Lonely Planet Writer

This French museum discovered most of its paintings are fake

Art-lovers will be disappointed to learn that a French museum dedicated to a local artist has discovered that 82 of its collection of 140 paintings are counterfeit. The Musée Étienne Terrus is located in Elne in the south of France, and it was horrified to discover recently that many works originally attributed to the artist himself were not painted by him.

Visitors look at the painting ‘Le clocher de Ria’ at the museum dedicated to French painter Etienne Terrus in Elne. Image: Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

Terrus was born in 1857 and died in 1922, and is best known for his landscapes of the Roussillon area, also known as French Catalonia. The local council in Elne bought the artworks for the museum over a 20-year period at a cost about €160,000 (£140,000). The problem came to light when art historian, Eric Forcada, was brought in to reorganise the museum following the recent acquisition of paintings. He expressed doubts about the authenticity of some of them, and the museum had them examined by experts. They concluded that 82 of the 140-strong collection had not been painted by the Elne-born artist, which the local mayor, Yves Barniol. has since described as a “catastrophe” for the area.

A self-portrait of the French painter Etienne Terrus at the museum dedicated him in Elne. Image: Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

Elne’s community of 8000 people are very disappointed at the news, and the mayor says that the investigation that is currently underway will continue until the culprits are found. It is believed that a well-organised network is behind the fraud, and French police suspect that there are also counterfeit works attributed to other Catalonian artists in circulation, including Pierre Brune, Balbino Giner and Augustin Hanicote.

Fakes were discovered at the museum in France dedicated French painter Etienne Terrus. Image: Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images

The website for the Musée Étienne Terrus can be found here.