Sotheby’s has withdrawn an important “13th century” belt buckle from its 2 December old master sculpture and works of art sale after questions were raised by The Art Newspaper. The intricately-designed silver and enamel buckle had recently been owned by Paul Ruddock, now chairman of the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum.
We were contacted by Claude Blair, retired head of the V&A’s metalwork department, who told us that the buckle is a modern fake. Following our queries, Sotheby’s issued a statement, saying that “due to questions raised since the publication of the catalogue, we—in consultation with the US consignor—have decided to withdraw lot 2 from our sale.” It had an estimate of £20,000-£30,000.
Dr Blair, who left the V&A in 1982, is convinced that the buckle is one of the notorious Marcy fakes, marketed by Louis Marcy in the 1890s. Marcy worked as a dealer in both Paris and London, selling “medieval” metalwork.
The buckle surfaced in the collection of Dacre Kenrick Edwards, whose estate was sold at Christie’s in 1961. It then passed to distinguished New York collector Germain Seligman, who lent it for an exhibition at The Cloisters (Metropolitan Museum, New York) in 1968. The buckle was offered at Sotheby’s in 1995 (estimate £15,000-£20,000), but went unsold. It passed through two specialist dealers in New York and in 2004 was sold to an English collector via the London dealer Sam Fogg.
Though this object was discovered before its sale, how many are not? The possibility of buying a forgery is one of the enduring consequences of the structure of the art and antiquities trade.