“Billy and Charley's” medallion with knights - ROM2009_11021_1


“Billy and Charley's” medallion with knights

Maker: William Smith and Charles Eaton (English, c. 1834-1870)
Medium:Lead and copper alloy, cast in a hand-cut plaster mould
Geography: Shadwell, Tower Hamlets, London, England
Date: c.1857-1863
Object number: 2009X4.1
Not on view
DescriptionWilliam Smith (“Billy”) and Charles Eaton (“Charley”) were a couple of illiterate treasure hunters who made a modest living salvaging small articles from the Thames in the mid 1850s. About 1857, they decided that they could make more money by casting a range of ‘medieval’ objects in a lead and copper alloy using hand-cut plaster moulds. These were sold through legitimate antique dealers and caused considerable discussion among collectors and scholars. Even after they were identified as fakes in 1863, they were still able to market them until Charley’s death in 1870. This medallion with knights is a good example of this category of “fake”, now commonly referred to as “Billy and Charley’s”. The British Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum both own examples. Great museums often find fakes helpful in identifying others and in educational and study programs.
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