Skip to main content

Posts

Viking: finds from the field

I recently visited the excellent 'Viking: Rediscover the Legend' exhibition at Norwich Castle.

One of the striking things to emerge from the exhibition was the number of hoards and collections derived from metal-detecting. These include the Vale of York hoard (2007) and the Great Camp Assemblage (2003) (also known as 'Ainsbrook'). It would have been helpful for the exhibition to have reflected on the value of scientific excavation for the contribution of knowledge on the Vikings in Britain.

The exhibition continues until September.

Recent posts

Tutankhamun, Christie's and rigorous due dligence

It was announced today that the Egyptian authorities would be taking legal action against Christie's over the sale of the head of Tutankhamun ("Egypt to sue Christie's to retrieve £4.7m Tutankhamun bust", BBC News 9 July 2019).

The BBC reports:
Egypt's former antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, said the bust appeared to have been "stolen" in the 1970s from the Temple of Karnak. "The owners have given false information," he told AFP news agency. "They have not shown any legal papers to prove its ownership." Christie's maintain the history of the piece as follows:
It stated that Germany's Prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis reputedly had it in his collection by the 1960s, and that it was acquired by an Austrian dealer in 1973-4. However the family of von Thurn und Taxis claim that the head was never in that collection [see here].

Christie's reject any hint of criticism:
"Christie's would not and do not sell any work whe…

George Ortiz collection to be displayed in London

Christie's is due to display part of the former collection of the late George Ortiz in London in a non-selling show to mark the 25th anniversary of the exhibition at the Royal Academy. There is a statement on the Christie's website ("The Ortiz Collection — ‘proof that the past is in all of us’"). Max Bernheimer is quoted: ‘Ortiz was one of the pre-eminent collectors of his day’.

We recall the associations with Ortiz such as the Horiuchi sarcophagus, the Hestiaios stele fragment, the marble funerary lekythos, and the Castor and Pollux.

Bernheimer will, no doubt, wish to reflect on the Royal Academy exhibition by reading Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463-511 [JSTOR].

Bernheimer will probably want to re-read the two pieces by Peter Watson that appeared in The Times: , "Ancient art without a history" and "Fakes - the artifice b…

Renewed Italian claims on the Getty

Back in January 2013 LM noted that Fabio Isman had noted that two funerary lions in the J. Paul Getty Museum, acquired in 1958 (inv. 58.AA.7, 58.AA.8), had been photographed in an Italian collection in 1912. It now appears that the Italian authorities have requested clarity on the histories of the two lions [press release, May 22, 2019]. The lions were both acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis.

In addition, a Roman mosaic with the head of Medusa has been included in the request. It is alleged that it was stolen from the Museo Nazionale Romano. The mosaic was acquired from the Royal Athena Galleries in 1971 (inv. 71.AH.110). It is noted that the mosaic was found on the Via Emanuele Filiberto, Rome, Italy and was first recorded in A. Pasqui 1911 ("Roma. Nuove scoperte nella citta e nel suburbio." Notizie degli Scavi 8 (1911), 338-339). Further details on the findspot can be found here.

What is so surprising is that it has taken the Getty more than six years to respond to the cla…

Toledo Museum of Art and an Attic skyphos

In 2017 Dr Christos Tsirogannis wrote a study of the Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter (by Dietrich von Bothmer) and acquired in 1982. Tsirogiannis had spotted that the skyphos featured in the Medici Dossier, and elicited from the museum that it had been acquired from Nichols Koutoulakis. 

It has now been announced by the Italian authorities that the skyphos will be returned to Italy [press release, 16 May 2019].
Il ministero per i Beni e le attività culturali della Repubblica italiana e il Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) hanno annunciato oggi di aver raggiunto un accordo per il trasferimento alla Repubblica italiana di uno skyphos attico risalente al V secolo a-C (Vaso Potorio), che raffigura il ritorno di Efesto sull'Olimpo. Lo skyphos è stato acquistato da TMA nel 1982, ma recentemente, il Museo ha ritenuto di dover acquisire ulteriori informazioni dal Mibac circa la sua provenienza. In collaborazione con il Ministero e alla luce de informazioni fomite da…

Stele seized at Spata

A marble stele has been seized in a raid at Spata in eastern Attica ("Three men sent to prosecutor over stolen ancient grave stele", http://www.ekathimerini.com (10 April 2019); www.archaeologia.gr 11 April 2019). Three individuals were arrested.

I am grateful to Konstantinos-Orfeas Sotiriou for drawing my attention to the report.

Context Matters: Collecting the Past

I have been associated with ARCA for the last ten years, and its publishing arm, ARCA Press, will be issuing a series of essays later this year.

Context Matters is based on the twenty essays contributed to the Journal of Art Crime over its first ten years. They are supplemented by articles and review articles that were published alongside them. The chapters were written as museums in Europe and North America were facing a series of claims on recently acquired objects in their collections in the light of the photographic dossiers that had been seized from dealers in Switzerland and Greece. They engage with some of the recent debates over cultural property that include the Ka Ka Nefer mummy mask currently in the St Louis Art Museum, and the Leutwitz Apollo acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art. Two of the essays reflect on the recent and controversial metal-detecting finds in England, the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet and the Lenborough Hoard. The volume contributes to the wider disc…