Monday, June 30, 2008

Tomb of Mutirdis (TT410): Update

Back in May I commented on the fragment from the Tomb of Mutirdis (TT410) that had been withdrawn from a sale at Bonhams (London). It is now reported that the piece has been returned to Egypt ("Egypt retrieves a 2,500-year-old stone relief from Bonhams auction house in London", IHT, June 30, 2008)

Julian Roup, spokesperson for Bonhams, said,
"We were alerted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in New York) that this item had apparently been seen in a tomb that someone at the Met had been involved in the excavation of ... It has now been repatriated, as we always try to do in these situations ..."

Roup would not identify the seller who tried to put the artifact up for auction, but said it appeared to have been bought "in good faith."
The piece is said to come from an Australian seafaring collection. And there are still some unanswered questions about the due diligence process.

Archaeological Loans: Looking Back to EUMILOP

If international museums can no longer "own" antiquities either through purchase on the antiquities market or through partage, what other options are open to them?

In the 1980s Maxwell L. Anderson, then in Atlanta, was involved with "The Emory University Museum International Loan Project" (or EUMILOP for short). The aims of EUMILOP were as follows:
  • "to encourage substantive cooperative efforts between archaeological museums and sites in this country [sc. USA] and abroad."
  • "With a view toward the future, when acquisitions of antiquities will become increasingly difficult for American museums owing to financial and ethical considerations, loan projects of this kind will provide one avenue for American museums with limited resources."
As part of the project the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma placed on loan 22 key Roman portraits and a splendid catalogue, Roman Portraits in Context (1988), was produced. A second exhibition, Syracuse, the Fairest Greek City (1989), contained loans from the Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi. A third, Radiance in Stone (1989), consisted of stunning loans of sculpture in coloured marble from the Museo Nazionale Romano. [Details here]

It has taken twenty years to move from Anderson's prophetic vision to the radical revision of the AAMD's acquisition policy.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The "Antiquities Wars": Further Thoughts

Lee Rosenbaum has posted the second part of her views on the "Antiquities Wars" (and see my comments on her first part). She still emphasises the 1983 date in spite of the AAMD's unambiguous statement that the report
Recognizes the 1970 UNESCO Convention as providing the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archeological material and ancient art. Widely accepted internationally, the 1970 UNESCO Convention helps create a unified set of expectations for museums, sellers, and donors.
The AIA, AAMD and the Italian Government have all accepted 1970, so why don't we accept it? (However we also need to respect national laws.)

Rosenbaum expresses the hope,
American museums cannot be expected to empty themselves of all antiquities with uncertain pasts.

The recent returns to Italy have shown that only a selection of disputed antiquities have been returned. (There appear to have been long-lists which have not been implemented: Malibu, Princeton, Shelby White.) Surely the reason for this is that the returns are symbolic and intended to make a public statement that the institutions concerned had made unwise acquisitions. To suggest that museums will be "emptied" of all classical antiquities is mere scaremongering.

Rosenbaum lists some good ideas for returning antiquities including a "farewell" period of display. I also like the idea of "detailed disclosure" about how the object entered the collection: such information has been lacking in the cases of some of the returns.

Disclosure is part of the "due diligence" process. The AAMD has missed an opportunity to include acquisitions of antiquities since 1970 (as well as long-term loans) in its object register.

There continue to be disputed items that were acquired since 1970 - and these issues need to be resolved swiftly.

Partage: Some Preliminary Thoughts

James Cuno has put the issue of partage back on the agenda. He explains in Who Owns Antiquity? how it worked:
For many decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, archaeological finds were shared between the excavating party and the local, host country through partage (p. 14).
He then provides examples including:
  • The Gandharan collection (from Afghanistan) in the Musée Guimet, Paris
  • The Assyrian collection (from Iraq) in the British Museum, London
  • The Lydian collection (from Turkey) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (but not to be confused with the "Lydian silver" in the same museum)
  • The Egyptian collection in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Cuno then states, "With the surge in nationalism in the middle decades of the twentieth century, it has become almost impossible to share archaeological finds".

While it may be true that fewer finds are shared with the excavating sponsors, the notion of partage has continued beyond "the middle decades of the twentieth century". Let me give two examples, both from Egypt, and both now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

One is the archaic Greek bronze griffin protome from a cauldron excavated in north Saqqara along with Egyptian bronzes of the 4th-3rd centuries BCE. Is this evidence for East Greek mercenaries in Egypt? Did Greeks living in Egypt place this distinctly Greek object in an Egyptian context? [JSTOR; no. 4]

The second is a 6th century BCE Carian funerary stela (with Egyptian elements) from Saqqara that was reused a 4th century BCE votive pit. Is this evidence for a long-standing and established community of Carian mercenaries? [JSTOR; no. 26]

Both these are significant finds that shed light on the Greek communities of Late Period Egypt. The use of partage has allowed these pieces to be shared with the international academic community.

Cuno makes a strong point about the care and protection of archaeological material. The impact of the theft, loss or destruction of objects from museums in Baghdad and Kabul has been lessened because finds from excavations of previous generations had been shared with museums outside Iraq and Afghanistan. Sharing the objects had spread the risks.

But can these archaeological "treasures" be shared with the international community through partage alone? (Cuno seems to like partage because it will allow museums to "own" excavated objects.) What about long-term loans?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Politics of Culture: James Cuno and Michael Conforti

I have been listening to the discussion between James Cuno and Michael Conforti (President of AAMD) on KCRW. They discussed Cuno's book and the AAMD's new guidelines on acquisitions. Key themes of partage and the licit market in antiquities popped up.

Ruth Seymour chaired the discussion and demonstrated that she did not understand the issues. She was clearly shocked by the treatment of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the hands of the Los Angeles Times and merely saw the Getty Villa as a way of introducing "Greek Art" to a Californian viewing public. There was no acknowledgement that the antiquities returned to Italy from North American institutions (as well as a private collector and a dealer in antiquities) appear to have come from destroyed archaeological contexts in Italy. The discussion also explored the common ground between Cuno's approach and the AAMD.

Conforti also drew attention to the AAMD's "Object Register": although the interview was more than two weeks ago, you still get the message, "There are currently no Object Types registered". How about posting the acquisition details of the pieces in the Cleveland Museum of Art that are reported to be under negotiation with the Italian authorities?

Towards a Ceasefire in the "Antiquities Wars": A Response to Lee Rosenbaum

Lee Rosenbaum has proposed a way ahead in the light of the AAMD's announcement that it will adopt 1970 as the cut off point for the acquisition of antiquities ("Towards a Ceasefire in the Antiquities Wars: The Next Step (Part I)"). She poses the question:
Now AAMD needs to tackle the hard part: What should its member museums do about all those objects they already own that wouldn't have entered their collections had the new standard been applied at the time of their acquisition?

Of course some of these objects, such as those in the Cleveland Museum of Art, are the subject of negotiations with Italy. And the recent returns of classical antiquities have largely involved Italy. What about the series of photographs in the hands of the Greek authorities that appear to be as damning as the Polaroids seized in the Geneva Freeport? And what about claims from Turkey? The Republic of Macedonia (FYRM)?

So if AAMD members think that the first wave of returning antiquities is the last they are very much mistaken. (And remember that the returns to Italy only represent some 1% of the antiquities shown in the Geneva Polaroids.)

Rosenbaum proposes using 1983 as the cut-off date but I do not believe this will work. Italy has effectively been using 1970 (and the UNESCO Convention) as its cut-off point. If it had used 1983 then the Sarpedon krater would still be in New York. But 1983 (and indeed 1970) would overlook national laws, which is why Turkey was able to obtain the return of the "Lydian Hoard" from New York.

1970 is the most obvious date to use. AAMD members still need to demonstrate that they are willing to co-operate with any requests to hand over demonstrably looted antiquities. And this is not just about acquisitions but about long-term loans from private collectoras.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"History Massacred": Turkish Style

I am used to reading accounts of mechanical diggers being used to open archaeological sites to provide objects to supply the market. But then there is "Chippindale's Law" ...

I read in the Turkish press that looting at Soma in Manisa province in western Turkey has reached new levels of intensity ("Soma's ancient treasures in coma, Turkish Daily News 14 June 2008).
Illegal excavations are being carried out on tumuli, necropolises and relics of ancient cities in and around Soma, in the western province of Manisa. Pillagers use bulldozers in their nighttime hunt for treasure on high hills, cutting trees to take construction equipment to the places where they conduct the diggings.

The Soma district administration office, the gendarmerie and the Manisa State Museum are aware of the smugglers' activity but have taken no action, locals say.

History massacred openly in Soma

Mines in the Sarıkaya neighborhood of Soma have caused serious damage to relics of ancient civilizations. The relics of sculpted wolf and ox heads near a mine belonging to the Turkish Coal Authority are in the worst condition. Smugglers have detonated dynamite in certain areas of the mountains and plundered the prehistoric rock tombs there.

Soma is also home to a mysterious ancient city situated atop a 1,500-meter hill. Though no archaeological study has been carried out on relics of this millennia-old settlement, experts argue a Pergamon-like city might be revealed if a series of scientific excavations are conducted there.

Meanwhile, smugglers have plundered an ancient grave under one of the tumuli, situated on both the right and left sides of the Soma-Savaştepe-Balıkesir way, and have wiped out all the precious artifacts in it. They have also conducted illegal excavations with bulldozers and construction equipment on another tumulus located in a nearby forest. The plunderers hire mine workers to use as cheap labor in conducting the illegal excavations, which is why the diggings are performed quite professionally.

No eyewitnesses:

The situation at these two important tumuli not only indicates the level of plundering activity in Soma, but raises other questions. How could smugglers have conducted diggings with construction equipment on these two ancient tumuli without being seen by anyone? Locals are quite cautious about illegal excavations carried out by smugglers and do not file any complaints to authorities.

Reliable sources say some mukhtars, or village leaders, in Soma even help smugglers secretly. Local security forces said they found many detectors strewn around, even though the use of such devices is legal. Ultimately, it seems that neither the district administration nor the Manisa State Museum have made enough of an effort to stop illegal excavations carried out every night on ancient spots in Soma.
It sounds as if this destruction of archaeological sites in this part if Turkey is part of a deliberate targeting of sites.

Who is buying the objects that are found? And is anybody thinking of acquiring them for their collection?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Euphronios and Cerveteri

In 1999 the J. Paul Getty Museum returned an Attic red-figured cup "signed" by Euphronios as potter and attributed to Onesimos. It had been acquired in fragments between 1983 and 1985 from (among other sources) Galerie Nefer and the Hydra Gallery. The cup itself had been dedicated to Ercle; the sanctuary of Ercle at Cerveteri was not excavated until 1993. (See comments in an earlier review.) Two further fragments of the cup had been added in 2005 when they were returned by Giacomo Medici.

It has now been reported that a new fragment of the cup has been found at Cerveteri ("Fragment of Euphronios work found", ANSA June 6, 2008).
The new fragment forms part of a scene in which Talthybius, messenger of Greek commander Agamemnon, is sent to bring back Achilles' slave Briseis.
Apparently the piece was found by two volunteers who worked at Cerveteri; other objects were seized in their house.

Cerveteri is also the reported find-spot of the Sarpedon krater.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Italy to Renew Claims on Antiquities

At the end of last week Sando Boni, the Italian Minister of Culture, issued a statement that he would be seeking the return of further items of cultural property. (See also Lee Rosenbaum's comments.) His predecessor Francesco Rutelli had anticipated that hundreds more antiquities would be returned. (These include objects in three other museums [North America, Europe, Far East] and possibly the seized stock of a London dealer.) By my reckoning only some 1% of the pieces represented by the Polaroids seized in Geneva have been returned to Italy. So "hundreds" would only represent some 5% of the possible returns.

The Geneva polaroids also included material from countries other than Italy. It is probably too early to say that the era of returns is over - we will be seeing other countries stepping up their activity as objects are identified.

Cultural Sites in Greece

Sharon Waxman has drawn attention to an article, "Run-down heritage sites embarrass the Greeks" by Helena Smith, in The Guardian (June 23, 2008). This discusses the issue of access to world-heritage status archaeological sites.

There is a quote from Michali Liapis, the minister of culture:
The situation at museums and sites around the country is bad ...It has to be corrected.
Maria Damanaki, the shadow minister of culture, was interviewed for The Guardian report:
What we are seeing is the indifference of a government that simply does not make culture a priority.
Waxman takes a strong position on this:
Countries like Greece cannot justifiably demand the return of objects taken in recent decades by looters, or a century ago by imperial-minded "collectors," if they cannot adequately care for the objects and sites they already have. But reality is a harsh taskmaster. Caring for antiquities costs money. The answer lies not in pointing fingers, as is suggested by the article in the Guardian. The answer - the only possible answer - lies in recognition that the responsibility for preservation lies with us all. That concern, the concern over preservation, must take precedence over the issue of possession.

It seems to me that there are several issues here:
  1. Access to internationally important archaeological sites.
  2. Ability for a worldwide public to view key archaeological finds.
  3. The protection of yet unexcavated archaeological sites.
Waxman is perhaps a little too foreceful in her comments, but Liapis needs to address these perceptions.

Image
Rhamnous © David Gill

Saturday, June 21, 2008

AAMD and Antiquities: The Object Register

The AAMD announced its new policy on the acquisition of antiquities earlier this month. The Object Registry is now available.
The AAMD Object Registry provides access to all relevant information known about our members' acquisitions of archaeological material and ancient art lacking complete provenance after November 1970, the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Art museums regularly acquire archaeological material and works of ancient art - of which objects with incomplete provenance represent but a fraction.
It continues:
A complete recent ownership history may not be obtainable for all archaeological material and every work of ancient art. Recognizing this, AAMD believes that its member museums have the right to exercise their institutional responsibility to make informed judgments about the appropriateness of acquiring such an object. AAMD is committed to ensuring that these acquisitions take place transparently and in full public view. This Object Registry is a central component of AAMD's process to make information about such objects freely available to students, teachers, visitors, source countries, officials, as well as possible claimants.
At the moment the register is empty:
There are currently no Object Types registered. Please check back again soon.
However it would be interesting to have details of the following pieces:
I understand that there are no plans to place details of long-term loans on the Register: this is an issue that the AAMD will be addressing shortly.

Reviews of Who Owns Antiquity?

Reviews of James Cuno's controversial Who Owns Antiquity? (Princeton University Press, 2008) are now beginning to appear. As I have nearly finished writing my own response for an academic journal, I have gathered these views for convenience. They include:
  • Roger Atwood, "Insider: Guardians of Antiquity?", Archaeology 61, 4 (Jul / August 20080 [link]
  • Christopher Chippindale, The Art Newspaper [link]
  • Andrew Herrmann, "You Can't Have Your Stuff Back", Chicago Sun Times May 4, 2008 [Lootingmatters response]
  • Deanna Isaacs, "Who Owns antiquity?", Chicagoreader.com June 5, 2008 [link]
  • Madeline Nusser, "War of the World", Time Out Chicago 169, May 22-28, 2008 [link]
  • Kwame Opoku, Afrikanet.info June 9, 2008 [link]
  • Eric Ormsby, "Treasures on Trial", Wall Street Journal April 26, 2008 [link]
  • Lee Rosenbaum, "Cuno Conundrum: Whose Law Is It, Anyway?", Culturegrrl, May 21, 2008 [link]
  • Edward Rothstein, "Antiquities, the World is your Homeland", New York Times May 27, 2008 [link]
  • Robin Simon, "Losing our Marbles?", New Statesman June 5, 2008 [link]
  • "The Great Heritage War", The Economist June 12, 2008 [link]
  • "Who owns antiquity? Local museums or experts' countries", IHT May 22, 2008 [link]
  • Peter Stone, "Clinging on to their marbles", THE July 3, 2008 [link]
  • Jonathan Keates, "Why the Elgin Marbles Should Stay", The Sunday Telegraph, July 6, 2008 [link]
  • Ben Macintyre, "Let's all have tickets to the universal museum", Times online, July 10, 2008.
  • Tiffany Jenkins, "Culture Knows No Political Borders", The Spectator, July 16, 2008. [link]
  • Christian Tyler, "Who Owns Antiquity?", Financial Times, August 4, 2008 [link]
  • Alan Behr, "A Humanist Plea for Free-ranging Antiquities", Culturekiosque, August 14, 2008 [link]
  • Jerome M. Eisenberg, Minerva 19.4 (July / August 2008) [link]
  • Mary Katherine Ascik, "National Treasures. Must the artifacts of culture be the property of states?", The Weekly Standard 13 / issue 46 (16 August 2008) [link]
  • Charles Saumarez Smith, "National Trust", Literary Review (August 2008).
  • Ingrid D. Rowland, "Found and Lost", The New Republic (September 24, 2008) [link]
  • Roger Bland, "What's yours in mine", London Review of Books (November 6, 2008) [link]
  • Colin Renfrew, Burlington Magazine 150 (November 2008) 768. [review]
  • David W.J. Gill, American Journal of Archaeology 113.1 (2009). [review]
  • Britt Peterson, "Tales from the Vitrine: Battles Over Stolen Antiquities", The Nation January 7, 2009 [= January 29, 2009 edition]. [review]
  • Jenifer Neils, American Scientist April 26, 2009 [review]
  • Irene Winter, The Art Bulletin  91, 4 (December 2009), 522-26 [link]
  • Princeton University Press website with other reviews
Please let me know of other reviews so that they can be added here (leave a comment below).
  • For my earlier comments on James Cuno's views on antiquities

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cycladic at Auction: the Ascona Link

There is a growing emphasis in the antiquities market on objects that have a good history. (Please can we stop using the misleading term "provenance"?) Objects that have a record prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention can now claim much higher prices.

The IHT ("Antiquities sales in New York") has noted:
... at Sotheby's, bidders were even more willing to pay enormous prices for desirable antiquities that could irrefutably be proved to have reached the West well before 1970.
(I presume that "the West" means the land mass to the west of the Atlantic ...)

Among the antiquities sold at Sotheby's in this category was a male Cycladic figure (June 5, 2008, lot 13) that fetched US$1,314,500 (though less than the upper estimate of US$1.8 million). The catalogue provides the early history for the piece. It was apparently residing in an unnamed German private collection in the late 1960s, and was acquired from that source by Dr. Wladimir Rosenbaum, Galleria Casa Serodine, Ascona. The catalogue helpfully adds:
Before becoming an art dealer in Ascona, Wladimir Rosenbaum (1894-1984) was a successful Zurich lawyer close to Carl Jung, Robert Musil, and avant-garde artistic circles, including the Dadaists. For a biographical account focusing on the period of his first marriage see Peter Kamber, Geschichte zweier Leben. Wladimir Rosenbaum und Aline Valangin, Zurich, 1990.
The present vendor ("European Private Collection") purchased the figure from the gallery in 1972 or 1973. The first recorded publication was in the Karlsruhe exhibition (1975), Kunst und Kultur der Kykladeninseln im 3. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (Art and Culture of the Cyclades, 1977), no. 72:
Male (?) idol with hands meeting against the stomach.
The Karlsruhe catalogue recorded the "provenance" (i.e. find-spot) as "unknown" and stated that the figure was residing in a West German Private Collection.

The statue was illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, Pat Getz-Preziosi, Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections (Richmond, Virginia, 1987) p. 53, fig. 24b. There it is recorded as being "in Lugano, Paolo Morigi Collection".

Pat Getz-Preziosi (Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture [Madison, Wisconsin, 2001] p. 132, nn. 14 and 15, and p. 134, n. 43) provides further information. The male figure sold at Sotheby's was "from the same source" as Karlsruhe no. 79 ("Male figure with pilos, hands against the chest"; Ascona, Galleria Casa Serodine; subsequently "Lugano, Adriano, Ribolzi Collection). She continued both were "possibly from the same cemetery" as a piece in the Harmon Collection (pl. 5a).

The Sotheby's catalogue entry appears to be full and even mentions where the piece has been cited in article and book footnotes, for example:
Pat Getz-Preziosi, "The Male Figure in Early Cycladic Sculpture," Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 15, 1980, p. 31, no. 4, figs. 1.4 and 4-5
P. Sotirakopoulou, "The Early Bronze Age Stone Figurines from Akrotiri on Thera and Their Significance for the Early Bronze Age Settlement," Annual of the British School at Athens, vol. 93, 1998, p. 133, note 153
Gail L. Hoffman, "Painted Ladies: Early Cycladic II Mourning Figures?," American Journal of Archaeology, vol. 106/4, 2002, p. 527, note 17 [JSTOR]
However it is surprising to find no mention of the reference to the this male figure in D.W.J. Gill and C. Chippindale, "Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures", American Journal of Archaeology 97 (1993) pp. 601-59 [JSTOR]. The figure is listed on p. 618, Table 7, "Standing Male Figures and Warrior Figures"; it is the very first piece. We also noted (p. 619) that of the seven male Plastiras type male figures, four had no find-spots, two were said to come from Amorgos, and one said to come from Antiparos. We also raised the possibility of modern creation for some of the male pieces. Why did Sotheby's fail to cite our article? Was the cataloguer unaware of it? (I suspect not.) Did the article draw attention to issues about collecting Cycladic figures that were unacceptable to the auction-house?

The figure is now sold. It was first recorded in 1975 (and said to have been purchased in 1972 or 1973). Was it known for certain before 1970? If Getz-Gentle is correct about it coming from the same cemetery as the second piece sold by the same Galleria Casa Serodine, when were they removed from their graves in the Cyclades? Who provided this information ("I was told") to Getz-Gentle? Was it Dr Wladimir Rosenbaum? How did he know? Did both male figures reside in the unnamed German private collection in the 1960s? Did the German private collection exist?

This male figure is a good reminder of the continuing material and intellectual consequences of collecting Cycladic figures.

Image
Sotheby's (New York), June 5, 2008, lot 13.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Egyptian Antiquities at Sotheby's


I have been plotting the sale of Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's New York (see comments on December 2007). The June sale of antiquities raised some US$8,933,001 of which US$3,118,125 was for Egyptian items. This represents some 35% of the total value of the sale, and well above the average (15%) for the period from 1998. Egyptian antiquities fetched US$34 million for the same period (out of an overall total of US$225 million). Of these, over 65% first appear to be recorded after 1973, and just over 95% have no recorded find-spot.

The high prices on the non-Egyptian side included:
  • lot 13: Cycladic male figure: US$1,314,500
  • lot 28: Hellenistic bronze goddess: US$602,500
  • lot 32: marble head of Serapis Ammon: US$182,500
  • lot 38: chalcedony head of deified queen: US$962,500
  • lot 39: Late Republican marble portrait: US$374,500
  • lot 45: marble head of horse: US$110,500
  • lot 69: Bactrian bronze cosemtic vessel: US$116,500
  • lot 171: Byzantine mosaic fragment: US$170,500

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fragments of Antiquity at Harvard

I have earlier commented on the 1995 purchase of more than 200 Apulian, Attic, Chalcidian, Corinthian, Etruscan, Laconian pot-fragments. (There are 182 catalogue entries in the Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin representing the exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum, 15 March - 28 December 1997.) This acquisition is discussed briefly in James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity?
Every fragment was described and reproduced. Their provenance, such as we knew it, was indicated. And the objects became the subject of study in seminars and other classes. [p. 22]
Cuno wrote the "Director's Foreword" for the Harvard catalogue. He noted the origin of the fragments:
These had been collected by J. Robert Guy, currently Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in Classical Archaeology and Art at Oxford.
They were apparently purchased indirectly. Cuno wrote:
When I first saw the fragments we would soon acquire in 1995 ... Lying flat in drawer after drawer in a dealer's shop ...
The acquisition was made with the help of:
  • Jonathan H. Kagan
  • Mr & Mrs Evangelos Karvounis
  • Ian M. Watson McLaughlin
  • Nicholas S. Zoullas
As far as I can see this is the sum total of the "history" - or Cuno's less precise "provenance" - of the pieces. The catalogue (prepared by Aaron J. Paul) does not appear to provide any further information.

Cuno now adds:
We discussed the matter with the dealer and collector and got more provenance, but only some; all that could be found. [p. 22]
Who was the dealer? What was the additional information? What were the sources for the pieces? Is it certain that the fragments were known prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

Catalogue
Attic Black-figure: nos. 1-11
Unattributed Attic Black-figure (Cups): nos. 12-20
Unattributed Attic Black-figure (Vessels): no. 21
Chalcidian Black-figure: no. 22
Corinthian Black-figure: no. 23
Laconian Black-figure: nos. 24-25
Etruscan Black-figure: nos. 26-27
Attic Red-figure: nos. 28-118
Unattributed Attic Red-figure (Cups): nos. 119-171
Attic White-ground: no. 172
Unattributed Attic Red-figure (Vessels): nos. 173-181
Apulian Red-figure: no. 182

Reference
Paul, A. J. 1997. "Fragments of antiquity: drawing upon Greek vases." Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin 5: 1-87. [WorldCat]

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Parthenon Marbles: "the opportunist acquisition of the hastily-chiseled plunder"

A new edition of Christopher Hitchens' "advocacy" for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles has appeared. (It was originally published as The Elgin Marbles: should they be returned to Greece? [1987].) This includes a new introduction by Hitchens as well as a preface by Nadine Gordimer that anticipates "an honourable return of the missing parts from the British Museum".

Charalambos Bouras has contributed an essay "The Restitution Works on the Acropolis Monuments". This includes discussion of the Erechtheion, the Propylaia and the temple of Athena Nike.

Reference
Hitchens, C. 2008. The Parthenon Marbles: the case for reunification. London: Verso. [WorldCat] [Verso]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cultural Property removed from the Ottoman Empire

There is a distinction between the recent looting of archaeological sites and the historic removal of sculptures and architectural fragments in the nineteenth century. Debbie Challis has provided a detailed look at British exploration in the Ottoman Empire in the period 1840-1880. This includes the removal of tombs in Lycia by Charles Fellows as well as the sculptures from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (the modern Bodrum) by (Sir) Charles Newton. She includes a list of where the objects can be seen (even down to the gallery in the British Museum).

Reference
Challis, D. 2008. From the Harpy Tomb to the Wonders of Ephesus: British archaeologists in the Ottoman Empire 1840-1880. London: Duckworth. [WorldCat]

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Chippindale on Cuno

Christopher Chippindale has reviewed James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? (2008) for The Art Newspaper. Chippindale considers it to be
a clear, well-argued, and too partisan book about the vexed question of how great museums like his should collect ancient objects.
Chippindale continues:
The greedy and knowing acquisition of looted antiquities by its great museums is a bad mistake for the long term.
The recent announcement by the AAMD concerning the acquisition of antiquities can perhaps be seen as a sea-change for institutions in North America.

Friday, June 6, 2008

University Art Museums and Collecting Antiquities

I have already commented on Kimerly Rorschach's views on the policies of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). She has written in more detail about the role of university art museums:
We believe that classical antiquities have tremendous educational and aesthetic value, even when removed from their original context and even when their original context is unknown.
At the same time she acknowledges the issue of looted antiquities and notes that university museum curators
must take account of the interests of our colleagues in other scholarly fields, especially since our teaching mission as university museums relies on the ability and willingness of faculty and students in these fields to work with the objects we collect.
I take heart from the fact that she has doubts about the AAMD's report on the "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency") and the proposed "ten-year rule" (as opposed to accepting the UNESCO 1970 Convention as the cut-off point; see "Cultural Ceasefire: is 1970 the right date?"). She sounds a warning note:
To base our policies on these current AAMD guidelines creates too much risk and too much exposure for both the university museum and the parent institution.
The returns of antiquities from Princeton University Art Museum and the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville have highlighted these very issues concerning both loans and acquisitions.

Rorschach is also perceptive. She closes with these words:
To disregard the cultural patrimony concerns of other countries, whether or not we share them, only compounds ill will toward the United States. For university museums especially, it seems clear to me that collecting undocumented antiquities at the present time cannot be condoned.

Reference
Rorschach, K. 2007. "Scylla or Charybdis: antiquities collecting by university art museums." In The acquisition and exhibition of classical antiquities: professional, legal, and ethical perspectives, edited by R. F. Rhodes, pp. 65-73. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

AAMD and Antiquities: A Revised Position

On the 3 June 2008 the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued a new report on "Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art" (see AAMD Pressroom). This acknowledges the usefulness of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (as I have argued) as "the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archaeological material and ancient art". Michael Comforti, the incoming president of AAMD, is also quoted:
We also believe it is important to go beyond the letter of the law in considering the acquisition of antiquities and ancient art and that the acquisition of these works must be responsible and ethical as well as legal.
The whole tone of the report is conciliatory and there is talk of co-operation with archaeological organisations.

There are a couple of outstanding matters.
  1. There are concerns about the place of long-term loans (see "Loans of Archaeological Material"). I have a particular interest in the long-term loan of a monumental bronze krater (of Trebenishte type) to Houston Museum of Fine Arts ("A Bronze Krater in the Levy-White Collection"; "A Bronze Krater on Loan to Houston").
  2. Where does this leave the Cleveland Museum of Art as a member of AAMD? Will there be a resolution over the contested antiquities in the near future?
I also disagree with the wording "illicit and unscientific excavation" in the AAMD report. Looting is not "excavation".

In general I think the AAMD should be congratulated for moving in the right direction. But will member institutions adopt this report as the basis for their acquisition policy? That is the more important issue.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Koreschnica Krater: Further Comments on the Tomb

I remain intrigued by the looting of the major burial at Koreschnica in the Republic of Macedonia. This is a good example of an elite burial that has been the target of a deliberate raid to supply objects for the antiquities market.

The burial chamber was some 4.5 m below the present ground level and had been covered by approximately 3.8 m of rocks and rubble. The burial chamber was some 8.5 m by 3.5 m, and 0.7 m high. However the monumental bronze krater had been placed in a separate area some 1.5 by 1.5 m, and 1.8 m high. Objects emerging from this tomb were not "chance finds".

My understanding is that iron supports have been inserted to stop the roof of the burial chamber from collapsing on the looters. The chamber apparently contained some 18 bronze helmets (some of Illyrian type).

This tomb contained a major grouping of objects whose contexts have now been lost - and the objects dispersed. There is much speculation about what they could be. Pasko Kuzman has suggested that the krater is now in a North American private collection.

Koreschnica is a good reminder that looting is still happening and that collectors continue to acquire.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Philippe de Montebello: a "Tribute"?

I gained some amusement from Lee Rosenbaum's tribute ("Philippe Baby") to Philippe de Monetebello.

I can sense a new TV show ... "Bloggers Have Talent".

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