Mayan Statue Sold for $4.2 Million in France ~ Real or Fake?

Mayan statue sells for millions of EurosIn an auction of Pre-Columbian Maya art sold in in France by the auction house Drouot on Monday March 21, a large Maya carving was sold. The statue, a polychrome stucco figure, was supposedly from the Rio Bec area of Mexico and dated to around 550 CE. The five foot tall artifact was sold for $4.2 million dollars, making it the most expensive piece of Mayan art ever sold. Today Mexican antiquities experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History have declared that it is a fake.

The Mexican authorities point to the fact that the statue is different stylistically from anything else previously found in that area or of that period. A French expert in Pre-Columbian Mayan art, Jacques Blazy, who works for the auction house completely disagrees. He is quoted as saying, “Mexico’s accusations are totally ridiculous. They are completely baseless. It is a well-known artifact that has been thoroughly analyzed.”

I am not a trained expert in Pre-Columbian or Mayan art, but I have seen a lot of it in person and have read a considerable amount about it. When I first saw the photo of the statue I did  not recognize it as Mayan at all. It’s hard to know who is right, the French expert or the Mexican ones. Both have good reason to stick to their opinion.

Mexico’s archaeological sites are under constant threat from looters. When a piece of Pre-Columbian art from Mexico sells for an astronomical amount of money, the threat gets even greater. It would be wise for the Mexican authorities to cast doubt on the credibility of most any sale of Mexico’s national treasures. If the piece is real, it should be in a museum and not in the living room of an ultra wealthy private collector.

The French expert who verified the authenticity of the statue, along with other artifacts sold at the auction, needs to protect his and the auction house of Drouot’s reputation. Not to mention trying to stop the loss of over $4.2 million dollars if the sale was to be invalidated due to fakery.

I have not yet found any information on who excavated the allegedly Mayan statue or when. If there was some credible provenance, other than the fact people have believed it to be real for years, then the question could be easily solved. After looking over pages of google results for Mayan statues and Mayan figurines, I haven’t found anything that looks like it. I believe the folks from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History are being absolutely truthful and are correct.

What do you think?

Update; One of my readers made a comment suggesting the statue may be the work of Brigido Lara. Lara’s story of going from a forger to a museum expert is very interesting. Here is a link to one of the best articles I could find on-line about him in Cabinet Magazine.


Mayan Statue Sold for $4.2 Million in France ~ Real or Fake? — 5 Comments

  1. Well, it sure does look like a drugstore Indian, complete with tomahawk. The cross gartering is all wrong too, unless, of course, he is a Saxon-Maya warrior. Whatever he is, he sure isn’t form rio Bec–although, in my experience, dealers, auction house people, and collectors are all pretty dim and, of course, possession is most important to the collector while making money is the aim of the dealer/auctioneer. I have yet to know one who actually knew much of anything (except how to make money from collectors, of course). I doubt the piece is Brigido special as Sr. Lara has his own, recognizable, style. There are a fair number of first class forgers at work, especially in the Maya style, and it could be any one of these.

  2. Who, who I ask you is an expert on preclassic Mayan sculpture? I cannot find anyone who can help me with my quartz sculpture with two faces on the head.

  3. It would appear that Brigido Lara the post PreColombian ceramicist is at it again. He fooled the experts big time back in 1974 and he or his children are at it again and having fun. But then the current fakes are frankly not good enough to be by the hand of this master.

    • Bob,
      the story of Brigido Lara is incredibly interesting. He was so prolific in his forgeries, and fooled so many people, it seems hard to believe. His story would make a great movie.

      Thank you for the comment!

  4. Doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen either. But who knows. It is a great conversation piece for nuevo-riche cocktail party guests where the buyer can brag about how much it costs and the controversy surrounding it.

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