Tuesday, December 5, 2017

An athlete, Robin Symes and the Paris market

Source: Schinoussa archive
Courtesy: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a Roman marble athlete from the Robin Symes archive. The statue is due to be auctioned in Paris this Friday, 8 December 2017 (Drouot lot 292).

The history of the statue is provided:
  • Royal Athena Galleries, New York:  Art of the Ancient World 4 (1995), p.75-76, lot n°236.
This does not explain why the statue appeared in the confiscated Symes archive. 

Tsirogiannis has also spotted that the statue surfaced at Sotheby's in London Sotheby's on 5th of July 1982. lot 397. Who consigned the statue to that sale? Why does the Paris description fail to mention the Sotheby's information? Would it raise questions about how it surfaced?

Where was the statue between 1982 and 1995?

I understand that the French authorities have been informed about the sale.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lucius Verus said to be from Bubon


Portrait of Lucius Verus, 160 - 170 A.D., Bronze
36 × 23 × 28 cm (14 3/16 × 9 1/16 × 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
I am reviewing some long-standing claims of cultural property. Among them is the head from a bronze portrait of Lucius Verus. This is said to be from the Sebasteion at Bubon in Turkey.

It surfaced on the London market in the summer of 1970 after being restored by Peter Smith and Anna Plowden (Bernard Weinraub, "Squashed Bust of an Emperor Restored by 2 Young Britons", New York Times 7 June 1970). A representative of Spink & Son suggested that the head had been "excavated in Eastern Europe, probably Hungary, after World War II".

Yet by 1981 Jiri Frel could claim that the head was "said to be from Bubon" (Roman Portraits, no. 62; inv. 73.AB.100). This reflected the research of Jale Inan and Cornelius C. Vermeule. Carol Mattusch in 1996 noted, "Reported to be from Ibecik (ancient Bubon in Lycia), Turkey."

The head was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum subsequent to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Will the museum be returning the head to Turkey along with associated pieces?

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Treasure Finds and metal-detecting

© David Gill
Ian Richardson has commented on his favourite Treasure Finds (Laurence Cawley, "Treasure finds in England top 1,000 for first time", BBC News 23 November 2017). This coincides with the number of Treasure Finds passing the 1,000 mark for the third year in a row. (See statistical summary here.)

Norfolk and Suffolk top the list with 211 finds. Julie Shoemark, the finds liaison officer for Norfolk, commented that "the rising number of reported treasure finds corresponded to a growth in the numbers of metal detecting clubs."

There is no comment from Richardson on the scale of the lost or damaged archaeological contexts represented by the 1,120 Treasure Finds.


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Monday, November 20, 2017

Attic cup surfacing in Munich identified from Medici Dossier

Athenian cup attributed to the Hegesiboulos painter
Left: Gorny & Mosch. Right: Medici Dossier (courtesy C. Tsirogiannis)
An Attic red-figured cup known from the Medici Dossier has surfaced at an auction of Gorny & Mosch in Munich (Auction 252, December 13, 2017, lot 66). This identification has been made by Cambridge-based academic, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The attribution is to the Hegesiboulos painter.

The cup first surfaced at Sotheby's in London on 13-14 December 1982, lot 248 (BAPD 7047). Two items also from this sale, an Attic red-figured amphora attributed to the Berlin painter and a Lucanian nestoris, have already been returned to Italy from two separate North American museum collections (see here). The catalogue entry notes that the cup is being sold with a copy of the Sotheby's catalogue entry.

The cup then passed into the 'P.C.' collection in southern Germany (a detail apparently unknown to the Beazley Archive).

The same auction-house has been trying to sell other material identified from the range of photographic archives (also identified by Tsirogiannis): a Gnathian askos, an Etruscan bronze athlete, an Apulian situla and an Apulian krater.

The auction-house was also named in the investigation known as Operation Ghelas.

These five examples suggest that Gorny & Mosch need to improve the rigour of their due diligence search prior to sales.

Gorny & Mosch will, we are sure, be wanting to be seen to co-operate with the Italian authorities.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Gordon McLendon and Fritz Bürki

The returns from the J. Paul Getty Museum have included Apulian pots that were given by Gordon McLendon in 1977 (Inv. 77.AE.14–15). 

Some of McLendon's gifts were derived from Fritz Bürki:
a. Apulian volute-krater, attributed to the Baltimore painter. Inv. 77.AE.112. Acquired from Bürki in 1977.
b. Apulian volute-krater, attributed to the Baltimore painter. Inv. 77.AE.113. Acquired from Bürki in 1977.
c. Apulian volute-krater, attributed to the Patera painter. Inv. 77.AE.114. Acquired from Bürki in 1977.
d. Apulian volute-krater, attributed to the Patera painter. Inv. 77.AE.115. Acquired from Bürki in 1977.
e. Apulian bell-krater, attributed to the Patera painter. Inv. 77.AE.116. Acquired from Bürki in 1977.

Note that these Apulian pieces moved almost directly from Bürki to the museum via McLendon.


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Persepolis Relief Seized in New York

A fragment from one of the Persepolis reliefs has been seized at TEFAF in New York (James C. McKinley Jr, "Ancient Limestone Relief Is Seized at European Art Fair", New York Times October 29 2017).

The relief was recorded at Persepolis as late as 1936 (see here). It was acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in the 1950s from Frederick Cleveland Morgan. (It is not clear how it moved from Persepolis to Montreal.) The relief was stolen from the museum in September 2011, and recovered in Edmonton in January 2014. The insurers apparently sold the relief to Rupert Wace Ancient Art from whose stand at TEFAF the piece was seized.

It is not clear why the relief was not spotted from the archive photographs when it formed part of the collection in Montreal. It can only be assumed that the dealer assumed that there was no problem with the history of the relief fragment.

The relief was clearly removed after the 1930 legislation (see here) that would have made its export illegal.


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Friday, October 27, 2017

Greece issues statement over marble funerary markers

Source: Christos Tsirogiannis
The Greek authorities (The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport) have issued a statement over the two marble funerary markers that were on sale in London by Jean-David Cahn [press release, 26 October 2017].

The statement makes it plain that the Greek authorities are seeking the return of the objects to Greece (Οι εν λόγω ελληνικές αρχαιότητες διεκδικούνται ήδη από το Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού, το οποίο θα συνεχίσει τις προσπάθειες επαναπατρισμού τους αξιοποιώντας κάθε πρόσφορο μέσο).

We can only presume that the Swiss authorities will want to avoid any damaging legal process that will explore the sale of this material.

Can we also presume that the Greek authorities will be reopening the investigation into the three objects in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University?




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Thursday, October 26, 2017

"The Greeks are the rightful owner"

Marble funerary markers on display in London
Source: Christos Tsirogiannis
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has been interviewed by The Times over the marble lekythos and the marble loutrophoros that were being offered for sale in London by Jean-David Cahn (Jack Malvern, "Expert attacks sale of 'stolen' Greek vases", The Times 24 October 2017). 

On the left (no. 237), the history of the lekythos is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977". I understand from Dr Tsirogiannis that the lekythos was listed by Gianfranco Becchina on 5 September 1977. Was this information known to Cahn? The lekythos is listed as co-owned by Becchina and George Ortiz.

On the right (no. 239), the history of the loutrophoros is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977".

These two funerary markers are almost certainly from a cemetery in Attica, and Tsirogiannis is right to suggest that "the Greeks are the rightful owner", especially if there is no documentation relating to their movement from Greece to Switzerland.

More troubling is the role of the Art Loss Register. If the ALR was not able to identify the markers in a photographic database, they needed to say that very clearly. But perhaps they did. But Malvern tells us, "The Art Loss Register said that it was considering its position on the vases." Why does the ALR need to reconsider? Does it think that it gave misleading advice? Does the ALR need to reconsider all its advice relating to recently surfaced antiquities?

We presume that Cahn has now had time to contact the Greek authorities to arrange their return.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What does "mint provenance" mean?

Marble loutrophoros from the Becchina archive.
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
The identification of a marble lekythos and a marble loutrophoros that had formed part of the stock of Gianfranco Becchina raises concerns about how the history of the objects was recorded.

The dealer, Jean-David Cahn, states:
In the past few years, the gallery has been rethinking its acquisition policy, pinpointing quality as well as provenance even more. Our profile is then to provide/show quality pieces with a strong expertise and mint provenance.
Were these two pieces offered with the information that they were linked to Becchina? What sort of due diligence process had been conducted by the gallery? Had the gallery contacted the Greek authorities to check that the objects had not been removed from the country illegally?

A "mint provenance" would provide the full, documented and authenticated history of the object from when it left the ground to the point of its present sale.

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Michael C. Carlos Museum under renewed scrutiny

Left: image from Becchina archive.
Right: larnax in Michael C. Carlos Museum
Objects in the Michael C. Carlos Museum are under renewed scrutiny after the latest Becchina appearances of archaeological material from Greece in London. The museum has let the case go unresolved for 9 years; the story was broken in the Greek press more than 10 years ago.

There are three items: a Minoan larnax, a pithos, and a statue of Terpsichore.

It is about time that the curatorial team at the Michael C. Carlos Museum offered to return the items to Greece.

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