Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mosaic glass: from Antinoupolis to London

Bonhams online catalogue showing lot 65
Dr Roberta Mazza has published an important discussion of a piece of Roman mosaic glass apparently from Antinoupolis in Egypt ("From Egypt to London: looting in Antinoupolis (el Sheikh ‘Abadah)", Faces and Voices, March 27, 2015). She draws attention to published research by Rosario Pintaudi who  has worked at the site. Mazza notes:
This little and beautiful piece traveled from Egypt to the showrooms of Bonhams in London, where the sale was stopped by the police, after the object sold for about £ 5,000.
The fragment was offered at Bonhams in London in their sale of antiquities on 23 October 2013, lot 65. The collecting history ("provenance") was given as "English private collection, acquired in the late 1960s".

The article is “Latrones: furti e recuperi da Antinoupolis”, Analecta Papyrologica XXVI 2014 pp. 359-402 and is available from This fragment is discussed on pp. 367-70.

Mazza also raises questions about lot 64 that came from "English private collection, acquired in the mid-1970s".

This raises various questions for Bonhams. Who was the vendor? What other objects were consigned by this individual (or individuals) in this and other sales? Which member of the Bonhams team conducted the due diligence search? What is the basis of the stated so-called "provenance"? What documents were shown to Bonhams?

It is significant that concerns were raised by the Egyptian authorities at the time of the sale ("Egypt’s government cracks down on illicit sales", Art Newspaper 31 October 2013):
This month, Bonhams planned to auction a set of 165 Egyptian artefacts. According to the website Egypt Independent, Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s head of antiquities, requested documentation from the auction house to prove that the artefacts had left Egypt legally. Bonhams spokesman Julian Roup, however, says that that the firm received no official request from the police, the Egyptian embassy or Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, and that the provenance in all cases was sound. The sale went ahead ...
Will Bonhams be conducting an internal investigation into how this piece was allowed to come to auction?

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