Etruscan terracotta warriors
The three Etruscan terracotta warriors are art forgeries
Art forgery
Art forgery is the creation of works of art which are falsely attributed to other, usually more famous, artists. Art forgery can be extremely lucrative, but modern dating and analysis techniques have made the identification of forged artwork much simpler....

, statues made to resemble work of ancient Etruscans. The New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a renowned art museum in New York City. Its permanent collection contains more than two million works, divided into nineteen curatorial departments. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is one of the...

 bought them between 1915 and 1921. The statues were created by Italian brothers Pio and Alfonso Riccardi and three of their six sons.

Early fakes

The Riccardis began their career as art forgers when Roman art dealer Domenico Fuschini hired them to forge shards of ancient ceramics and eventually whole jars.

Their first sizeable work was a large bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

The chariot is a type of horse carriage used in both peace and war as the chief vehicle of many ancient peoples. Ox carts, proto-chariots, were built by the Proto-Indo-Europeans and also built in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC. The original horse chariot was a fast, light, open, two wheeled...

. In 1908 Fuschini informed the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

 that the chariot had been found in the old Etruscan fort near Orvieto
Orvieto is a city and comune in Province of Terni, southwestern Umbria, Italy situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tuff...

 and that the Riccardis had been commissioned to clean it. The British Museum bought the chariot and published the find in 1912. Soon after the purchase Pio Riccardi died.


The Riccardis enlisted the aid of sculptor Alfredo Fioravanti
Alfredo Fioravanti
Alfredo Adolfo Fioravanti was an Italian sculptor, who was part of the team that forged the Etruscan terracotta warriors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.-Reference:...

 and created a statue, later known as the Old Warrior. It was 202 cm tall and was naked from the waist down. It was also missing its left thumb
The thumb is the first digit of the hand. When a person is standing in the medical anatomical position , the thumb is the lateral-most digit...

 and right arm. In 1915 they sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art that also bought their next work, the Colossal Head in 1916. Experts decided it must have been part of a 7-metre statue.

The next work was designed by Pio's eldest son Ricardo, who died in a riding accident before it was completed. When finished, the statue stood a little over two meters tall. In 1918 the Metropolitan Museum of Art bought it for $40,000 and published the find as the Big Warrior in 1921. The forgers subsequently dispersed.

Discovery of forgery

The three warrior statues were first exhibited together in 1933. In the following years various art historians, especially in Italy, presented their suspicions that on stylistic and artistic grounds alone, the statues might be forgeries, but there was no forensic proof to support the allegations. A later expert found that these exceptionally large pieces showed extraordinarily even firing characteristics: but he expressed this as cause for admiration, not suspicion. In 1960, chemical tests indicated glaze containing manganese
Manganese is a chemical element, designated by the symbol Mn. It has the atomic number 25. It is found as a free element in nature , and in many minerals...

, an ingredient that Etruscans had never used. The museum was not convinced until experts deduced how they had been made. The statues had been sculpted, painted with glaze, then toppled while in an unfired, green state to produce fragments: this was confirmed by Alfredo Fioravanti, who on January 5 1961 entered the US consulate in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

and signed a confession. The forgers had lacked the skills – and the very large kiln – required to make such large pieces. The fragments had been fired, "discovered" and sold or re-assembled ("restored") then sold. As proof, Fioravanti presented the Old Warrior's missing thumb, which he had kept as a memento. On February 15 the Metropolitan Museum announced that the statues were forgeries.
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