French Étienne Terrus museum discovers over half collection is fake

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By Emma Beswick
"Vue d'Elne" (View of Elne) by Etienne Terrus
"Vue d'Elne" (View of Elne) by Etienne Terrus   -   Copyright  CREDIT: MUSEE TERRUS

A museum dedicated to early 20th Century painter Etienne Terrus in the south of France discovered that many of the works displayed in its collection were not actually created by him.

As many as 82 paintings, drawings and watercolours worth €160,000 euros were fakes, according to local media. The artworks were were on display at a small museum in Elne, the town Terrus was born and died in.

Art historian Eric Forcada first raised doubts about the artworks when he visited the museum in Elne, south of Perpignan.

A panel of experts was then called upon to judge whether over half the collection was the work of the Elne-born artist—they confirmed Forcada's suspicions that Terrus was not the creator.

The pieces were bought by Elne's local authority for the museum over a 20-year period, with the last being acquired in 2010.

Mayor of Elne Yves Barniol called the discovery a "disaster". "I put myself in the place of all the people who came to visit the museum, who saw fake works, who bought a ticket of entry, whatever the price, it's unacceptable," he said. "I hope we can find those responsible."

The city has filed a complaint on the grounds of forgery and fraud, according to France Bleu.

Police in the region are now investigating the trafficking of other artworks on top of Terrus'.

The news was announced Friday after the museum reopened following renovations.