A Genuine Dilemma: The Piombino Apollo and Fraud in the First and Second Century Greco-Roman Art Market
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In 1832, fishermen pulled a full-body bronze sculpture of a youth, now called the Piombino Apollo, from the sea near ancient Populonia. Under life-size, the piece resembles an Archaic kouros, though it has some notable unusual features including an inscription dedicating the supposed image of Apollo to Athena and the signatures of two artists found on a lead tablet hidden within the hollow bronze. These unusual features led scholars to eventually reclassify the piece from an Archaic work of the fifth century to an Archaistic forgery of the second or first century. Few have challenged this reclassification, but this thesis attempts to complicate the application of the word forgery to the Piombino Apollo. Further, it examines whether a contemporary buyer would have been fooled by the sculpture’s “deceptive” traits and offers alternative possibilities to account for the artists’ choices of style, pose, and inscriptions.