It takes real chutzpah to sell something in a catalog and admit it’s a forgery, but John Peterman did it in this 1992 catalog. Then again, J. Peterman “Booty, Spoils & Plunder” was no ordinary catalog, and John Peterman is no ordinary copywriter.
Not only are these Chinese portraits baldly headlined as “forgeries”, but you don’t even get to see detailed images – merely impressionistic paintings of the (not-actually) original paintings. Instead, click on the catalog page image and read the copy. You’ll learn about the emperors, painting and aging techniques, and the fact that you can insinuate to people that you inherited them from a distant relative. By the end you’re imagining yourself as their owner. And that’s why he could fetch $600 for them.
Plenty of other items in the Peterman’s catalog were genuine — at least we presume so. The always-popular old coins, for example, were real treasures, and Peterman’s copy works its magic around 2000-year old coins and shipwrecked pieces of eight just as seductively as it did around fake Chinese paintings.
It’s why Peterman is still writing his own copy for his own catalogs at age 79.