Dossena was born in Cremona. He was a talented stonemason and sculptor who was skilled at duplicating classical Greek, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance artistic styles and such artists as Giovanni Pisano, Simone Martini and Donatello. He was skilled enough that his dealer Alfredo Fasoli sold them to museums and collectors as authentic antiques. One of them included a sculptured tomb attributed to Mino da Fiesole that was sold to Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1928 Dossena noticed that some of his works were in large collections as ancient - and also realized that his dealers were keeping most of the money; he got only equal to $200 per sale. He revealed the ruse and sued his dealers. Dossena defended himself against forgery charges by claiming that he had been unaware that others were selling his work under false pretenses. A trial cleared him and he received equal to $66,000 in compensation.
His subsequent exhibit in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, unfortunately, turned out to be a failure. The Italian government auctioned 39 Dossena works in 1933 for $9000 when a forgery of his sold at a peak price of $150,000.
Alceo Dossena died a poor man in Rome in 1937.
Two of Dossena's sculptures are on permanent display in the Frick Fine Arts Building at the University of Pittsburgh. They were intended to appear as if they had been mounted on a Renaissance church, carved by Simone Martini. The subject matter is the Virgin Mary and angel Gabriel.
- David Sox, Unmasking the forger: The Dossena Deception, London: Unwyn Hyman, 1987.
- Frank Arnau, in 1959, published what is still one of the best books about counterfeiting art: "Kunst der Fälscher - Fälscher der Kunst. 3000 Jahre Betrug mit Antiquitäten." It is available in an English translation by J. Maxwell Brownjohn as "The Art of the Faker - 3,000 Years of Deception" and includes a chapter on Alceo Dossena.
- W. Lusetti, Alceo Dossena scultore, Roma, 1955
- Marco Horak, A Piacenza bassorilievo del grande Alceo Dossena, uno dei più enigmatici e controversy protagonist del mondo dell'arte, in "Strenna Piacentina 2013", Piacenza, 2013.
- G. Cellini, Alceo Dossena in "Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani", Roma, 1992, vol. 41.
- Terry Deary, Terry Deary's Terribly True Crime Stories, 1994.
- Marco Horak, Alceo Dossena fra mito e realtà: vita e opera di un genio, Piacenza, 2016, ISBN 978-88-95153-69-8
- Newspaper clippings about Alceo Dossena in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
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