Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two Canosan kraters returned to Italy

This time last year I was commenting on identifications made by Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis. He spotted that a pair of Canosan krater that were due to be auctioned in the June 2012 sale at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza could be identified from the polaroids in the Medici Dossier.

The research did not go unnoticed. The pair of kraters were returned to Italy on 14 September 2012. Investigative journalist Fabio Isman informs us that they are currently in an exhibition of repatriated antiquities at the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome (20 May -5 November 2013).

Tsirogiannis has written up the work for the next number of the Journal of Art Crime (2013). The detail is telling but readers of LM can wait for the publication.

This return demonstrates that items identified from the Medici Dossier (and this should be extended to the Becchina and Schinoussa archives) are perceived as "toxic". This is not the first time that such a return has been made from this auction house.

Readers of LM will be aware that Tsirogiannis has made a number of identifications in the June 2013 auction (although not all the pieces have been discussed). Two things need to happen. First, senior officers at Christie's need to look closely at what appears to be a flawed due diligence process in their "ancient art" department. Second, somebody should be contacting the Italian authorities as a matter of urgency.

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kyri said...

or maybe someone should make the photographic archives available so auction houses can do their due diligence without having to rely on the made up collecting historys provided by consignors.many of the medici pieces have been published in catalogues as long as 30 years ago,are you suggesting that they should refuse everything without a %100 verifiable collecting history going back to 1970? that would rule out %75 of antiquities on the market.

David Gill said...

Kyri, thank you for your comment. Are you suggesting that 75% of the antiquities on the market have surfaced "recently" i.e. post 1970? I suspect the figure is even higher.

kyri said...

hi david,personally i believe that a large proportion of antiquities on the market have surfaced recently,its difficult to argue anything else considering the well documented high status cases that have come to light and i believe, that it is an ongoing problem [allthough not so much from italy as was the case with medici]as for the exact proportion,that is anybodys guess,its an imposible figure to my opinion there are perfectly licit pieces that have just lost their provenance over the years.we had the recent case of the roman sarcophagus found hidden and forgotten in a garden and i myself have bought antiquities from a provincial auction house,from a deceased estate,which came with bm letters dated from the 1940s. the auctionear didnt have a clue as to how significant they were,they could have easily been thrown away and the pieces "orphaned".you say you suspect the figure is even higher than %75 but the simple truth is nobody knows and we are all speculating.i agree that certain masterpieces must have been known/published before 1970 if their collecting histories are to be believed but the lowly apulian bell krater may have been hidden away in an attic for decades.if an auction house has a verifiable provenance going back to the mid 80s thats a good collecting history for most has been said many times before but i will say it again,collecting histories/provenance had knowhere near the importance pre 1990s as it has now and to condemn outright,every piece which hasnt verifiable records pre 1970s is wrong in my eyes.i also collect antiquities auction catalogues and the sales in the 1930s were stuffed full of antiquities.the sothebys 1931 sale had 387 lots [yes387]with some fantastic greek vases on offer,with lots of plates and some great photos.there was alot of stuff that 1931 sale,only 20-30 lots had any collecting history mentiond.the auction houses are trying to do their due diligence,with every lot having some form of collecting history published in the catalogue,publishing all the photo archives will help them,isnt that what you want?


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