November 21, 2001

Dan Goddard
Visual Arts
San Antonio Express-News

Re: Show looks at process, not just product

Dear Mr. Goddard:

As you know I am Gary Arseneau, artist/printmaker of original lithographs,
gallery owner and also writer of the two books "The Monument to Victor Hugo
Deception" and "The marketing and profit of "inauthentic" and "counterfeit"
Degas Bronzes."

I must commend you on addressing the contentious issue of authenticity with the
"Degas bronze" in the Corot to Picasso exhibit with your readers. It is not
often that the museum patron would ever realize museums could be involved in
this kind of deception.

If I may I would like to clear up a point of confusion concerning "Degas
bronzes." They are all fake.

What do I mean by "fake?" In Henry Campbell Black's Black's Law Dictionary" the
term "fake" is defined: "To make or construct falsely. A "faked alibi" is made,
manufactured, or false alibi. Something that is not what it purports to be;
counterfeit. An imposter."

Let me address three factual errors in your story for future reference:

1) "Degas didn't show many of his bronzes." During his lifetime Edgar Degas
never had his wax models cast bronze and it is expressly documented in
historical publications that he never wanted his wax models cast in bronze.
(page 145, Albert Elsen's 1963 "Rodin")

2) "A Degas bronze, "Dancer Moving Forward," has generated controversy because
it was cast from a wax study found in the artist's studio after his death."
These "Edgar Degas" bronzes" are not from his original wax models but three
generations removed. In other words these "bronzes", in majority, are bronze
reproductions from bronze reproductions from plaster reproductions from
posthumous reconstructed waxes with counterfeit "Degas" signatures applied. They
would be known as "surmoulages" or bronzes reproduced from a bronze (page 78,
Valerie J. Fletcher's 2001 "Degas and America The Early Collectors" catalogue).

3) "Museum practice has been to call works authentic when made from the artist's
originals." Ironically Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio and the
Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton Massachusetts are both members of the
Association of Art Museum Directors. That association endorses the College Art
Association's ethical guidelines for sculpture reproduction. Those College Art
Association's Ethics & Guidelines, subtitle Part II: Standards for Sculptural
Reproduction and Preventative Measures against Unethical Casting, in part state:
"In our opinion a bronze made from a finished bronze, unless under the direct
supervision of the artist, even when not prohibited by law and authorized by the
artist's heirs or executors, is a counterfeit as it imitates, resembles, has the
appearance, or is a copy of the original, with or without implying deceit. The
argument that this form of replication increases the audience for an artist's
work must be rejected on the grounds that what is made available is not an
authentic work by the sculptor."

The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum in San Antonio and specifically the Smith
College Museum of Art in Northampton Massachusetts willingly violate the very
ethical guidelines they, as museums, endorse by displaying this "inauthentic"
and "counterfeit" surmoulage as a "Degas bronze."

This ethical violation was confirmed by Smith College Museum of Art Director and
Chief Curator Suzannah J. Fabing in an October 4, 2000 letter to me where she
admitted in writing: "he {Edgar Degas} did not intend to have his sculptures
cast and distributed."

If your still not convinced that their is something seriously wrong then please
carefully examine the 'Degas bronze" on display and you will notice the "Degas"
signature. Edgar Degas never signed his wax models yet all these posthumous
"bronzes" have his signature. How did he do that? Ironically the National
Gallery of Art confirms Degas never signed his wax models on their
( website: "we are developing a chronology
for sculpture, which Degas did not date or sign." Edgar Degas never signing his
wax models is further confirmed on page 34 in Charles W. Millard's "Sculpture of
Edgar Degas."

Also for your information what is a signature? This is answered in the J. Paul
Getty Trust''s "" website. Under their Getty Vocabulary Program the
term "signature" is defined as: "Persons' names written in their own hand." Also
in Henry Campbell Black's Black's Law Dictionary" the term "signature" is
defined: "The act of putting one's name at the end of an instrument to attest
its validity; the name thus written. A signature may be written by hand,
printed, stamped, typewritten, engraved, photographed, or cut from one
instrument and attached to another, and a signature lithographed on an
instrument by a party is sufficient for the purpose of signing it; it being
immaterial with what kind of instrument a signature is made."

I found it very interesting in your article when you stated: "Both the McNay and
Smith College collections were conceived as teaching collections that would
trace the evolution of modernism. Marion Koogler McNay, the museum's founder,
also liked to collect paintings that revealed an artist's work habits."

What are we to be taught from these "collections" if these museums are willing
to misrepresent fakes as art by the artist? What does this trully reveal about
these museum's work habits? Also the "THESEUS SLAYING THE CENTAUR BIENOR" in this exhibit is a fake. Below is, in part, from my "Casting Doubt" article.

The Smith College Museum of Art's written description and provenance
documentation for this Antoino-Louis Barye's bronze is as follows: "Theseus
Slaying the Centaur Bienor, model executed 1849-50, Bronze with dark brown
patina on self base, Signed at rear: A.L. Barye, Founder's stamp at front. F.
BARBEDIENNE founder, Purchased 1973:4 and Shephard Gallery Associates, Inc., New
York, to Smith College Museum of Art." Additional description provided states:
"Barye's Theseus Slaying the Centaur Bienor was first exhibited in the Paris
Salon of 1850 as "A Lapith and Centaur". The founder Barbedienne subsequently
cast the work at the original size with four different reductions. The Smith
College Museum cast is the third reduction, that is, the fourth largest in the
series of casts." Based on this documentation one could only conclude that you
were viewing a lifetime cast signed by the artist Antoine-Louis Barye, right?

Unfortunately the four reductions that the Smith College Museum of Art refers to
were proposed and carried out posthumously by the Barbedienne Foundry. That
would make their "Barye bronze" at minimum a reproduction with a counterfeit
"A.L. Barye" signature! This is confirmed by the Paris, France based Gallery
Univers du Bronze, which specializes in commercial bronze sculpture of the 19th
and 20th centuries, on the website "". In reference to the
"Thesee et le Centaure Bienor Circa 1880" it states: "With this piece, Barye
symbolized the victory of the human spirit on bestiality. For the monument in
homage to Barye, an enlargement of about 3 meters high has been built by the
Barbedienne Foundry on the Saint-Louis Island in Paris. This monument was
unfortunately destroyed during the last war. After the death of the artist,
Barbedienne proposed four reductions from the original size. To distinguish, as
a quality label, the best cast directly done after the plaster, and the best
work on patina, Barbedienne created a specific seal, known as the gold seal."
This documentation is from the Univers du Bronze gallery owners Mr. Michal
Polettie and Mr. Alain Richarme. They are "renowned specialist of the works of
Antoine-Louis Barye, of whom they have just completed a descriptive catalogue:
"Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre de Barye", which is to be edited by Gallimard in
2000, and where they expose a very important number of the artist's sculpture in
their original casting." (

This deception is further confirmed on the website ""
where the Antoine-Louis Barye biographical information states: "Barye produced
no new work after 1869 and following his death in 1875 his plasters and models
were purchased by Ferdinand Barbedienne, the famous founder whose early gold FB
cast of Barye's works were so meticulously done. Barbedienne continued casting
most of Barye's models until after the turn of the century. All of these later,
posthumous, casts are marked F. Barbedienne Founder on them but they are done
with extreme attention to detail and try to carry on Barye's keen interest in
multicolored patinas on the works." As you recall this Smith College Museum of
Art "Barye bronze" is listed with the "F. Barbedienne foundeur" stamp on the
front which would confirms it is a posthumous reproduction with a counterfeit
"A.L. Barye" signature applied.

In the "" website an article titled "Beasts in Bronze" by Sara
Hales states: "Barye was a remarkable sculptor of his day as he was involved in
every step of making a bronze. He moulded his work, cast it, chased it and
finally patinated his piece. His involvement was so great that in 1839 he became
a founder, being licensed as a bronzier." What would Antoino-Louis Barye, the
artist and bronzier, think of all these posthumous reductions and reproductions
attributed to him with counterfeit signatures applied implying his approval? 
Would it be safe to say if an artist would go to the trouble during his lifetime
of creating his models, casting in bronze, chasing and applying the patina to
those bronzes personally then might he take exception to these posthumous
non-disclosed reproduction/fake "bronzes" attributed to him?

Smith College Museum of Art Director and Chief Curator Suzannah J. Fabing in an
October 4, 2000 letter to me also responded to my allegations about the 
"Theseus slaying the Centaur Bienor" bronze by writing: "The date of the Barye
cast is difficult to determine, however, since Barbedienne cast for Barye during
much of his life as well as after his death." She "commend{ed}" the "Fogg Art
Museum" and "Jeanne L. Wasserman" as references, as if to refute my allegations.

Using her own recommended references, I documented that in the Fogg Art Museum's
1983 publication titled "Antoine Louis Barye" by Jeanne L. Wasserman, on page
12, she states: "Barye managed to buy back his modeles from Martin in 1857 and
retained them until his death in 1875, when they were dispersed at the sales of
his estate. Barbedienne acquired 125 of the modeles which he used to produce
edited casts until after the First World War. (Posthumous Barbedienne editions
marked "F.Barbedienne." This additional independent reference, given to me,
inadvertently it would seem, by Smith College Director Fabing now made it three
sources that confirmed the "THESEUS SLAYING THE CENTAUR BIENOR" is a posthumous
reduction/fake with a counterfiet "Barye" signature applied.

A note here. There is no documentation that the F. Barbedienne foundry after
1875 was being deceptive in their reproduction of reductions of Barye's original
models. They were just trying to make money. It is only 126 years later that 
some museums and others would deceptively promote a posthumous commerical
enterprise now as works of art by an artist such as Barye. Why would they do
that? It wouldn't once again be for money, would it?

I hope this grabs your attention because it is not an "an academic debate" but a
serious ethical lapse by all principals involved in this exhibit with serious
questions of law and the penalties they may potentially incur.

If you would like additional information or documentation please call or email.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Gary Arseneau




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