of African Sculptures" is considered a classic and can be viewed and read on-line at various sites including those versions uploaded by Steve Price and Rand (Thanks, Steve and Rand!):
Another excellent resource consisting of collected thoughts on the topic of authenticity (and its variants and foils!) is the issue of African Arts
entitled "FAKES, FAKERS AND FAKERY: AUTHENTICITY IN AFRICAN ART" (APRIL 1976: Volume IX, Number 3).
On Feb 28, 2009, at 9:03 PM, Mark Rasmussen wrote:
I would suggest that if you really want to open Pandora’s Box and learn about authentication beyond technical connoisseurship, start with the scientific methods used to evaluate objects. The following books should create a good foundation:
http://www.zabern. de/controller. php?cmd=detail&titelnummer= 3909&verlag=5
http://www.amazon. com/Scientific- Investigation- Copies-Fakes- Forgeries/ dp/075064205X/ ref=sr_1_ 1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1235872009&sr=1-1
I also recommend this as a good starting point for understanding the Authentication Process: http://www.rare- collections. com/TheAuthentic ationProcess. pdf
Mark Rasmussen - Rare Collections
5865 Neal Avenue North, Suite 345
Stillwater, MN 55082 USA
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From: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com [mailto: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com ] On Behalf Of beepeawee1@aol. com
Sent: Saturday, February 28, 2009 6:09 PM
To: African_Arts@ yahoogroups. com
Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Songye power figure
I would second this. I suspect most of the things in my little collection are art market pieces, but I also think I have got some truly genuine pieces and help in this area would be very appreciated. I buy what I like and can afford, and once in a while I get lucky. Such a time as this came more than 20 years ago when I was collecting trade beads and knew next to nothing, but bought a strand of curious-looking beads in a second-hand store for no more than $20 CAD because they were so different from the chevrons and millefiori Venetians I already had. shortly after I stopped collecting and really didn't think much about my curious black beads. Only a couple of years ago, quite by chance, I discovered that what I had was a mixed strand of rattlesnake and Baule face beads conservatively worth about $500.00 and I had to celebrate my dumb luck. They are celarly genuine, but some of my pieces I am not as sure about.
In a message dated 2/28/2009 6:52:48 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,mjtroi@... writes:
One thing that would be helpful to those of us with no formal education on the subject. Would be more in depth explanations on how to tell a copy...