Wednesday, 27 November 2019

An inscription from Kos

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty received the anonymous donation of a Greek inscription from Antimachia on Kos (J. Walsh, "Acquisitions/1983." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), 239, no. 37). This notice pointed to the previous publication of the stone when it had been observed built into the walls of the church of Ayia Marina where it had been observed first by Marcel Dubois ("Inscriptions des Sporades." Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 7 (1883) 481–82, no. 4) and then by William R. Paton (W.R. Paton and E. L. Hicks, The inscriptions of Cos (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1891) 271–72, no. 383) who made some corrections to Dubois' text.

The anonymous donor of the inscription was Stefan Hornak who had acquired it in 1983 from Galleria Serodine SA in Ascona, Switzerland. Hornak was one of the people identified as a major donor to the Getty with objects worth $869,800 (Geraldine Norman and Thomas Hoving, "Spectrum: The fine art of tax avoidance", The Times 13 February 1987).

When did the inscription move from the church of Ayia Marina on Kos to the Galleria Serodine SA in Switzerland? What is the supporting documentation?

Walsh noted that the inscription would be published by Dirk Obbink.

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Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Eros and Robin Symes

Christie's (London) are due to auction a Roman statue of Eros unstringing a bow on 4 December 2019 (lot 483). The piece, 'The property of a gentleman', is provided with the following history:
Roger Peyrefitte (1907-2000) collection, Paris, said to have been acquired from Nicolas Landau in the late 1960s. French private collection, purchased from the above in 1986.
Yet Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified images from the Schinoussa archive suggesting that the Eros had passed through the hands of Robin Symes at some point (Dalya Alberge, "Christie's urged to pull sale of Roman statue 'linked to illicit dealers'", The Guardian 24 November 2019).

When in the sequence did Symes handle the Eros? Why does this information not appear in the stated history? Is the stated history supported by authenticated documentation? Did Christie's check the piece with the relevant authorities in Greece or Italy?


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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Buying and Selling Papyri

The statement by the EES that some 120 papyri fragments from its collection are missing is raising concerns in the academic community. 19 of the fragments have been identified in a public museum and a private collection in North America, and these will apparently be returned to the EES.

There are questions that need to be answered. What authenticated documentation was supplied with the sale of the papyri? What due diligence was undertaken? Who had access to the EES collection?

why has the acquisition of papyri fragments been seen as different from that of antiquities? Are they not seen as part of the archaeological record?


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Monday, 18 November 2019

Looting in Calabria

It has been announced that a cross-European investigation has closed a network of looting in southern Italy [press release]. It has involved law enforcement agencies in France, Germany, Serbia and the United Kingdom. It is reported that thousands of objects have been seized as well as tools used in looting activities.

Does the presence of UK enforcement agencies suggest that some of the material was due to be sold in London?

Again, the scale of the operation is a reminder that looting is not an issue that has disappeared and it continues to threaten the finite archaeological record.

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Thursday, 17 October 2019

Papyri and due diligence

There is much comment at the moment about the sale of papyri to the Museum of the Bible (MOTB), and specifically how fragments owned by the Egypt Exploration Society and kept in the Sackler Library in Oxford have ended up in MOTB.

This is raising serious questions about the due diligence process that does not appear to have been followed by MOTB.


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Monday, 5 August 2019

Steinhardt and the Berlin painter oinochoe

Among the pots in the exhibition, The Berlin painter and his world, was an oinochoe (shape 1) from the Judy and Michael Steinhardt collection in New York (BN44; not in BPAD). The description is given:
Youth in himation leaning on stick to right, dropping red tidbit to a Maltese dog standing on its hind legs.
The oinochoe was attributed to the Berlin painter by Robert Guy.

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis reminds me that this is indeed the oinochoe seized in January 2018 [see LM]. Tsirogiannis has now published on the Steinhardt seizure:

  • Tsirogiannis, C. 2019. "Nekiya: a reflection of the antiquities market: selected cases from the antiquities identified in 2018 and 2019." Journal of Art Crime 21: 63–75.

It appears as no. 3 in the list of objects, and Tsirogiannis notes that it was purchased in 1996 for $215,000. Tsirogiannis identified the oinochoe in two images from the seized Medici dossier.

This now raises a number of questions:

  • who sold the oinochoe to Steinhardt?
  • who acquired the oinochoe from Medici?
  • when did Robert Guy make the attribution?
It should be remembered that this oinochoe is not the only pot attributed to the Berlin painter that passed through the hands of Medici.


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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

The return of looted objects to their countries of origin



‘The return of looted objects to their countries of origin: the case for change’, in S. Hufnagel and D. Chappell (eds.), The Palgrave handbook on art crime (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 797–813.

Abstract
The journalistic investigation into the activities of a major London auction house in the 1990s led directly to the seizure of an important cache of documentation and images at the Geneva Freeport. As a result over 350 items have been returned to Italy from dealers, galleries and auction houses, North American public museums and private collectors. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property has provided a benchmark for claims on the return of cultural property. There is a need to enhance the due diligence process undertaken by the market. Although some North American museums have changed their acquisition policies, some curatorial staff display open hostility towards enhanced ethical responsibilities and an unwillingness to comply with further investigations. [online]
 
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An inscription from Kos

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty received the anonymous donation of a Greek inscription from Antimachia on Kos (J. Walsh, "Acquisitions/1983...