E0577: Alzate Effigy Vessel


Classification Category:
8:Communication Artifacts ➞ Art/Folk Art
clay ➔ ceramic
9.75 cm L
8 cm W
10.75 cm H
Provenance of Object:
During the late 19th century, anthropology was emerging as an academic discipline. Also during this period, collection of artifacts from lost or ancient cultures were popularized by wealthy collectors. The glamor of “primitive” cultures contributed to the demand for artifacts that were, at least in appearance, ancient. Don Julian Alzate, a taxidermist and known tomb raider from Medellin, Colombia, began making these ceramics along with his two sons. Quickly their ‘Alzates’ were distributed as genuine pre-Columbian artifacts due to the support of the well-known collector Don Leocadio, a family friend. Don Leocadio bought thousands of them to fill his own museum, believing them to be authentic antiquities. The Alzate family went to great lengths to provide evidence of their archaeological origins, taking collectors on digs to ‘discover’ the ceramics in grave sites. The Alzate family was successfully able to deceive the academic world until 1914, where Eduard Seler decried the Alzates as frauds at the First International Ethnographic Congress. It was not until 1920 that these objects were publicly denounced as forgeries in a Colombian newspaper.
Ethnic Group:
South American
Production Date:
Antiquity forgery (scam)
Source Locality:
Medellin, Colombia
A small ceramic animal or figure hunched in a sitting position. It has hair/mane and a long thick tail around back.