Thursday, June 15, 2017

Getty returns Fleischman Zeus to Italy

Seated Zeus to return to Italy.
Source: MiBACT
The Italian Government has announcted that the Getty Museum has returned a seated Zeus to Italy ("FRANCESCHINI, IL GETTY MUSEUM SIGLA ACCORDO CON L’ITALIA PER LA RESTITUZIONE DELLO ZEUS IN TRONO RIENTRA A NAPOLI STATUA DEL I SECOLO A.C.", press release, 13 June 2017; "The J. Paul Getty Museum and Italian officials announce agreement to return first century B.C. sculpture to Italy", press release, 13 June 2017). The statue is a copy of the great chryselphantine statue of Zeus from Olympia.

The statue was acquired by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman from Robin Symes in 1987. It was sold to the Getty in 1992 (inv. 92.AA.10), although the published statement only recorded that it had been in a New York private collection [JSTOR].

Jessica Gelt ("Getty agrees to return 1st century BC sculpture to Italy", LA Times, 13 June 2017) notes what the press releases omit:
Getty Museum Director Timothy Potts said the Italian government came into possession of a fragment that it believed joined the sculpture at the Getty. Italian officials tested their theory on a visit to the museum in 2014. 
“The fragment gave every indication that it was a part of the sculpture we had,” Potts said in an interview. “It came from the general region of Naples, so it meant this object had come from there.”
The Fleischman collection formed part of earlier research that I had conducted with Christopher Chippindale (Chippindale, Christopher, and David W. J. Gill. “Material Consequences of Contemporary Classical Collecting.” American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 104, no. 3, 2000, pp. 463–511. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/507226.). The Zeus joins a large number of former Fleischman pieces that have already been returned to Italy (including one piece from the Cleveland Museum of Art).

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Stela anthemion surfaces at Sotheby's

Images:
L, Sotheby's;
R, Becchina archive (courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis)
Sotheby's will have bad memories of their antiquities department in London. The auction-house has restarted antiquities sales in London and on Monday 12 June they will be offering a marble stela anthemion with the personal name, Hestiaios (lot 8).

The collecting history is provided as follows:
  • John Hewett, Bog Farm, Kent, 1960s 
  • New York art market, acquired from the above on November 3rd, 1980 
  • American private collection American family trust (Sotheby’s New York, December 10th, 2008, no. 28, illus.) Sold for $116,500.
  • acquired by the present owner at the above sale 
  • Christie's, London, King Street, October 24th, 2013, no. 32, illus. Apparently unsold.
A parallel is suggested for Rhamnous in eastern Attica.

Yet Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that the anthemion appears in the Becchina archive. The Becchina paperwork suggests that the piece was in his hands from 1977 until 1990, and then passed to George Ortiz. If this does indeed prove to be the case then the fragment appears to have been provided with a falsified collecting history (that can be traced back to the 2008 sale at Sotheby's). This would indicate that there has been a major failure in the due diligence process by the auction-house.

I am sure that Sotheby's will want to withdraw the lot from its sale and that the present owner would be advised to negotiate with the Greek authorities to arrange its return.

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