Fakes: Less Than Meets the Eye

Mr. Hummel is an expert on antiques and American decorative arts
A New England tall chest augmented to increase its value. East Hampton Historical Society

   On Saturday, the East Hampton Historical Society will present a daylong illustrated seminar on famous and infamous antiques fakes and forgeries with Charles F. Hummel.
   Mr. Hummel, an expert on antiques and American decorative arts, is the author of “With Hammer in Hand: The Dominy Craftsmen of East Hampton.” He has documented the Dominy family as well as the history of East Hampton and is the retired senior director of the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, one of the most important collections of American decorative arts.
   After handling and examining hundreds of objects, Mr. Hummel has seen pretty much everything, from the truly excellent to the merely mediocre and the outrageously faked. He will share his knowledge with eager collectors and casual enthusiasts so that they, too, can be antiques detectives in their own encounters with dealers and merchants. He will discuss the details that define each period as well as the materials that were available then and the construction techniques of the time. He regards his programs on fakes as consumer protection exercises, but he relates the information with an ear for the narrative, offering stories while describing the tools needed to foil a fake.
   An early acquisition misstep as a curatorial assistant at the Winterthur in the 1950s led him to a career of calling out fakes and reproductions to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. He helped put together a study collection of inauthentic objects, including furniture, silver, ceramics, and practically every other type of object possible. It has grown through vetting of the Winterthur’s own collections and acquiring the best of the impostors to help educate Winterthur students, collectors, and the general public in lectures and workshops. The items also serve as a reference for members of the museum’s staff.
    In addition to his educational efforts, Mr. Hummel has also been asked regularly over the years to vet antiques fairs and shows to ensure that the attendees are seeing only authentic works. In this capacity, he was associated with the Delaware Antiques Show for several decades.
    “Fakes and Forgeries: An In-Depth Journey Into the Intriguing Field of Antiques Authentication” will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Clinton Academy. Registration is $60 and includes a box lunch. The proceeds will benefit the society and its programs. Space is limited. Registration in advance has been suggested and can be made by calling the society.