Monday, June 29, 2009

Euphronios: The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver

Vernon Silver has produced a remarkable book from his Oxford University doctoral research: it is a page turner. (I noted the acknowledgment to lunches with Colin Dexter author of the Inspector Morse novels.) It concentrates on the Euphronios cup that passed into the Bunker Hunt collection. However, the Sarpedon krater also features prominently.

I do not intend to write a full review here, but it would be appropriate to share some of the points. If anybody is in any doubt about the level of destruction caused by the looting process in order to supply the market they need to read The Lost Chalice. The account of the search for antiquities at Greppe Sant'Angelo at Cerveteri in Tuscany is sickening. This does not represent the casual finding of artefacts during agricultural work; it is the deliberate ransacking of ancient tombs in the search for saleable material.

Silver helped me to understand Giacomo Medici and The Lost Chalice provides a different position to that found in The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Celia Todeschini. It also allowed me to make sense of snippets of information about the market in Rome during the 1960s where "minor" antiquities were fed (relatively) openly onto the market while the major objects were taken for sale outside Europe.

The background to the fragmentary krater showing Herakles and Kyknos that was returned to Italy by Shelby White is reviewed. (I was interested to note who was advising Leon Levy about his purchases of Greek pottery.)

There is also information about the Sabina statue that was returned from Boston. It makes sense of the statement that it had once formed part of "an aristocratic family collection in Bavaria".

One of the strengths of this study is Silver's meticulous interviewing of key figures involved in the saga.


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