Sunday, April 5, 2009

Posthumous Camille Claudel -FAKE- in the National Museum of Women in the Arts

NOTE: Footnotes enclosed with { }.

The so-called "Young Girl with a Sheaf of Wheat," attributed to the artist Camille Claudel (d. 1943) with a given "1890" date, in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts{1}, is non-disclosed -fake- posthumously forged in bronze in or after 1983, some forty or more years after Claudel's death.

The dead don't sculpt.

Yet, the National Museum of Women in the Arts promotes a whole different perspective on its' website, when it states: "By specializing in small-scale sculpture, Claudel developed a following of private collectors and produced multiple editions to meet the demand for her work. For example, she produced several versions of Young Girl with a Sheaf, including one in terra cotta and a series of twelve cast in bronze (this example is the eighth). Claudel gained renown for exercising direct control over the process of casting her sculptures in bronze-thus emphasizing the technical aspect of the artist's hand-rather than following the traditional workshop system of relinquishing the clay model to specialized technicians."{2}

This edition size is further promoted in the National Museum of Women in the Arts' published 1987 catalogue of their collection. On page 67, this "Young girl with a Sheaf of Wheat," attributed to Camille Claudel, is promoted as a "Claudel's sculpture" with an even earlier "1882" date with same following disclosure: "The Museum's piece, the eighth of twelve castings in bronze."

The edition number "8/8," stamped on the bottom right side facing of this so-called "Claudel's sculpture" in bronze titled:
"Young girl with a Sheaf of Wheat," is the most obvious red flag that exposes at best a lack of connoisseurship and scholarship by some past and present museum professionals at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

First, the limitation of editions to eight (Arabic numbers), four (Roman Numerals) and/or twelve (Arabic numbers) are part of French decrees passed posthumously in 1957, in 1978 and reaffirmed in subsequent French decrees{3}, long after Camille Claudel's death in 1943.

Second, a titled "La jenue fille a la gerbe"{4} a.k.a. "Young Girl with a Sheaf," attributed to Camille Claudel with an edition number "2/8" reproduced ie., cast in bronze by the Coubertin foundry in 1983, was sold in an United Kingdom auction in 2005.

Usually editions are numbered in numerical order, making edition number 2/8 numbered in 1983 predating edition number 8/8. Therefore, logically the earliest the edition number 8/8 would be numbered would be in and/or after -1983-, some forty years or more after Camille Claudel's death in 1943.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is located at 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20005-3970.

Under U.S. Copyright Law 101. Definitions, a “work of visual art” ie., -sculpture- is defined as: “multiple cast, carved, or fabricated sculptures of 200 or fewer that are consecutively numbered by the author and bear the signature or other identifying mark of the author.”

Obviously a dead Camille Claudel did not -consecutively number- anything, so who numbered them and why do cultural institutions suspend disbelief and accept them?

On page 22, in Monique Laurent's 1988 published RODIN book, that question is likely answered when the former Musee Rodin curator wrote of Auguste Rodin: "Most of the bronzes are stamped with the artist's signature (copied from an example supplied by him and also with the stamp of the foundry. Some although perfectly authentic, are unsigned. But there is no question of any of them being numbered or dated; these are modern methods, linked with notion of rarity and speculation in art."{5}

In other words, admission fees, city-state-federal grants, corporate sponsorship, outright sales and tax write-offs.


The Coubertin foundry, that cast in bronze these non-disclosed fakes, went into business in 1963 and only began working with the Musee Rodin in 1973
{6}, some thirty years after Camille Claudel's death in 1943.

Why is that information about the Coubertin foundry of interest?

The original terracotta sculpture titled "Young Girl with a Sheaf" by Camille Claudel is in the Musee Rodin's collection. If one simply compares
side by side these non-disclosed fakes in bronze and Camille Claudel's "Young Girl with a Sheaf" in its' original terracotta, the terracotta was most likely used as the master for the mold used for the subsequent casting in bronze.

So, any subsequent posthumous reproduction in bronze by the Coubertin foundry of Camille Claudel's original terracotta titled "Young Girl with a Sheaf of Wheat" would be, at best, reproductions.

This factual perspective is confirmed by a French decree (no. 81.255 of 3 march 1981). In part, it states: "Article 9 - All facsimiles, casts of casts, copies, or other reproductions of an original work of art as set out in Article 71 of Appendix III of the General Code of Taxes, executed after the date of effectiveness of the present decree, must carry in a visible and indelible manner the notation 'Reproduction'."{7}

Unfortunately, the misrepresentation of these reproductions as original works of visual art ie., sculpture and the misrepresentation of the reproduction of a signature as being "signed by Camille Claudel" makes these posthumous reproductions "something that is not what it purports to be"{8} which is one legal definition of -fake-.

On page 816 in the 1998 Law, Ethics and the Visual Arts by John Henry Merryman and Albert E. Elsen, the authors wrote: "The most serious harm that good counterfeits do is to confuse and misdirect the search for valid learning. The counterfeit object falsifies history and misdirects inquiry. - Museum and art historical resources are always limited. What gets acquired, displayed, conserved and studied is the result of a continuous process of triage, in which some objects can be favoured only at the expense of others. Counterfeit objects distort the process. - There remains the most obvious harm of all: counterfeit cultural objects are instruments of fraud."{9}

The National Museum of Women in the Arts’ -Mission Statement- states: “ The National Museum of Women in the Arts brings recognition to the achievements of women artists of all periods and nationalities by exhibiting, preserving, acquiring, and researching art by women and by teaching the public about their accomplishments.”{10}

This monograph hopefully assists in that goal of "teaching the public about their accomplishments," much less reproductions and/or fakes if applicable.

To learn more about contentious issues of authenticity with work attributed to the artist Camille Claudel, link to my June 5, 2007 monograph:
21 FAKE RODINS & CLAUDELS at the Detroit Institute...

The reputations and legacy of living and past artists, present and future museum art patrons and the art-buying public deserve the re-establishment of the obvious; that the living presence and participation of the artist to once again be required, as it always should have been, to create the piece of art attributable to the artist if indeed it is attributed to them, much less purported to have been signed by them.


2. Ibid

3. Décret n° 2005-1507 du 6 décembre 2005 modifiant le décret n° 93-163 du 2 février 1993 relatif au musée Rodin, “Article 2 Le 5 de l'article 2 est remplacé par les dispositions suivantes : « 5. Il procède ou fait procéder, sous son contrôle, à des éditions originales de bronzes tirées à partir des moules et des modèles en plâtre figurant dans les collections. Ces éditions sont limitées à douze, numérotées de 1/8 à 8/8 et de I/IV à IV/IV, y compris les éditions originales existantes.” (


5. Copyright © 1988 by Ste Nile des Editions du Chene, ISBN 0-8050-1252-4

6. p. 293, 1981 Rodin Rediscovered, published by the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C.), ISBN 0-89468-001-3 (pbk.)

7. p. 281, Ibid

8. p. 617, Seventh Edition of Black's Law Dictionary, ISBN 0-314-22864-0

9. ISBN 90-411-0697-9 © Kluwer Law International 1998


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