Thursday, March 14, 2013

Copenhagen: return time?

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen has been ignoring claims by Italy to return a substantial number of its acquisitions. The museum has ignored diplomatic pressure, and discussion in The New York Times. There has also been a response.

Chasing Aphrodite has now revisited the issue with a detailed discussion.

I would draw attention to the October 1997 interview with Jette Christiansen, curator at the Ny Carlsberg (and published by Vinnie Norskov).
What are your sources when acquiring (art market, collectors, etc.), or which are the most important?
As mentioned, objects were often offered to us. Some years ago we had good connections to an art dealer who brought many of the objects we acquired. On a few occasions we have tried to get hold of objects we knew were in private collections abroad. But until now we have not succeeded, have met with a refusal, or have had no answer at all to our request.
 It appears that the "art dealer" was Robert Hecht.

When will the curators at the Ny Carlsberg Glytotek take the appropriate professional decision to call the Italian authorities to negotiate the return of the items?

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Bothmer Fragments Linked to Rome

Detail of Attic red-figured cup.
Fragments in the Villa Giulia and
the Bothmer collection, New York
In January 2012 it was announced that 40 fragments from the 10,000 or so bequeathed to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art would be returning to Italy. So far only a very limited number of images have appeared, but last week Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis told me that he had made an identification for some cup fragments.

Tsirogiannis spotted that the missing pentagonal shape from an Attic red-figured cup now resided in the Villa Giulia in Rome. The tondo scene shows a central volute-krater, with a satyr holding a kantharos, and a maenad to the right.

The fragment had been attributed to the 'Euaion painter', a decorator of pots well known to Bothmer. Several fragments are listed (by the Beazley Archive) in his collection (though not apparently this cup), and he donated other fragments to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum. For example, one cup in the Met was reconstituted after Bothmer donated a series of fragments from 1973 to 1989. The source of these fragments is undeclared. The fragments in the Getty were donated from 1981 to 1986.

Bothmer had also made connections with fragments in Paris and Dresden. So why did he overlook the Rome connection? Or had he made the connection, but had not wished to declare it?

And given his interest in the 'Euaion painter' is he likely to have overlooked the connection?

There are wider issues. When did the Villa Giulia fragment become separated from the rest of the cup? Clearly the Rome fragment was known in the early 20th century. But have the other fragments been residing unrecorded in some other collection? Or were they left in an Etruscan tomb in Tuscany? When did they enter the Bothmer collection? What was their source?

There are also 'Euaion painter' fragments from the former Robert Guy collection in Harvard. Do any fit with the fragments in the Bothmer collection?

And what are all the collecting histories of all these 'Euaion painter' fragments?

What associations will be provided as the Met starts to publish more of the Bothmer collection? And what is their plan to release images and details of this bequest?

It was the original intention of the 'artist' that the fragments be seen as part of a single cup. Will the Met be contacting the staff of the Villa Giulia to arrange the restoration of the cup?

I am grateful to Tsirogiannis for giving me permission to share this identification on Looting Matters.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pot fragments matter

Recently surfaced fragments of Athenian pots are significant. Consider the donors and vendors behind the restored pots returned to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum. Or the "missing fragments" from the Attic amphora returned from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Then there are the returned fragments returned to Italy from the Bothmer collection that apparently fitted pots already returned to Italy (not necessarily from the Met).

And what about the Harvard fragments?

It will soon become clear that wider narratives will emerge from the fragments.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Anglo-Saxon Context Matters

West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village © David Gill
I had a meeting at West Stow Anglo-Saxon village today with Dr Ian Baxter and Alan Baxter. We were looking at the way that finds from grave-groups were displayed in the site museum. Alan Baxter then showed us a display of similar material and explained that it was thanks to the contextualised funerary finds that it was possible to make sense of the decontextualised ones.

It was a timely reminder that there are intellectual consequences for "portablising" buried archaeological objects.

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