Showing posts with label provenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label provenance. Show all posts

Friday, May 2, 2014

Provenance: terminology, museums and cultural property

My students, as well as readers of LM, will know that I have a strong dislike of the misleading term "provenance". I have written on this where I have suggested that we adopt two separate terms:
a. Collecting history: the way that an object passes from market to public or private collection.
b. Archaeology: the circumstances of discovery and removal from the ground.
Yet this is a term that museum professionals as well as academics working on cultural property issues use the term loosely. My twitter feed noted two recent examples:

My other emphasis is for the need for the identification of authenticated documentation. I have seen collecting histories based on documentation that appears to have been prepared for other objects.

So please can we tighten up the terminology?


Gill, D. W. J. 2010. "Collecting histories and the market for classical antiquities." Journal of Art Crime 3: 3-10.
The use of the term “provenance” when applied to archaeological material has been related to previous ownership. The collecting histories of over 120 items returned to Italy from North American collections have demonstrated the need for the careful and rigorous documentation of individual pieces. Such a history would chart the “life” of the object from the moment that it is discovered to the point when it is sold at auction or acquired by a museum or private individual. The impact of the scandal surrounding the “Medici Conspiracy” has led to the withdrawal of lots from a London sale in 2008, and a series of seizures from a New York auction house in 2009. The lack of collecting histories for individual objects suggests that the pieces were removed from their archaeological contexts, such as graves, by unscientific methods. The study argues that the widely used term “provenance” is essentially obsolete when applied to antiquities.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Art Forgery and Provenance

I attended the ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art) Art Crime Symposium at the V&A in London today. There were two sessions:

  • a. Art Recovery and Reward: Det Sgt Claire Hutcheon (Metropolitan Police), Charlie Hill, Richard Ellis, Jonathan Jones.
  • b. Art Forgery and Provenance: Vernon Rapley, Christopher Marsden, Christos Tsirogiannis, Noah Charney.

I tweeted some of the themes here.

I was very struck by Jonathan Jones' point that art can be displayed in its original context (e.g. a church) rather than the sanitised environment of a museum. (It reminded me of the Houghton Hall exhibition --- and interestingly Peter Watson alluded to the exhibition during the discussion.)

During the discussion, Richard Ellis reminded us that due diligence meant that we needed to ensure that we left no stone unturned as we researched past collecting histories.

Vernon Rapley kept coming back to the Amarna Princess as well as other pieces from the same forger. He reminded us of little clues that would send curators down carefully laid false trails. Christopher Marsden (Senior Archivist at the V&A) reminded us of the forging of documentation to support "provenance".

Christos Tsirogiannis (U Cambridge) discussed a range of forged paperwork and collecting histories drawing on examples from the Medici Dossier, as well as the Sarpedon krater that had been acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. He explored the background to the Getty kouros.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

"Convincing provenance" and the London market

Readers of LM will know that I keep emphasising the need for properly documented "collecting histories". It now appears that Egyptian antiquities, with what were termed "convincing provenances", had to be withdrawn from a sale at Christie's (London) earlier this month (Georgina Adam, "Apples - only $41.6m a bowl", Financial Times May 10, 2013). It seems that the material had come from a recently looted tomb near Thebes ("they were believed to have been stolen from a recently discovered and excavated tomb in Thebes"). We perhaps should note the FT's careless use of the word "excavated". The reported collecting history was that the objects came from an uncle who had served in Egypt during the Second World War.

It is a good reminder that auction houses need to apply more rigorous processes during their research on lots.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pre-Columbian "provenances"

Nord Wennerstrom has drawn my attention to the sale of pre-Columbian antiquities where 95% of the objects do not apparently have collecting histories that can be traced back to the period prior to 1970 ("Provenance Puffery at upcoming Pre-Columbian art auction", Nord on Art January 15, 2013). Once again it reminds us of the abuse of the (redundant) word "provenance". When will auction-houses and galleries differentiate between the archaeological information and the collecting history?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Khmer statue developments

The New York Times has an update on the story relating to the Khmer statue that was being offered by Sotheby's (Tom Mashberg and Ralph Blumenthal, "Sotheby’s Accused of Deceit in Sale of Khmer Statue", New York Times November 13, 2012). The suggestion is that there has been "collusion" between the vendor and the auction house to provide an inappropriate collecting history.
Prosecutors say that in 2010, when the statue was being imported into the United States, the owner submitted an inaccurate affidavit to American customs officials, at Sotheby’s request, stating the statue was “not cultural property” belonging to a religious site.
There is a suggestion that the collecting history for the piece had been fabricated:
Prosecutors also say Sotheby’s tried to mislead potential buyers and the Cambodian and United States governments by concocting a tale that the sculpture had been seen by a “scholar” in London in the 1960s, four years before its actual theft.
As the NYT points out, this could be an attempt to place the statue in circulation prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. All that needs to happens is for authenticated documentation to be presented to demonstrate that the sculpture was indeed in London in the 1960s. NYT draws attention to a Sotheyb's email:
The evidence collected by the government includes an e-mail from a Sotheby’s official to the Khmer scholar, Emma C. Bunker, that in part reads, “If I can push the provenance back to 1970, then U.S. museums can participate in the auction without any hindrance.”
Sotheby's have, I believe, been making an effort to address the issue of recently surfaced antiquities, not least in the light of the Medici Conspiracy. I hope that the position that they are adopting over the Khmer statue will not be changing perceptions.

Finally, one little plea! Please could we start using "collecting history" instead of that redundant term provenance?

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Robust provenance and the Sackler

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, part of the Smithsonian, has issued a statement in response to the Subash Kapoor case (August 3, 2012). Interestingly concerns are spreading to material linked to his brother Ramesh. The statement notes:
The Sackler owns four South Asian art objects purchased from a separate business, Kapoor Galleries (1015 Madison Avenue, New York), owned by Ramesh Kapoor, Subhash Kapoor’s brother. These include: a marble bracket figure, India, 13th c. (purchased in 1995); a seated figure of Jambala, Tibet, bronze, 13th c. (purchased in 1996); a Gautama Buddha, Tibet, gilt copper, 14th c. (purchased 1997); and a pair of lamps of fortune, India, bronze, 17th c. (purchased in 2000).
What are the authenticated collecting histories of these four items?

I also note that the release mentions that the curatorial staff are investigating the "robust provenance information" for the items. I hope that museum professionals will consider dropping the use of the misleading word "provenance" and replace it with "collecting history". Perhaps the curatorial staff would like to read more on the terminology.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Orphans and antiquities

Ralph Blumenthal and Tom Mashberg have written on the issue of objects that do not have full collecting histories ("The curse of the outcast artifact", New York Times July 12, 2012). Collectors are finding that they are unable to donate their objects to public museums. Among them is Alan M. Dershowitz, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at the Harvard School of Law. Dershowitz wishes to sell an Egyptian sarcophagus purchased from Sotheby's in the 1990s (a period explored in Peter Watson's Sotheby's: Inside Story) but he "can't get proof of when it came out of Egypt".

Interestingly the NYT cites the seriously flawed study by the Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI).

Among those interviewed is William G. Pearlstein who asserts that the lack of a collecting history is not necessarily significant. However, the Medici Conspiracy has taught us a great deal about how such objects entered the market.

It is perhaps significant that Christie's are reported to have made the claim that they do not sell Egyptian antiquities "unless it was absolutely documented that it left Egypt before 1970". This seems to contrast with Christie's attitudes over antiquities that can be traced to the Medici Dossier.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Toledo and implications for other collections

Etruscan hydria
due to be returned to Italy
The agreed return of the Etruscan hydria from the Toledo Museum of Art to Italy raises other issues. The statement from the US Attorney's Office ("Agreement Paves Way For Artifact's Return To Italy", 20 June 2012) includes this highly significant section:
Following a January 2010 lead from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigation’s (ICE HSI) Rome attaché, Cleveland-based HSI special agents launched an investigation into the true provenance of the artifact. Working closely with law enforcement officials in Italy, HSI agents were able to definitively establish that the documentation provided to the Toledo Museum of Art was falsified and part of a larger scheme by the Becchinas to sell illegitimately obtained cultural property.
This suggests that the collecting history (please can we stop using the misleading term provenance?) for the Etruscan hydria had been "falsified".

So is the falsification of the documentation of the hydria a single example or a one off? It is a theme I have explored before (and I cited two examples linked to Palladion Antike Kunst run by Rosie Becchina). It is relevant to a Roman janiform head recently returned to Italy.

But what about other material? What about the pair of statues, Castor and Pollux, on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art? What is their association with Becchina?

And what about the Minoan larnax and the archaic pithos in the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Art at Emory University? What does the Becchina archive tell us?

But it is not just North American museums that should be worried. The suspicion also turns to the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid, the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, and the Miho Museum in Japan.

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

St Louis Art Museum Mask: implications for Swiss dealer

I have noted earlier this week that the collecting history ("provenance") for the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum was seemingly flawed. It cannot have been given to the excavator (who died in 1959). It cannot have been in Brussels in 1952. It cannot have been in the "Kaloterna collection" in 1962. The reason for this is the apparently undisputed statement that the mask was known to be in Egypt in 1966 and recorded in Cairo.

The collecting history for the mask was allegedly supplied by the vendor, Phoenix Ancient Art. One of the owners of the gallery apparently supports the repatriation of antiquities to the country of origin. What was the basis for the mask's collecting history as supplied by Phoenix Ancient Art? Who created the collecting history?

It now appears that SLAM's due diligence process prior to the acquisition was flawed. The collecting history, as it was understood at the time of acquisition, no longer appears to be secure.

Will the director of SLAM, who is a member of the AAMD, make the appropriate professional and ethical response by opening up negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

St Louis Art Museum: "we would do the right thing"

i was very struck by the 2010 words of St Louis Art Museum spokeswoman Jennifer Stoffel when talking about the dispute between SLAM and Egypt over the mummy mask that was excavated at Saqqara:
we would do the right thing ... if there was something that refuted the legitimacy of the provenance.
The Missouri legal decision over the mask should raise serious concerns for the museum authorities. The legal statement demonstrates at that the mask's presence was documented up to 1966, and that it seems to have gone missing by 1973.

I have rehearsed the collecting history of the mask elsewhere. Laura Elizabeth Young has also had access to the documentation at SLAM.

Let me repeat the alleged history of the mask here (as it is presented by SLAM and the Swiss dealer that sold the mask):
b. The mask was given to an official associated with the excavations. There appears to be no paperwork to support this. (Indeed Goneim in his report, The Buried Pyramid (1956), thanked the Department of Antiquities of the Egyptian Government, Cairo. The implication is that at the time of going to press the mask was in a government store.) 
The following sequence is based on documentation provided by Phoenix Ancient Art:
c. Mask seen in 1952 at an antiquities dealer in Brussels. This depends on the testimony of a Swiss national, Charly Mathez made in February 1997. SLAM contacted Mathez in 1999 but he could not remember the details or the name of the gallery. Could he really be certain that the mask he claimed to see in Brussels 45 years earlier was indeed the same one? 
d. Mask purchased "by a private collector" in approximately 1962 ("ten years later"). This is named as the "Kaloterna Collection". 
e. The private collector sold the mask to "an unnamed Swiss citizen, in whose private collection it would remain for 40 years". It is noted that the "Swiss collector requested anonymity". The Riverfront Times identified the individual as "Zuzi Jelinek of 84 Quai de Cologny, Geneva, Switzerland"; they confirmed that a "Suzana Jelinek-Ronkuline" lived at that address. (Her son is said to have offered the information that the Aboutaam brothers once rented a property on Quai de Cologny belonging to his mother. The Riverfront Times then reported, "Hicham Aboutaam directed the Riverfront Times to a woman identifying herself as Suzana Jelinek, of Zagreb, Croatia. 'I bought the mask many many years ago, and I sold it many many years ago,' says Suzana Jelinek when reached at her Zagreb home. 'I have so many things in my collection that my children don't know what all I have.'")
If we accept the Missouri legal version of the collecting history of the mask that confirms its presence in 1966 we need to conclude:
1. The mask was not given to an official connected with the excavation. We should also note that the excavator died in 1959. 
2. The mask was not at an antiquities dealer in Brussels in 1952. The testimony of Charly Mathez appears to be mistaken. 
3. The mask was not in the "Kaloterna Collection" in 1962.
This raises questions about when the mask entered the "collection" of Zuzi Jelinek. How reliable is her testimony?

The legitimacy of the "official" collecting history ("provenance") of the mask seems to have been brought into question by the court case. SLAM has stated that they would "do the right thing" if the legitimacy of the provenance was flawed.

Will the museum now do the ethical and professional "right thing" and return the mask to Egypt?


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Monday, October 3, 2011

Auction-houses and international co-operation

The illicit trade in looted archaeological material is a significant threat to the legitimate activities of those involved with the antiquities market. It is in the interest of auction-houses and dealers to co-operate with law enforcement agencies when dubious items have been identified. Ignoring requests to withdraw material from sales when collecting histories ("provenance") are questioned only reinforces the view that some within the trade are unconcerned about the destruction of the archaeological record.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Virginia and the Joseph A. Lewis II Collection

Last week I noted that Lee Rosenbaum had identified material from the Joseph A. Lewis II collection in Virginia MFA. Rosenbaum has now published a list of the relevant material in Virginia. (My requests to two other AAMD member museums about their holdings from the Lewis Collection have been met with silence.)

The collecting histories are:

  • private Swiss collection before 1970 (2)
  • Ex: private Swiss collection of Simon Ohan Simonian, before 1970
  • Ex: Collection James B. McMullen, 1950 (2)
  • Ex: Collection of William Bowmore, Brisbane, Australia 1960s
  • Ex: Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London, UK; Ex: French private collection before 1950


What are the authenticated and documented collecting histories for the pieces said to have passed through the Swiss collections, conveniently before 1970? Which Swiss collections? Are they collections or the former stock of Swiss-based dealers? Likewise, what is the authenticated collecting history of the French private collection? (Remember the Middle Kingdom Alabaster Duck.)

Curators at Virginia MFA would be wise to ask for a full set of the documentation.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dealers Charged Following Egyptian Seizures

© ICE
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have announced that charges have been brought against dealers from Michigan, New York, Virginia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ("ICE makes arrests and seizes cultural artifacts stolen from Egypt, Set of Sarcophagi more than 2,000 years old", July 14, 2011). The seizures include "a unique three-part coffin set belonging to Shesepamuntayesher from the Saite period or 26th Dynasty, approximately 664-552 B.C."

Those arrested are named:
Salem Alshdaifat, an antiquities dealer who operated a business called Holyland Numismatics in Bloomfield, Mich.; Joseph Lewis, a collector and benefactor of Egyptian antiquities; and Mousa Kouli, an antiquities dealer who operated a business called Windsor Antiquities in New York.

In addition, "Ayman Ramadan, a Jordanian antiquities dealer, who operated a company called Nafertiti [sic.] Eastern Sculptures Trading, in Dubai, UAE, is a fugitive."

Detail is provided:
As alleged in the indictment, from approximately October 2008 until approximately November 2009, the defendants, together with others, engaged in a scheme to smuggle cultural antiquities into the United States. As part of the smuggling scheme, Lewis allegedly purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian boats and Egyptian limestone figures (collectively, "Egyptian antiquities") from Khouli, who purchased those items from Alshdaifat and Ramadan. Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States. 
Khouli allegedly provided Lewis with false provenances which stated that the Egyptian antiquities were part of a collection assembled by Khouli's father in Israel in the 1960's when, in fact, both Lewis and Khouli knew that Khouli acquired the Egyptian antiquities from other dealers.


Windsor Antiquities appear to be offline at the moment. But for an earlier story from Paul Barford see here. Barford had noted the conjunction of the dealers in 2010.


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Antiquities Trade: Looking Ahead

The seizure of the three dossiers of photographs in Greece and Switzerland has had one major impact on the antiquities impact: the need for caution. The statement that the piece had once passed through some anonymous European collection is one that would be met with a dose of suspicion. Auction-houses and dealers are now aware that they need to check the documentation for objects to show that their collecting-histores ("provenance") can be traced back to the period prior to 1970. Yet how far are unillustrated invoices being used to provide histories for objects that have surfaced in recent years? Statements in catalogues need to be verified. (This is an issue noted in the recently published Chasing Aphrodite.)

It is interesting that there have been several recent instances of auction-houses proceeding with sales even when they have been notified (privately in several instances) that there have been apparent matches with objects in the seized photographic archives. What does this say about the attitude of the trade to the supply of antiquities through specific European middle men and women?

No doubt there are some who would like to know which recently surfaced objects are unrecorded so that they can be placed on the market.

But what will restore confidence to the market? A desire to impose rigorous due diligence procedures that will confirm the background of objects.


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Contradictory Collecting Histories

One of the issues surrounding one of the lots due to be auctioned shortly relates to its collecting history. The catalogue entry claims to give a history stretching back over several decades to what appears to be a named Swiss private collector (though apparently a Swiss based dealer). However documentation suggests that the piece in question was only undergoing restoration in the 1990s.

Has a flawed collecting history been supplied? Was it created by the vendor? Who is the vendor?

At least the auction house now knows the truth. But will the sale of the lot proceed?

Collecting histories matter and it is becoming increasingly common for them to be fabricated.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creative collecting histories?

The "Merrin Zeus" is a reminder that purchasers need to have fully documented collecting histories that can be traced back to the period before 1970. If the Zeus was indeed removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano in 1980 it would appear that the collecting history that it had been in an old Swiss collection in the 1960s was fabricated. Who created the account? Who knew it was fiction?

The Castor and Pollux statues now on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art also have an interesting collecting history. Where did they acquire the reported find-spot of the Mithraeum in Sidon? The curatorial staff at the Met have yet to present their documented and authenticated collecting history.

What do the Zeus and the Dioskouroi have in common?

Image
Head from Roman marble statuette. The Schinoussa Archive.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lord Renfrew calls for transparency

The sale of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet for £2.2 million ($3.6 million) has started to raise some uncomfortable questions. It is now clear if the helmet was found by "a young guy" (Georgiana Aitken of Christie's) or "an unnamed father and son" from Peterlee County Durham (The Independent). Dr Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has talked about "the real gap" in The Treasure Act (1996). (Indeed the real issue is the term used for the act.)

A month ago Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn called a review of The Treasure Act in a letter to The Times (London).

On October 20, 2010 Lord Renfrew tabled a written question:
To Ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" so that major heritage discoveries, such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett and recently sold by public auction, should fall within the scope of the Treasure Act.[HL2515]

Baroness Rawlings (the President of the British Antique Dealers' Association [BADA]) presented a written reply:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport plans to review the Treasure Act Code of Practice and this will include the definition of Treasure contained in the Treasure Act 1996. This review will take the form of a public consultation and so will provide the opportunity to consider whether it would be appropriate to extend the definition of treasure to include items such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett.

Lord Renfrew has now returned to the theme in the House of Lords by asking the question (November 11, 2010):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review the definition of “treasure” in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.

Baroness Rawlings reminded Lord Renfrew of her written reply. In response Lord Renfrew noted:
It is strange that a national treasure can be sold at public auction by an anonymous vendor to an anonymous buyer.
But he then added a question that must cause concern for those dealing in antiquities within the United Kingdom:
will the Government consider reviewing the law on antiquities at sale by auction in favour of some transparency?
Transparency would mean auction houses and galleries providing full details of collecting histories and vendors.

Lord Redesdale returned to the issue of the Crosby Garrett helmet:
My Lords, are moves afoot to look at the practices of the auction houses, given that this helmet was found in many pieces and an enormous amount of archaeological information was lost when conservators put the pieces back together without consulting archaeologists? Is that a practice that auction houses should undertake, given that loss of information on a very rare artefact? Are the Government looking at sales of antiquities through internet sites such as eBay? That is becoming a real source of worry, as much of our heritage is disappearing abroad without any record whatever.
The restorer's report on the helmet is indeed enlightening and I am very grateful to Georgiana Aitken of Christie's for sending me a copy. There is indeed real concern that such an unusual object - could we use the term 'national treasure'? - was not put in the hands of an archaeological conservator.

But Lord Redesdale also raises the issue about eBay. He appears to be suggesting that archaeological material from the United Kingdom is slipping abroad. Are these just chance finds? Or are there those who make a deliberate search for archaeological material? And are all these items recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme? How much material goes unrecorded?

Baroness Rawlings responded by talking about 'provenance' (or more accuratley 'collecting histories'):
It is in the interests of both auctioneers and dealers to check that the provenance of items is acceptable to reduce any risk of prosecution for handling stolen goods or dealing in tainted or mended goods.
This brings us back to Lord Renfrew's point for the need of greater transparnechy in the market and the full disclousre of documented collecting histories when archaeological material is offered for sale on the market.

The sale of the Crosby Garrett helmet may well be seen as a turning-point in the debate over the market in archaeological material.


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Friday, August 27, 2010

The history of looting

Professor Richard Evans, President-elect of Wolfson College, Cambridge, gave a lecture on 'Looted Art and its Restitution: moral and cultural dilemmas for the twenty-first century' on 7 June 2010 as the Third Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture. A video of the lecture is now available.

There is a quick overview of looting in the ancient world (though nothing on Pergamon and the great display celebrating the defeat of the Gauls) and a mention of the Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta Stone. Much of the lecture addresses the issue of Nazi loot and Soviet seizures after the Second World War. There is even something on dental gold ending up in Swiss bank vaults. Evans has interesting comments about art dealers in the 1950s being more interested in the authenticity than the collecting history (i.e. provenance).

There is a discussion of looting in the Balkans as well as in Iraq following the Second Gulf War (including the Baghdad Museum).

There is consideration of the work by UK Spoliation Advisory Panel.

Evans turns to the concept of the Universal Museum, where "world culture" is shared.

In questions, Evans is asked directly to state his position on the Parthenon ("Elgin") marbles. Lord Renfrew asked the second question about recent archaeological looting and cultural property in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another question raised the issue about the statute of limitation.


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

George Ortiz as Collector

I recently commented on the pair of statues of Castor and Pollux currently on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the "supplied" collecting history the pair had passed through the collection of George Ortiz; additional reports suggest this was in the 1980s.

Christopher Chippindale and I made a study of the George Ortiz collection (see "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting," American Journal of Archaeology 104 [2000] 463-511. JSTOR). I thought it would be interesting to see what else had passed through his collection.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts acquired several ex-Ortiz pieces, two before the 1970 UNESCO Convention (the handle bases of an Etruscan situla, inv. 63.1516a-b [Ortiz 1957-63]; an Etruscan bronze lion, inv. 66.9 [Ortiz c. 1949-c.1965, said to be from Cerveteri]). The two post-1970 pieces are (or possibly are):
  • Attic Late Classical votive relief to two divinities, inv.  1977.171. Collecting history: "By 1977: with Robin Symes ... (according to a letter from Robin Symes, dated November 20, 2000, the relief was previously in the collection of George Ortiz, Geneva although Mr. Ortiz in a letter dated February 8, 2001 replied that he did not recall this piece but added that he could have had a memory lapse); purchased by MFA from Robin Symes, April 13, 1977".
  • Boeotian proxeny decree of Timeas the Laconian, showing the Dioskouroi and Athena Alea, inv. 1987.297. Collecting history: "By date unknown: George Ortiz Collection, Geneva (said to have come from a German dealer and to be from Thebes); 1986: acquired from George Ortiz by Robin Symes, Limited, ...; purchased by MFA from Robin Symes, Limited, June 24, 1987".


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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The loan of Castor and Pollux

In 2006 the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) issued new guidance on loans of archaeological material and ancient art (see earlier comments). I have been interested in the loan of the "Roman marble statuettes of Castor and Pollux" to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.2008.18.1, .2). I made a formal enquiry about the collecting history for the pair from Tom Campbell and he kindly asked the Greek and Roman department to let me have the information.

A member of the department sent me details derived from when the pair passed through the Royal-Athena Galleries (Art of the Ancient World XII [2001] no. 12): "The provenance of the two Roman works on loan to the Museum is well known and published". The catalogue informs us that the statues were "probably from the Mithraeum in Sidon, excavated in the 19th century". The collecting history is laid out: "ex private collection, Lebanon; Asfar & Sarkis, Lebanon, 1950s; George Ortiz Collection, Geneva, Switzerland; collection of an American private foundation, Memphis, acquired in the early 1980s".

At some point the statues passed through the Merrin Gallery where they were published by Cornelius C. Vermeule, in Re:Collections (Merrin Gallery, 1995).

I have now asked a further question ("What is the basis for saying that the pieces were in a Lebanese private collection, and that they passed through Asfar & Sarkis in the 1950s?") and await a reply.

What is the authenticated documentary evidence to show that the pair of statues were in an anonymous private Lebanese collection and that they were handled by Asfar & Sarkis in the 1950s? Were the statues complete in the 1950s? Or were they restored in the subsequent decades? Were the statues found at Sidon? Have any other dealers handled the statues? If so, when?

As this collecting history information is said to be "well known and published", I look forward to receiving a response in due course.

Image
Castor and Pollux, on loan to New York MMA L.2008.18.1, .2
H. 61 cm (left), 63.5 cm (right).
© Christos Tsirogiannis

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