Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Medici Dossier and the James Chesterman collection

Images from Medici Dossier. Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has made another identification from the Medici Dossier. The piece in question is a 6th century BC Etruscan terracotta antefix that is due to be auctioned in London later this month (Bonhams 30 November 2016, lot 14). The collecting history ("provenance") is given as:
  • James Chesterman Collection (1926-2014), formed in the UK in the 1970s-2000. 
  • With À la Reine Margot, Paris, acquired in December 1986.
The antefix appears in two images, one as a standard Polaroid, the other as a record card for the Hydra Gallery. Hydra Galerie has been associated with Medici and has been discussed before, for example:
It is not clear why Bonham's has not mentioned Hydra Galerie in the collecting history. But note that on the card there is the annotation that the piece was to be assigned "v[ia] Londr[a]" with a value of $1,500.

The association with James Chesterman clearly has implications. I have listed some of his terracottas (and the associated bibliography) in:
  • David W. J. Gill. “Museum Supplement: Recent Acquisitions by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1971-1989.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 110 (1990), pp. 290–294. www.jstor.org/stable/631820.
I note that among the three examples I described was one that was acquired from N. Koutoulakis.

This new identification yet again raises issues about the due diligence process conducted by and on behalf of the auction houses. Staff at Bonhams are, I am sure, aware that the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill is passing through the UK Parliament at the moment and that it is in the interest of those involved with the sale of archaeological material to be seen to be taking action when concerns are raised about objects that surface on the market.

I understand that the relevant authorities in Italy and the UK have been informed.

For further discussion of the antefix see ARCA.

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