The day a tiny French museum found that half of its paintings are fakes

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Vue d'Elne by Étienne Terrus (v. 1900)

April 30, On This Day

‘That wasn’t painted by Étienne Terrus!’

Visitors look at the painting “Le clocher de Ria” (The bell tower of Ria) at the museum dedicated to French painter Etienne Terrus, in Elne (Elna), on April 28, 2018. (Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP / Getty Images) | Via artnet.com

It all began innocently enough, when art historian Eric Forcada was hired by the Étienne Terrus Museum, located in the artist’s tiny hometown of sunny Elne in Southern France, to rehang its dedicated collection after the building’s recent restoration. But within minutes of looking at the first few pictures, he could tell that something was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, on April 30, 2018, news broke that a whopping 82 out of 140 Terrus works hung in the museum were fakes. That’s 60% costing over 160,000 euros, and many of them rather crude forgeries.

More than 80 paintings said to be by Étienne Terrus were fake (this one, of Collioure in the Pyrenees, is real and is now on display) | Wikimedia Commons

Terrus was a French painter considered one of the precursors of Fauvism, and much appreciated by artists like George-Daniel de Monfreid, André Derain, and Henri Matisse. He passed away in 1922.

The real deal: artist Étienne Terrus, a friend of Matisse. Photograph: the Commune of Elne | Via The Guardian

While the gargantuan revelation shocked the town, and quickly made international headlines as well, it eventually garnered a whole lot of media attention for Elne, leading to the beginning of a new dawn of tourism for it.