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Bombshell – Prized British Museum Treasure Declared a Fake

March 12, 2014
The Warren Cup, Bittir (ancient Bethther), near Jerusalem, Roman, AD 5 – 15 Height: 11 cm Width: 9.9 cm (max.) Depth: 11 cm Room 70: Roman Empire  Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, the Caryatid Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Warren Cup, Bittir (ancient Bethther), near Jerusalem, Roman, AD 5 – 15
Height: 11 cm Width: 9.9 cm (max.) Depth: 11 cm
Room 70: Roman Empire
Acquired with the assistance of The Art Fund, the British Museum Friends, the Caryatid Fund & the Heritage Lottery Fund.

One of the British Museum’s great treasures of antiquity, the 1st century AD silver Warren Cup, which depicts homosexual lovers, has been declared a 20th century creation by Luca Giuliani, professor of classical archaeology at Humboldt University in Berlin, reports The Guardian.

Giuliani’s reasoning, according to the article, is “such explicit imagery is unprecedented in Roman silverware. He suggested instead that the cup was designed for the pleasure of its former owner – a wealthy American gay man, Edward Perry Warren, who bought it in Rome in 1911, and who also acquired other ‘counterfeit’ pieces, he said.”

The museum purchased the object 15 years ago for £1.8 million and it has been “singled out by director Neil MacGregor for his critically acclaimed History of the World in 100 Objects.”

This debate is not over. Professor Dyfri Williams, author of The Warren Cup, published by the British Museum Press in 2006, is not backing down:

The fact that Warren bought other fakes is irrelevant, he said. He also dismissed the uniqueness of the iconography as not being proof: “We’re really only reacting to each piece when it’s found. We may find something spectacular next week.”

He added: “The real issue, which he has not addressed, is the object itself … If the cup was made around 1900, as he claims, they would be using virtually pure silver. They have been refining silver since the middle of the 19th century.”

The homoerotic content of the Warren Cup is discussed in a museum audio guide, part of a new project called ”A Little Gay History.”

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