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The Minoan Larnax and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

I was recently asked to comment on the acquisition of recently surfaced antiquities in Greece as part of an interview. One of the examples I gave was the Minoan larnax that was acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Although this piece has been discussed in the Greek press, the museum has not yet responded to the apparent identification in the Becchina archive.

Is the time now right for the Michael C. Carlos Museum or the wider authorities at Emory University to negotiate the return of this impressive piece so that it can be placed on display in a museum in Greece?

Antiquities seized in Lazio

A group of archaeological material worth approximately 900,000 Euros has been seized in Lazio ("Sequestrati reperti archeologici per 900 mila euro", ansa.it 11 May 2018; press release). The finds include an Attic black-figured horse head amphora, an Attic red-figured column-krater, a fragment of a tufa column, and other terracotta sculptures from the 4th to 2nd centuries AD. 

Symes and a Roman medical set

Pierre Bergé & Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". The catalogue entry helpfully informs us that the set probably came from a burial ("Cette trousse de chirurgien a probablement été découverte dans une sépulture ...").

The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes.

Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.

What due diligence was conducted on the medical set prior to offering it for sale? Did Symes sell the set to Hishiguro? How did Symes obtain the set? Who sold it to him?

I understand that the appropriate authorities in France are being informed about the …

Symes and a Geometric horse

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a geometric horse from the Symes archive. The horse is due to be auctioned at 'The Shape of Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet' at Sotheby's New York on 14 May 2018 (lot 4). 

Sotheby's provide a history of the horse and do acknowledge the link with Symes:

Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel, May 6, 1967, lot 2 Robin Symes, London, very probably acquired at the above auction Howard and Saretta Barnet, New York, acquired from the above on November 16, 1973
When did the horse leave Greece? Who consigned it to the sale in Basel? Did the Barnets acquire other material from Symes?


The Getty kouros: a modern creation?

The refurbished galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum no longer include the Getty kouros, a sculpture purchased in 1985 (Christopher Knight, "Something's missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa", LA Times April 19, 2018). Knight explains:
Unexpectedly, the Getty kouros, a controversial sculpture even before the museum acquired it more than 30 years ago, has been removed from public view. The work is now in museum storage.   For decades, the life-size carving of a standing nude youth carried one of the most distinctive labels of any work of art in an American museum: “Greece (?) about 530 B.C. or modern forgery.” The label encapsulated puzzling issues about the work, whose questionable status as dating from the archaic dawn of Western civilization had been the focus of scholarly and scientific research, debate and international symposiums for years. It is ten years since I provided an overview of the kouros here on LM. And over 20 year…

Heritage and Cultural Property Crime

The Heritage and Cultural Property Crime: National Strategic Assessment 2017 is now available online

The key threats to heritage in England and Wales are perceived as:

Architectural theft – in particular metal and stone Criminal damage – in particular damage caused by fire (‘arson’) Unlawful metal detecting (‘nighthawking’) Unlawful disturbance and salvage of maritime sites Anti-social behaviour – in particular fly-tipping and off-road drivingUnauthorised works to heritage assetsIllicit trade in cultural objects
Some of these issues (e.g. lead theft from churches, so-called nighthawking, metal-detecting and the code of practice, off-road driving, and the illicit trade in cultural objects) have been covered by LM (and its sister blog, Heritage Futures) over a long period of time.


Pontic amphora withdrawn from sale in New York

Christie's (New York, 18 April 2018, lot 26) has withdrawn a Pontic amphora, attributed to the Paris painter, after the pot was identified from the Becchina archive by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. 

Christie's state that the history of the piece is as follows:

with Galerie Günter Puhze, Freiburg;Acquired by the current owner from the above, 1993;Manhattan private collection. Tsirogiannis has drawn attention to the notes from the Becchina archive that shows that the amphora was dated 22 June 1993 (along with the price paid and sold, in Swiss Francs, viz. 30,000 / 47,000 SF). 
If the amphora was purchased from the Freiburg gallery in 1993, and that the piece was still with Becchina in late June of the same year, was Puhze buying directly from Becchina? What other Puhze material came from this same source?
Who restored the amphora? When did this happen?
An Attic black-figured amphora that had passed through Puhze (after surfacing through Sotheby's) was returned to Italy. 

Symposium: The Horse in Ancient Greek Art

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will be hosting a symposium in April 2018. It will explore some of the themes emerging from the exhibition, 'The Horse in Ancient Greek Art'.

It would have been interesting for one of the papers to have explored the histories of some of the objects appearing in the show. Items include pots reported to have been handled by individuals such as Edoardo Almagià and Fritz Bürki.

Reported archaeological finds in Essex

I have been working through the data included in the RSA Heritage Index for Essex. The section on 'Museums, Archives, and Artefacts' includes an element 'Archaeological finds reported' derived from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This presents just over 16,000 finds for the different parts of the county. (This is dwarfed by more than 60,000 finds reported for Suffolk.)

These finds contribute to the overall heritage score for each of these administrative districts in Essex (and other parts of the UK).

Conflict antiquities, myth, realities and evidence

The next Heritage Futures seminar will be given by Paul Barford. His title is: Collection-driven exploitation of the Middle Eastern archaeological record: Conflict antiquities, myth, realities and evidence.

This will take place at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront Building in Ipswich, on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 4.30 pm.

Please reserve a place by following the Eventbrite link from here.

Abstract
Over the past five years or so, the press has been full of stories about the destruction of the heritage as a result of the ongoing conflict and rise of militant Islamism groups in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya. What we see is an echo of what happened two decades earlier in the aftermath of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, the Gulf War and invasion of Iraq, when museums and sites were looted and many antiquities were stolen to feed a voracious and expanding international antiquities market. During the social instability caused by external events, we can observe that whole site…

Surfacing Apulian tomb-group in 1981

I have been reflecting on a group of Apulian pots that are said, by A.D. Trendall, to have been derived from the same tomb. All surfaced on the New York market in 1981 and then passed to the same private collection.

Some initial questions. Who provided the information to Trendall? Was it the New York dealer? If so, who provided the information to the dealer? Or was Trendall aware of the source in, say, Switzerland? If this group does not appear to have been known prior to 1970, will the present proprietors seek to contact the Italian authorities?

Ex Almagià Apulian krater at Fordham University

Among the returns from the Cleveland Museum of Art was a pair of Etruscan silver bracelets that were derived from Edoardo Almagià. Then there was a major return from the Princeton University Art Museum that contained numerous pieces derived from Almagià (discussion here). The Dallas Museum of Art decided to investigate its collections and returned ex Almagià to Italy (discussion here). And other museums have ex Almagià material: Boston Museum of Fine Art, Indiana University Art Museum, Tampa Museum of Art. Chasing Aphrodite has added material in the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Among the items in the Walsh collection at Fordham University is an Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter (inv. 8.001). The catalogue entry does not appear to provide a statement about the kraters' history. However, the krater is currently on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), and the catalogue entry helpfully states: "Ex. coll. Edouardo [sic.] Almagiá [sic.]; …

Making sense of pottery fragments

This seminar will consider the issue of how pot fragments have been acquired by museums. It will focus on the pots that have been returned to Italy where fragments have been supplied by a range of different donors. Do the patterns apply to other pots that have yet to be investigated? Why were museum curators unaware of the patterns of donation that allowed complete pots to be created? The more disturbing question relates to the possibility that pots were deliberately fragmented in order to allow them to move across international frontiers.

Entry is free but please reserve a place.

The Leutwitz Apollo: unanswered scientific questions

Michael Bennett's departure from the Cleveland Museum of Art reminds us that he appeared to fail to provide the scientific analysis of the bronze Leutwitz Apollo.

Paul Barford wrote some particularly reflective pieces on the issues here.

My own thoughts on the bronze can be found here.

Perhaps the new curator will release the undisclosed studies.

History of objects in Virginia exhibition

Colleagues have suggested that I had a look at the exhibition catalogue of The Horse in Ancient Greek Art that will be opening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in a week's time. Among the interesting sources for the objects are:

Edoardo Almagià: no. 43, Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter, Fordham University Collection 8.001 [Fordham cat. no. 32]Fritz Bürki: no. 19, Apulian lekythos attributed to the Underworld painter, Virginia MFA 81.55; no. 20, Apulian lekythos attributed to the Underworld painter, Virginia MFA 80.162; no. 26, Corinthian skyphos showing a boar hunt, Virginia MFA 80.27; no. 41, Apulian calyx-krater attributed to the Dublin Situlae group, Virginia MFA 81.81; no. 53.1, Apulian Xenon oinochoe, Virginia MFA 81.82; no. 53.2, Apulian Xenon oinochoe, Virginia MFA 81.83Sotheby's, London (12–13 December 1983): no. 42, Apulian patera attributed to the Baltimore painter, Fordham University Collection 11.003 [Fordham cat. no. 25…

ALR: the need to differentiate between looted and stolen

I have been reading the comments made by James Ratcliffe over the return of archaeological material recovered in Europe after being removed from archaeological storage facilities in the Lebanon (Laura Chesters, "Art Loss Register, New York’s district attorney and antiquities dealers team up to safeguard Lebanese sculptures", Antiques Trade Gazette 6 February 2018). The comments relate to material that was derived from the archaeological excavation at Eshmun (see also here). 

The two Roman sculptures are given a little history:
"One sculpture was recovered when an antiquities dealer in Freiburg, Germany, was acquiring it from an Austrian dealer.""The second sculpture was identified when a dealer in London contacted the ALR before its potential acquisition. The sculpture was owned by a private collector and ALR contacted US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New York. The New York County District Attorney’s Office then seized the piece to ensure its ret…

Ownership of Paestan krater handed back to Italy

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky has agreed to transfer ownership of a Paestan calyx-krater to the Italian authorities ("The Speed Art Museum and Italian Ministry reach loan agreement on ancient calyx-krater", Art Daily 2018). It will, however, remain on loan in the museum. The krater, showing Dionysos playing the sympotic game of kottabos, was acquired in 1990 from Robin Symes (inv. 90.7).
It appears that the krater was identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in 2015 from images in both the Medici Dossier and the Schinousa archive. Symes had claimed that the krater had come from a private collector in Paris.

This is one of a series of Paestan objects that have been returned to Italy. They include the Asteas krater from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Paestan krater from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Paestan squat lekythos from the Fleischman collection, a Paestan squat lekythos from a Manhattan gallery, and the Paestan funerary painting.

The fact th…

Hobby Lobby and the Cylinder Seals

In a letter of 17 January 2018, an attorney for the US Department of Justice has indicated that "Hobby Lobby" has handed over additional cuneiform tablets.
As stated in the enclosed Stipulation, and pursuant to the July 20, 2017 Stipulation of Settlement, Hobby Lobby has delivered to the United States an additional 245 cylinder seals which comprise part of the December 2010 order and consents to their forfeiture. Upon the Court so-ordering the Stipulation, the United States will commence publication of notice of forfeiture on the grounds that the 245 cylinder seals constitute merchandise that was introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law, and are therefore subject to seizure and forfeiture to the United States, in accordance with 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A), as alleged in the Verified Complaint in Rem. Accordingly, the United States respectfully requests that the Court so-order the enclosed Stipulation. This case is in addition to the mat…

The Becchina archive, a Minoan larnax, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

More than 10 years ago, back in 2007, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis identified two pieces in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, a Minoan larnax and a pithos, with photographs from the Becchina archive. There is a case number with the General Secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture: prot. no. 61/1-6-2007.

In 2015 the Italian authorities revealed a major collection of antiquities, worth some 50 million Euros, seized from Becchina in Switzerland. The Becchina archive itself contains some 10,000 photographs and 200 bundles of receipts. These images have led to the identification, largely by Tsirogiannis, of a substantial number of items in public and private collections as well as from auction houses and galleries.

A museum director who was faced with the identification of objects, i.e. more than one object, in their collection from this contentious source would no doubt wish to resolve the issue, not least because there is an obligation under the AAMD guidelines (2013). These state:
If a member…

A Mosaic from an Anonymous Collector

In September 2013 the Michael C. Carlos Museum installed a mosaic showing Achilles and Penthesilea before Troy in the galleries. A little more information appeared in the Fall 2013 / Winter 2014 number of the journal of the Michael C. Carlos Museum [online]. The Director, Bonnie Speed, was full of praise for the "monumental third- to fourth-century Roman mosaic, offered to the Museum on long-term loan by a very generous donor".

Who is this anonymous donor? There was a time when the museum at Emory University was leading the way in ethical loans of archaeological material (see here). 

We are told the panels "once decorated the floor of a sumptuous Roman villa". Where was that villa?

What is the history of the panels? When did they surface?

The answers to these questions are not provided in the publications of the Michael C. Carlos museum. If they were known, the information would have been stated.

Speed is a member of the AAMD. In 2013 the AAMD revised the Guidelin…

The Steinhardt collection and the Medici dossier

Among the antiquities seized from Michael Steinhardt was a Protocorinthian owl that had been acquired in 2009 for $130,000 (see Search Warrant).  A comparison can be found in the Louvre.

The Steinhardt owl appears in the Medici Dossier. How was it acquired by Steinhardt? What was the migration route?

See also the 20th century "imitation" donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum by Jiri Frel in 1979.

I am grateful to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for sharing the image with me.

Sources for Steinhardt seizure revealed

I am grateful to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for sharing information about the items seized from the collection of Michael Steinhardt and from the displays at Phoenix Ancient Art in Manhattan.

The Attic white-ground lekythos has been identified from images in the Schinousa Archive showing that it was part of the stock of Robin Symes. Notice the deposits still on the lekythos. When was the lekythos cleaned? Who did the cleaning?

The other Steinhardt pieces are identified in the Medici Dossier as well as the Becchina Archive.

The pieces from Phoenix Ancient Art include items identified from the Medici Dossier (at least 3 items) and the Becchina Archive (at least 1 item).

I expect that the routes through which these pieces passed will be revealed shortly.


Phoenix Ancient Art responds to seizures

A spokesperson for Phoenix Ancient Art has responded to the seizures of antiquities that took place last week (see Search Warrant listing the items). In a statement to Artnet News ("New York Antiques Dealer Phoenix Fine Art Raided on Suspicion of Selling Looted Artifacts", 11 January 2018) it was stated:
“We immediately notified the US private collection that consigned the works to us of the situation, and we do know that the works have a long museum exhibition history spanning from the Geneva Musée d’art et d’Histoire, 1978–1981, and at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1984–1996.” The temporary display of recently surfaced antiquities in public museums is an interesting one. How are these documented? What about the display of the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask in Geneva? And was the (anonymous?) loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum by a dealer or a collector? This recalls the loan of fragments of the Berlin painter krater, a pot that was subsequently returned to Italy.

Should museum…

Steinhardt collection under scrutiny

The seizures from the Steinhardt collection last week, as well as the connection with the Eshmun sculptures, the Paestan tomb fragment, and the gold phiale from Sicily, means that gifts from that source will now be under scrutiny.

When questions were raised about objects associated with Edoardo Almagià, some museum curators took the matter seriously. Maxwell Anderson, who did so much to address the issue of looting when he was at Emory University, took the initiative and returned a series of objects that had been acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art.

What are the full histories for the objects that have been donated by Steinhardt?

Further seizures in Manhattan

Last Friday the New York State District Attorney's Office raided Phoenix Ancient Art in Manhattan and removed six items (see "List of 6 (additional) objects and warrant details on objects seized from Phoenix Ancient Art by New York State District Attorney's Office", ARCA 9 January 2018). The items include Protocorinthian and East Greek perfumed-oil containers, an Attic head jug, and a Teano ware dove. The dove is almost certainly from an Italian context, and the other objects are types frequently found in funerary contexts in Italy. Together the items are valued at $450,000. The objects appear to be the ones noted in the New York Times: "another six pieces on display at the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery on 66th Street".

The seizure appears to be linked to the case of Steinhardt.

The full histories of the objects have not been disclosed. What is the authenticated documentary history for each of the items? Did each one surface prior to 1970?


I am reminded that …

Ward and the Balkans in the 1990s

Some years ago I reflected on the Aidonia Treasure and the way that it was displayed by Michael Ward in New York (1993). The treasure was subsequently returned to Greece.

I then wrote about a silver repoussé plaque that surfaced through Ward and Company Works of Art, New York, in the mid-1990s, and three bronze helmeted warriors that appeared in 1998. It has been suggested to me that these items were found with the so-called Koreschnica Krater (although its route to the market has not been disclosed). 

I am intrigued by the extremely rare gold-figured phiale showing Thetis and the armour of Achilles that surfaced through Ward and Company in 1990. Some of the best known examples of gold-figured silver plate were found at Duvanli in Bulgaria.

Where did Ward and Company Works of Art acquire these pieces? What is the authenticated documentary history for them?