How fraudsters dupe the art world

New Collection Displays at Tate Britain in London

Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The Civil War-era desk, designed in 1876, looked too good to be true. Ornate, fashioned from walnut, maple, and oak, it was created to honor Union infantryman John Bingham.

“When you opened the door, it played Yankee Doodle Dandy,” said Clayton Pennington, a Maine Antique Digest reporter, according to an article in CBC. “It had a piece of a regimental flag on it, Latin sayings, an eagle with a clock on top. I mean, the thing was just absolutely over the top.”

It was also a fake.

Antiques dealer and craftsman Harold Gordon embellished it himself, then forged documents to cement its phony history. He sold it to an art dealer for $84,500. Eventually, the desk ended up in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, which put it on…

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