Introducing the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes

This "ancient" head was seized by Turkish police (here) as the smugglers were trying to get it to a buyer who was apparently willing to pay $1 m. Tiny problem ... I have photos of his work in progress circa 2009.

Firstly I owe this name partly to John Fotiadis on Twitter:

I won't post many photos of his other work, as those are with the Turkish authorities, but let's just say the same seller also offered the contents of a real ancient tomb that was looted, so he mixes in real important pieces with the fakes. And he is based not far from the Turkish eBay supplier of cartonnage.

Obviously this 'ancient' sculptor was very talented and lived a long life as he produced some extraordinarily good Late Antique portraits too, but the key to identifying 'schools' and 'masters' is as in papyri in the details - here it is the way the locks of hair are rendered and the eyebrows, eyelids:

This is a Marsyas he was working on in 2009. Note that whilst the two heads above were 'perfect' and whole, by this point his work evolved to include the chips and breaks of real preserved ancient sculptures:

And the dating information, alas it is not stratigraphy or pot sherds, but this newspaper corroborates the date stamp on the photos:

And a little technical note for those who can't see with their own eyes that these are fakes ... marble is not hollow, 'cast' often is. The way this is faked is by adding metal inside so that the figures weigh the 'right' amount, and he is using a resin composite as seen in the gardens of tacky faux Italian restaurants, not gypsum plaster:

I realise some people may need a fuller explanation. These 'ancient' sculptures are cast fakes, and yes I have seen that one big collector has a work by the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes in his collection, so they are fooling a few people.

The reason is simple: you can't con an honest man, but an avaricious one will see what he wants to.

Coin dealer Arnold-Peter Weiss was caught in a sting boasting that several Greek coins he was selling had been recently looted out of Italy. He was arrested but then an issue arose - the coins were fakes. Weiss had been greedy and dishonest; in his greed to acquire coins he was blinded to the fact that just because the conman admitted they were smuggled did not mean they were actually real ... he was willing to turn a blind eye to the not kosher provenance, and so didn't notice the con was that the coins themselves were even less kosher and modern fakes.

I am increasingly coming to believe that the same is true of the papyri coming out of dubious circumstances in recent years, as do the leading papyrologists I have been working with. As I've said many times before, I think it is counterproductive to discuss my methodology as that just helps the looters and smugglers by allowing them to change their tactics but ...  there are some very unusual features in the handwriting on the new papyri, and combined with the 'coincidence' of similar texts suddenly appearing, I think I may have identified which museum's collection they are using as their inspiration.

If people are willing to buy items without a provenance and that they know were probably looted, they have no morals. So selling them fakes they fail to identify in their lust for loot is easy. You can't con an honest man, but it is easy to con an immoral one.


  1. Since one of Herme's attributes is a purse full of gold, I thought the top image showed him being mugged!

  2. LOL he's kind of an ancient Brink's moving treasure with armed guards ;-)

  3. It might not be just a moral/ethical problem, it's the problem of logic that causes people to not bother with provenance when they buy things =_=;;;


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