Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump spent time picking out artwork from the U.S. Embassy in France after he canceled a visit to a military cemetery in 2018, according to a new Bloomberg report, but the art the president took turned out to be replicas.
The new report about the president’s time making faux art selections follows last Thursday’s report from The Atlantic that Trump, 74, had canceled his planned stop at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery for fallen U.S. marines because he was worried the rain would mess up his hair.
Trump reportedly said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers,” before calling the U.S. marines laid to rest there “suckers” for being killed in action, though he later denied making the disparaging comments.
A day after making the alleged comments, Bloomberg reported Sunday night that the president had then requested that officials bring back a handful of art pieces he fancied from the U.S. embassy that all turned out to be replicas, including a handful of silver Greek figurines, as well as a bust and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.
Trump’s request had “startled” U.S. Ambassador Jamie McCourt, according to Bloomberg, though the official allowed Trump to take the artwork from her residence while he told her she would get them back “in six years,” referencing his hopes to win a second presidential term in November against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) sits with Donald Trump (right) in the Oval Office, in front of the Greek figurines the president brought back from France behind him.
The president’s request also set off a flurry of emails between the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and White House officials trying to coordinate the art transfer. It was determined that the move was legal, given that the art was U.S. property, according to the report.
However, once the artwork was brought back to the U.S. on Air Force One, White House art curators discovered that pieces weren’t as valuable as they seemed.
London art dealer Patricia Wengraf also told Bloomberg that the Greek figurines, made by Neapolitan artist Luigi Avolio, were intended to be passed off as 16th or 17th century pieces, but they were in fact found to be made in the early 20th century.
The Franklin bust and the portrait of him were found to be replicas, as well, after White House curators reviewed the pieces.
Trump then reportedly joked that he liked the replica of the founding father’s bust better than the original, according to two people familiar with the president’s comments who spoke with the outlet.
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation The original Benjamin Franklin portrait that was located at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.
In an ironic twist, the original copy of the Franklin portrait, painted by artist Joseph Siffred Duplessis in France in 1785, had already been hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. just a mile away from the White House. The original was later transferred to the White House to hang in the Oval Office, rather than the copy that Trump brought back from France.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE, but White House spokesperson Judd Deere told Bloomberg: “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.”