Monday, 28 November 2022

Bronze Attis Returns to Turkey

L: Bronze returned to Turkey. R: Bronze in Royal-Athena Galleries


Among the objects returned to Turkey was a small bronze identified as Attis. This appears to be the bronze acquired from Galerie Nefer in July 1984 and then sold through Royal-Athena Galleries (Art of the Ancient World 4 [1985] no. 144) to the J.H. collection, Dearborn, Michigan. It was then placed on loan with Ohio State University; Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University; and Fitchburg Art Museum. It was then back on sale at the Royal-Athena Galleries (Art of the Ancient World 29 [2018] no. 18).

Note that the 2018 catalogue entry mentions the oriental 'costume and cap' but rather than identifying it as Attis suggests Orpheus.

What other material did the Royal-Athena Galleries acquire from Galerie Nefer? 

I presume that the Manhattan DA will at some point issue a list of material that has been returned to Italy and Turkey from the stock of the Royal-Athena Galleries. Should those museums and collectors that acquired material from this source now be checking the histories of the objects? 

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Kusura Type Figure Returned to Turkey

L: Figure Returned to Turkey. R: Figure from Royal-Athena Galleries

Among the recent items returned to Turkey was a Kusura type marble figure. Although there was no statement about the origin of the figure it seems to be the one offered by the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York in 2006 (Art of the Ancient World 17, no. 218) and 2017 (Art of the Ancient World 28, no. 166). It is said to have resided in an anonymous French private collection. 

It will be recalled that 60 items from the Royal-Athena Galleries were returned to Italy in July 2022. Was this Kusura type figure seized at the same time or has it been residing elsewhere? The Manhattan DA does not yet seem to have issued an informative press release about these latest returns to Turkey. 

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Wednesday, 16 November 2022

A Silver Apollo Returns to Turkey

Left: Symes-Michaelides archive; Right: Royal-Athena Galleries


In November 2022 the US authorities returned a silver statuette of Apollo to Turkey. This was recognised as the figure that had been identified by Christos Tsirogiannis in 2007 as appearing in the Symes-Michaelides archive. It receives a full discussion in his PhD thesis, Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: The Robin Symes - Christos Michaelides Network and its International Implications (Cambridge University, PhD Dissertation, 2012). 

The history can be traced through the various sale catalogues in which it appeared.

The figure seems to have surfaced in an exhibition organised by Marie-Louise Vollenweider, Musées de Genève in January 1987 (no. 274), and then featured in the exhibition for Numismatic Fine Arts, Treasures from an Ancient Jewelbox: Gold and Silver of the Ancient World (1992): the catalogue was prepared by Robert Hecht. 

The figure next appeared in the exhibition organised in memory of Michaelides by Robin Symes, Royal Portraits and Hellenistic Kingdoms (New York 1999) no. 24, and then passed into a New York private collection. It was offered at Sotheby’s (New York) on December 7, 2001, lot 76 but was unsold; it entered an Australian private collection in 2002, and was offered at Sotheby’s (New York) June 5, 2008, lot 22 but again was reportedly unsold. It was purchased by Jerome Eisenberg and appeared in Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World 20 (2009) no. 134; Art of the Ancient World 28 (2017) no. 27. It is not clear when the Apollo was seized.

The evidence used to associate the Apollo with a findspot in Turkey has not been disclosed as part of the return, but it has been associated with rulers from Pontus and Cappadocia.

Note. The label in the Antalya Museum states that the figure is bronze but this is incorrect. I am grateful to Christos Tsirogiannis who was able to confirm the material.

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Düver Frieze Fragment Returns to Turkey

Düver frieze fragment: Antalya Museum (l) and New York market (r)


Among the returns to Turkey is a fragment of the terracotta architectural frieze derived from Düver in Turkey. It was offered on the New York market in October 2021 and had formed part of a New York collection. This is a significant return because Düver was looted in the 1960s before the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The composition of the frieze was reconstructed after a series of fragments were purchased from auction at Sotheby's (24 February 1964) by a civic museum in England; examples purchased from this sale in a Stockholm collection notes that they were derived from an anonymous Swiss private collection. Further fragments were auctioned at Sotheby's in July 1964 and many of these are reported to have moved to north America. I have already noted one such fragment in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (inv. 78.62.5) that was purchased from the Summa Galleries in Beverly Hills. A further fragment in an English university collection was acquired from Robert Hecht.

It is likely that Turkish authorities will be seeking the return of these dispersed fragments so that they can be reunited and displayed to the public.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Shelby White sarcophagus fragments return to Antalya




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Lucius Verus from Bubon Returns to Antalya

Source: BusinessTurkeyToday.com

Back in 2008 I discussed on LM that the bronze statue of Lucius Verus was one of a series of statues that had originated in the sebasteion at Bubon in Turkey (and an earlier discussion in the American Journal of Archaeology in 2000). It now appears that this statue from the collection of Shelby White (Glories no. 174) has been returned to the Antalya Museum (see story here and here). This return comes soon after the return of further Shelby White material to Italy (discussed here).

This return has serious implications for other museums (e.g. the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Fordham University, and the Ny Carlsberg in Copenhagen) that have bronze statues, or parts of bronze statues, that are derived from, linked to, or associated with Bubon (see previous posts here). 

The return includes other material such as part of the terracotta architectural frieze from the temple at Düver that had surfaced on the North American antiquities market. This will cause concerns for a number of museums, including several in the UK, that acquired parts of the series.

Further details are available in a release from the American Embassy in Ankara. 

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Thursday, 13 October 2022

Are Claims Against North American Collections Successful?

Source: Christos Tsirogiannis

Leonard Stern has responded to criticisms of his agreement over the display of his collection of Cycladic sculptures by commenting,  "Usually [countries such as Greece] fight to get their stuff back and don’t succeed" (Michael Kaplan, "Critics ‘angry’ over Greece’s deal with art collector Leonard Stern", New York Post October 12, 2022). Stern is perhaps unaware of the scale of returns: I calculate that over 850 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections, as well as from auction-houses and galleries.

Greece has perhaps not been as active in the process as Italy. Indeed, the Minoan larnax that was identified in the Becchina archive by Christos Tsirogiannis remains at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. But we should remember that 55 items worth $20 million from the Michael Steinhardt Collection were returned to Greece earlier in 2022: they included several Cycladic items. And a bronze krater from another New York collection was returned to Greece.

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Bronze Attis Returns to Turkey

L: Bronze returned to Turkey. R: Bronze in Royal-Athena Galleries Among the objects returned to Turkey was a small bronze identified as Atti...