So where did this bronze plate really come from?By

So where did this bronze plate really come from?

This 10-inch bronze plate is an antique mall and eBay regular. It is made of an alloy of zinc, tin and copper and finished in an olive-bronze patina. The highly raised design is a Dutch girl chasing a goose. A Dutch village is in the background. The girl's face and hands resemble ivory but are Incolay Ivory, the trade name for an ivory-imitation resin.

While the front is consistently the same, what appears on the back varies. The only authentic back (Fig. 4) for this piece should identify it as a limited edition. This piece was introduced in 1979 by Fonderie Incolay, a division of Incolay Studios of California. Titled "Uncertain Beginnings," it was the first in what was to have been a four-plate series. Scenes on the plates were to have followed the life of a Dutch girl growing up in a small village, tracing her life from childhood through marriage. But only the girl chasing the goose scene was produced.

The plate's design was based on a late 19th century original sculpture (Fig. 5) by French artist Georges Omerth (active ca. 1895-1930). Contemporary artist A.W. Roberts adapted Omerth's sculpture for the limited edition plate. Roberts' name and the copyright symbol, ©, appear on the lower right of the plate (Fig. 6).

At some point over the years, a quantity of the legitimate plates were converted to Tiffany forgeries. First, the inscription on the back of the plates identifying it as a limited edition was buffed out. Then a metal tag stamped "Tiffany Studios Broadway NY" was attached. These forgeries are then offered as "Tiffany bronze." Unfortunately we have never been able to get a photo of the fake mark. Owners of the fakes have always refused to let us photograph the forged marks. But there are lots of them out there.

No authentic Tiffany bronze is marked "Broadway NY." The most common genuine mark is "Tiffany Studios, New York" die-stamped in the surface. You would never expect to find an authentic piece of Tiffany bronze signed with an applied metal tag. The only genuine Tiffany metal surface regularly marked with an applied metal tags were the leaded rims of stained glass lamp shades. And genuine tags on Tiffany lamps are copper, not bronze. The source of the plates with forged marks is unknown.

The limited edition version of the plates are widely offered by a number of sources including reproduction wholesalers. AA Importing Co., for example, is accurately describing the plates as modern limited editions and selling them for $20. The plates commonly sell on eBay under a wide range of descriptions for widely varying prices from $5 to $50.

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Fig. 1 This 10-inch bronze plate was issued in 1979 as a legitimate limited edition.

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Fig. 2 Detail of the girl's face and hands. A plastic resin imitates ivory. The white material is often described as "ivory" in sales descriptions, especially on eBay.

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Fig. 3 Original box and certificate that came with the legitimate limited edition Incolay Studios plate issued in 1979.

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Fig. 4 The original back on the plate clearly states it is a modern limited edition. The manufacturer is clearly identified.

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Fig. 5 Original 19th century sculpture by French artist Georges Omerth. The certificate that came with the limited edition plate specifically states that this piece was the inspiration for the plate.

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Fig. 6 The modern plate was designed by contemporary artist A.W. Roberts. His name appears in the lower right of the plate with the © copyright symbol. Actual size about one-eighth inch tall.