How the Hohman brothers sold a fake to the Parisian Louvre

In the 19th century in the Russian Empire, one profitable, but illegal, occupation called "bugrovshchik" was quite popular. And it consisted in the fact that the "hillocks" dug up ancient burial mounds, and the rarities found were selling profitably. Although, according to the laws of the state, they were supposed to be handed over to the Archaeological Commission.

The brothers Shepsel and Leiba Gokhman, merchants of the third guild from Odessa, were active buyers of antiquities. They kept a small antique shop, bought up finds from both professional "bugrovniks" and from peasants who accidentally found antiques on their plots. Marble slabs with text in Greek were in great demand among connoisseurs. The ancient Greeks carved laws on such plates so that everyone could familiarize themselves with them.

There was just one problem - in the Greek colonies, which were located on the Black Sea coast long before our era, such plates were not often found. And then the enterprising merchant brothers thought: if slabs are rare, and the demand for them is great, then why not start faking them?

In Ochakovo, businessmen organized an underground workshop, attracted connoisseurs of the ancient Greek language and stone-cutters to work. And the business went on. Buyers received "antiques", workers - good wages. Overall, everyone was happy. And the brothers Gokhman rejoiced most of all, into whose pockets money literally poured.

They were not even embarrassed by the fact that sometimes spelling errors were found in the inscriptions. They explained it simply - the ancient scribes were not always highly educated, therefore, all claims to them. Even some museums started ordering slabs. And the brothers decided that the business needed to expand. For example, to make "ancient" jewelry masterpieces.

The staff also included goldsmiths. And the first victim of the scammers was the wealthy collector Frishen from the city of Nikolaev. True, the Gokhmans themselves decided not to risk it, but sent two hired peasants to him, who explained that they had found an ancient dagger and a golden crown by chance in their garden. For such rarities, Frischen paid 10, 000 rubles.

True, soon the collector's joy was replaced by grief, he gave the purchases for examination to the Odessa Archaeological Museum, where he was told that he had acquired ordinary fakes. But it was not possible to find the peasants who brought them.

Shepsel and Leiba concluded that they need to sell their products abroad. And they decided to make such a masterpiece that could interest even the best museums in Europe. For example, to make a golden tiara, which, allegedly, the Greeks presented to the Scythian king Saitafern in order to protect themselves from the raids of nomads.

The famous Odessa jeweler Israel Rukhomovsky was involved in the work. The product really turned out to be great. It even had an engraved inscription in ancient Greek, which said that this tiara was a gift to the great ruler of nomads. All that remained was to find a foreign museum that would be able to pay the required amount.

The Vienna Imperial Museum was chosen as the first "victim". The Austrians were interested in the find, but they could not collect the required amount. Then Shepsel Gokhman went to Paris - to the famous Louvre. Experts carefully examined the tiara and concluded that it is undoubtedly of great historical value. The deal took place in the spring of 1896. The Louvre paid the Gohmans 200, 000 francs.

Soon, visitors to the Louvre were examining the new exhibit with interest. Thunder struck six years later - in 1903. Many newspapers reported that an outright forgery was on display at the Louvre. And this exposure happened by accident.

The sculptor Henri Mayens was accused of making forgeries. And he said that fakes are found even in the Louvre. For example, the ancient Greek tiara, which has been the pride of the museum for several years. There was even a witness - Lifshits from Odessa, who moved to France. Lifshits admitted that he himself saw how Israel Rukhomovsky worked on this tiara in his workshop.

Rukhomovsky did not deny it, confirming that the "ancient Greek" tiara was his work. Moreover, Rukhomovsky was offended by Gokhmanov, who, in his opinion, paid him a ridiculous fee - only 1, 800 rubles. In addition, according to the jeweler, he was once deceived, saying that this tiara was not intended for sale to a museum, but as a gift to one of the professors of archeology.

Rohovsky's sincere recognition in France was appreciated, he was even awarded. He later moved to live in France. They also failed to bring the Gokhman brothers to justice. It remains only to solve the main question - what to do with the tiara now? It was simply transferred from one hall (antique art) to another - contemporary art.