Anybody who has worked on material surfacing through the art market will be common with the phrases that define property, including (one of my favourites) "property of a Belgian gentleman". But today, while looking at a North America gallery that had attracted my attention for other reasons, I came across this: "from the collection of a European business executive". The marble frieze had been purchased on "the European market" in the late 1990s.
What is a "European business executive"? Is it a euphemism for the person who runs an antiquities gallery in Europe? Who knows?
Is this sort of anonymous information supposed to be reassuring to the potential purchaser?
And an object that can be traced back no further than the late 1990s is immediately suspicious.
The fact that I can read this sort of language in October 2014 demonstrates that there are sectors of the antiquities market that seem to be totally unaware of the issues that have emerged from the so-called "Medici Conspiracy".
The same gallery has some other wonderful quotes: "Old American collection, New York, acquired 1988". This makes objects from the 1970s seem positively ancient history.
There is also the repeated phrase: "Good and legal provenance". So where and when were those Roman mosaics from the eastern Mediterranean found?