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How fraudsters dupe the art world

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The Civil War-era desk, designed in 1876, looked too good to be true. Ornate, fashioned from walnut, maple, and oak, it was created to honor Union infantryman John Bingham.

“When you opened the door, it played Yankee Doodle Dandy,” said Clayton Pennington, a Maine Antique Digest reporter, according to an article in CBC. “It had a piece of a regimental flag on it, Latin sayings, an eagle with a clock on top. I mean, the thing was just absolutely over the top.”

It was also a fake.

Antiques dealer and craftsman Harold Gordon embellished it himself, then forged documents to cement its phony history. He sold it to an art dealer for $84,500. Eventually, the desk ended up in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, which put it on “prominent display,” according to The New York Times.

The fraud began to unravel when Pennington found a photo of a similar-looking desk, taken from Gordon’s living room. Though it lacked the elaborate detail that made the John Bingham piece so unique, structurally, the two were identical. “It’s the apotheosis of my own making,” Gordon later admitted to the Times. “I lied. I cheated. I stole.”

Gordon was ordered to pay back the $84,500 he received for the desk, but he got out of prison time due to his declining health.

The situation is far from unique. While art crime is the third-highest-grossing criminal enterprise behind drugs and weapons, according to the Department of Justice, charging fraudsters can be tricky. Prosecutors need to show that the grifter meant to pass off a fake piece as legitimate. “It’s okay to make a copy of a work of art, but it’s not okay to sell that copy and identify it as an original,” says Jo Backer Laird of Patterson Belknap, who specializes in art law.

As the price of art has skyrocketed, the incentives for forgeries have soared, reported The Guardian. In 1985, the J. Paul Getty Museum set a record for the highest auction price paid for a painting when it bought Andrea Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi for $10.4 million. In 2017, a painting thought to be by Leonardo da Vinci sold at Christie’s for $450 million.

But money isn’t always the goal. Mark Landis, a famous art forger who persuaded museums across the United States to take and display his work, gave fake art as a “gift.” When the works were revealed to be forgeries, the museums had little recourse since they hadn’t purchased the pieces.

“The difficulty is that, however annoying and disruptive Landis’s activities may be for museums, he does not seem to have broken the law,” reported the Financial Times. Landis was not charged.

There’s something about these laws and light sentences that feels out of place in a country famous for over-incarceration. Landis’ motives might be opaque, but his deception had real consequences for the museums displaying his work. The situation speaks to an unequal justice system that treats crimes associated with the white and well-off with surprising leniency, given the money involved.

Some forgeries aren’t discovered until well after the fraudster’s lifetime. One chest of drawers, purchased in 1929 by Henry Francis du Pont, was thought to be an authentic antique until experts began examining its provenance and couldn’t trace it back past a few prior owners. “There was absolutely no written evidence,” says Linda Eaton, a curator at Winterthur Museum. “We had to rely on the construction details to figure out that it was a bunch of hooey.”

Upon close examination, the chest was revealed to have been reworked to look older than it was. Joseph Downs, the first curator at Winterthur, had doubts about the piece but was reluctant to voice them to du Pont. “It’s kind of hard to go to a collector who’s paid an absolute fortune and say ‘it’s fake,’” says Eaton.

Now, Winterthur displays the desk as part of a show on detecting fakes in the art world. “It is important for us all to have open and enquiring minds because many, if not most, public and private collections contain fakes,” the museum says. “Some are recognized, but others have yet to be discovered.”

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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