Tiare of Saïtapharnès



The tiara of Saïtapharnès is a golden tiara. Acquired by the Louvre Museum in 1896, it later proved to be a forgery.

In April 1896, the Louvre reported that it had bought a tiara of gold discovered in Crimea and having belonged to the Scythian king Saïtapharnès. On the advice of Albert Kaempfen (1826-1907), then director of the National Museums, and archaeologists Antoine Héron de Villefosse and Solomon Reinach, the museum had acquired this invaluable piece for 200,000 gold francs. A Greek inscription on the tiara read: “The council and the citizens of Olbia honor the great and invincible King Saïtapharnès”. For the experts of the Louvre, this tiara confirmed an episode dating from the end of the early to the beginning of our era. At the request of its readers, the newspaper Le Figaro suggested to Solomon Reinach to tell in his columns the life of Saïtapharnès.

According to this story, Saïtapharnès had submitted some Greek colonies on the banks of the Pont-Euxin (Dacians, Sarmatians, Bithynians, Thracians …) before besieging Olbia du Pont, and had agreed to leave the city in peace only after receiving precious gifts. Shortly after the Louvre exposed the tiara, a number of experts questioned its authenticity. Among them was the German archaeologist Adolf Furtwängler, who had noticed stylistic problems with the tiara design, such as the various styles in the decorations, and was puzzled by the obvious lack of patina on the object. For many years, the Louvre defended the authenticity of its treasury. Finally, news of this affair reached Odessa, where a goldsmith named Israel Rouchomovsky lived. Two years before the acquisition of the tiara by the Louvre, two merchants had commissioned this skilful craftsman the tiara in question. They explained that this was a gift for a friend archaeologist and provided Rouchomovsky with details of recent excavations to help him with his work. It was only when he learned of the Louvre scandal that Rouchomovsky learned of what had happened to his work. He went to Paris and presented himself as the creator of the tiara. The museum’s experts refused to believe him until he had proved that he was able to reproduce a portion of the crown. Horribly embarrassed, the museum made disappear in the reserves the compromising object. There was no question of reproaching Rouchomovsky, who had only executed an order for which he had only received a little more than 7,000 francs; On the contrary, he was admired for his work and subsequently awarded a gold medal at the Salon des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He settled in Paris where he lived until his death in 1934. It was published in The Annals of Political and Literary April 19, 1903: In 1997, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem borrowed the Louvre tiara Saïtapharnès, who did so little honor, for a special exhibition devoted to the work of Israel Rouchomovsky. The crown had completed the complete circle – at first a work of art, then a false embarrassment, it had become a work of art.

In “L’Aiguille Hollow”, Maurice Leblanc presents the “authentic” tiara of Saïtapharnès ().

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