The decision by Bonham's to withdraw the Lydian silver kyathos from its London auction on Friday October 26, 2007 is welcome. It has come as a surprise as the kyathos was on display at the preview on the Thursday evening.
But there are a number of questions which remain.
a. Who took the decision to withdraw the kyathos from the sale? Was it Bonham's or the owner?
b. Are there documents that show the history of the piece prior to its surfacing at Sotheby's in the mid-1970s?
c. Is the kyathos being sent to Turkey? Or is it going back to its present proprietor?
d. Had the staff at Bonham's checked with the authorities in Turkey to ensure that this piece was not "stolen, illegally alienated, clandestinely excavated or illegally exported"? If not, why not?
e. What was the due diligence process undertaken by the staff at Bonham's?
f. Had Bonham's checked the kyathos against the Art Loss Register (ALR)? Was a certificate issued?
g. Why did the citation of a parallel from a well-known haul of Lydian silver plate not ring alarm bells with members of the antiquities department at Bonham's? Were they unaware of the significance?
Bonham's values its integrity. It has done the correct thing in this instance (although at what seems the eleventh hour). Will its senior management team now put in place a more robust process of checking antiquities prior to a sale?