Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Borowski and Boston

The recent focus of the antiquities market has been on Robert Hecht and Giacomo Medici. But other characters feature on the infamous organigram (conveniently reproduced in The Medici Conspiracy). Among them is the name of Dr Elie Borowski.

I happened to notice his name against two Sicilian pots that now form part of the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Both were acquired in 1970. Both were purchases from the Arthur Tracy Cabot Fund (acc. nos. 1970.478, 1970.479; cat. nos. 150 and 151). Both are of Centuripe Ware a type which the museum catalogue notes:
"Most examples of this ware have been found in the area around Centuripe, a small town in eastern Sicily, where they were apparently made. The vases are usually found in tombs, sometimes in contexts suggesting production in the third century B.C."
The printed museum catalogue does not provide their source (or mention Borowski), but the MFA website states that both were purchased on May 13, 1970 from "Elie Borowski, Angensteinerstrasse 7, Basel, Switzerland". Neither has an earlier history. Neither appears to be published prior to 1970; the first publication for both is in the MFA Annual Report.

Should we be suspicious?

Yes, given that Borowski's name appeared in the organigram. If this lekanis and bell-krater were indeed removed from a grave (and their near complete nature suggests that as the most likely context) when did this take place?

Borowski had a long-standing link with the MFA. Among the items which were purchased from or given by him (before, it should be stressed, the 1970 UNSECO Convention) were:
a. A bronze votive bull. 67.743. Gift. "said to come from the Kabeirion, Thebes".

b. Two silver heads of goddesses. 58.395 and 58.396. Purchase. "found [together] at Tarentum".

c. A LHIIIC amphoroid krater. 59.710. Purchase. Allegedly from a grave on Salamis (Attica), Greece.
The "triangulation" of the last piece is intesting as it was allegedly found with another krater in Frankfurt (CVA, Deutschland 25, Frankfurt 1, under p. 11, pl. 3): "Aus dem Kunsthandel 1959 erworben"; "Der Krater wurde angeblich auf Salamis (Attika) gefunden". A third krater, also from the same grave is reported to be in the Kestner-Museum in Hannover (and mentioned in my forthcoming review of the CVA for Hannover in The Journal of Hellenic Studies where other suspicious histories and find-spots are noted; for Hannover see also "Wartime Loot").

Where else does the Borowski trail lead?


J. Michael Padgett et al., Vase-painting in Italy: Red-figure and Related Works in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1993)

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