When back in the mid-1980s, LA’s Getty Museum paid a Basel art dealer what is rumored to have been as much as $12 million for a priceless Greek statue known as a kouros, it didn’t do so without first spending fourteen months subjecting the statue’s provenance documents to close scrutiny and the statue itself to a battery of scientific tests.
However, historians who viewed the sculpture once it was in the Getty’s hands were convinced that it was a fake. As Malcolm Gladwell recounts in his book Blink, one insisted that it just “didn’t look right,” while another had an “instinctive sense” that something about it was off.
By the early 1990s, those intuitive feelings had been proved to be accurate. Not only was the kouros’s documentation discovered to have been forged, it was learned that the layer of calcite around the statue could have formed in just a few years, not over many centuries as had originally been assumed.
The kouros is still at the Getty — in storage and viewable only by private appointment.
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