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François Louis
Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies, Bard Graduate Center

“What to Do About Fake Plunder: The Case of Liao-Dynasty Gold and Silver”

Between 1989 and 1991, several dozen purported Liao-dynasty gold and silver vessels entered the international art market. The vessels all have dated inscriptions that link them to prime minister Han Derang (941–1011) and Empress Dowager Chengtian (r. 983–1006), arguably the two most famous figures of the Liao dynasty (907–1125). There is ample evidence to suspect that these vessels are the products of a large forgery operation and I suggested as much in a 2003 article. In this presentation I am taking a fresh look at the group, prompted by the recent excavation of Han Derang’s looted tomb, the report on which was published in April this year. I am finding that a considerable body of literature has now accrued that still considers these pieces to be authentic. Interestingly, this literature sees the vessel inscriptions as proof of an amorous relationship between the dowager empress and her minister, one that has been alleged and disputed since the eleventh century.

Tuesday, November 10, 12:15 pm

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A Zoom link will be circulated the morning of the talk.