French art museum discovers most of its paintings are fakes

French art museum discovers most of its paintings are fakes
A French museum dedicated to the painter Etienne Terrus made a shocking announcement Friday: the majority of works on display for the past two decades were, in fact, fakes.

The announcement was made the day the museum in Elne, southern France reopened following a months-long renovation and inventory project that began in October 2017.

So far, 82 of the 140 works in the collection of paintings, drawings, and watercolors, with an estimated value of €160,000 ($194,076), originally attributed to Terrus, were found to be fake.

Three pieces have yet to be examined fully to determine their authenticity using ultraviolet scans.

Elne Mayor Yves Barniol described the situation as a "catastrophe" and issued an apology to all those who had visited the museum over the past 20 years. "I put myself in the position of all those who visited the museum, saw the fakes having paid the entry fee. It is unacceptable,” Barniol said as cited by France Bleu. "I hope we find those responsible."

Art historian Eric Forcada first raised the alarm in 2017 when he noticed a number of anachronisms and glaring stylistic anomalies. An investigative committee including other art historians and restoration experts was established to determine the full extent of the deceit. Several of the paintings reportedly showed buildings that were only constructed after Terrus' death in 1922.

Terrus was born in 1857 and spent the majority of his life in the nearby town of Roussillon in the Pyrenees. He was also a friend of iconic French painter and sculptor Henri Matisse.

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The local government has filed legal complaints for fraud, forgery, abuse of confidence, and concealment against those they believe were involved. Local police have also begun an investigation into the incident which they believe may extend to other artists' collections in the area.

RT.com has contacted the Musée Terrus for comment.

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