President Donald Trump’s November 2018 trip to France is again in the news because of his canceled trip to a cemetery for fallen Marines and allegations that he disparaged veterans. But Bloomberg reports on another aspect of the trip that raised more than a few eyebrows. After Trump’s cemetery trip was canceled, the president suddenly had a few hours to kill inside the U.S. ambassador’s historic residence in Paris and it seems that during that time he took a particular liking to a few pieces of art. The next day, he ordered a Benjamin Franklin bust, a Franklin portrait and a set of figurines of Greek mythical characters be loaded on Air Force One to go back to Washington with him, reports Bloomberg.
The ambassador was reportedly surprised by the move but didn’t raise any objections with Trump joking the art could come back “in six years,” when his second term would be coming to an end. Not everyone was happy with the president’s decision as some in the State Department exchanged tersely worded emails with White House officials. But after all the hand-wringing it was decided that the move was legal because the art is government property.
The White House confirmed the president took artwork from Paris. “The President brought these beautiful, historical pieces, which belong to the American people, back to the United States to be prominently displayed in the People’s House,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in response to questions from Bloomberg News.
The art was reportedly worth some $750,000 and the White House may have called them “historical” but the truth is that they were fakes and replicas. The figurines that now sit in the Oval Office are from the early 20th century by an artist who was trying to claim they were from the 16th or 17 centuries. The figurines have little value and are really “20th century fakes of wannabe 17th century sculptures,” according to an art dealer. The Franklin bust and portrait were also copies of the originals. White House officials ended up borrowing the original portrait from the National Portrait Gallery and hanging it up in the Oval Office rather than the replica Trump brought back from France.