“You’ve shown me your masterpieces, now show me your fakes.”

Henry Francis du Pont to a fellow collector

A fake is something that purports to be what it is not, while the definition of the word forgery often implies the act of copying a signature or a whole work of art.


High prices for art, antiques, and collectibles encourage the creation and sale of fakes and forgeries, while the passionate desire to acquire rare and important works blinds buyers to the need to question their authenticity, thereby fueling both supply and demand.


It's complicated!

We have divided this exhibition into three main sections: Intent, Evidence, and Proof. Each section offers case studies that explore the complex world of fakes and forgeries, in everything from fine art to fashion to baseball memorabilia.



Three factors are taken into consideration when attempting to establish the authenticity of art, antiques, and collectibles: provenance (a history of ownership of the object since its creation); connoisseurship (knowledge of the style and techniques of the maker); and scientific analysis (the identification of materials found in the work under question).


The burden of proof can be heavy. The provenance may be difficult to establish or it may be incomplete; knowledgeable experts and connoisseurs may disagree; and scientific analysis may not identify all the facts needed to prove lack of authenticity in a court of law.

This exhibition addresses these complex issues.


Terms associated with fakes and forgeries may seem straightforward, but they can be confusing. Here are a few definitions.

The Innocent

Replica (n.)

A copy or duplicate of a work of art; esp. a copy made by the original artist.

Facsimile (n):

An exact copy or likeness; an exact counterpart or representation.

Reproduction (n):

A copy of a work of art or antique

Copy (n):

An imitation or reproduction of an original

The Malicious

Forgery (n):

Something produced for a deceitful or fraudulent purpose; a direct copy of an existing work

Fake (n):

A thing that is not genuine

Fake (v):

To alter, manipulate, or tamper with an object for the purpose of deception

Counterfeit (n):

An imitation intended to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine

Counterfeit (adj):

Made in imitation of something else with the intent to deceive

The Criminal  

Defraud (v.)

To deprive a person of something by deception, either by fraudulently taking or by dishonestly withholding it from him; to cheat, or beguile

Fraud (n):

Intentional perversion of truth in order to induce someone to part with something of value or surrender a legal right
"It is so much pleasanter to hear about those fakes before purchasing than afterward."

Henry Francis du Pont to a fellow collector

Winterthur holds a significant collection of fakes and forgeries, euphemistically termed the “study” collection. These objects are helpful in developing skills in connoisseurship and scientific analysis that enable curators and collectors to identify discrepancies between the fakes and the genuine examples and avoid being deceived.


New methods of researching provenances, new insights into materials and techniques used to create works of art, and new techniques of scientific analysis are constantly being developed and published, but the technical skills employed to create fakes and forgeries are also constantly improving.


It is important for us all to have open and enquiring minds because many, if not most, public and private collections contain fakes. Some are recognized, but others have yet to be discovered.



The work of many people is represented in this exhibition. The link below leads to the list of the curators, scientists, collectors, and advisors who have made this exhibition possible.



For further information, the link below leads to a list of books, articles, and online resources that provide further information about the objects featured in Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes. There are numerous other sources of information about fakes and forgeries, and more are being published all the time, so no one bibliography can claim to be comprehensive. Many of the publications listed are available in the Winterthur Library, and some are available in the Winterthur Bookstore or at WinterthurStore.com.