Saturday, 3 December 2022

Identifications at Sotheby's in London

Image from the Becchina archive courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis

Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified three objects from the Becchina, Medici and Symes archives that were due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on December 7, 2022. His identifications are covered in a report by Dalya Alberge, "Archaeologist urges Sotheby’s to cancel auction of ‘illicit’ artefacts", Daily Telegraph December 3, 2022.

Take for example the Roman bronze protome spout in the form of a dog or spout (lot 121). The history of the piece is provided:
  • Swiss private collection 
  • Royal-Athena Galleries, 
  • New York John W. Kluge, acquired from the above in 1989 (Christie's, New York, The Morven Collection of Ancient Art, December 10th, 2004, no. 590, illus.)
Notice on the image the annotation 'V[ia]/Jer[ome Eisenberg]' confirming the link with the Royal-Athena Galleries. The image is taken from the Becchina archive and records show that it was derived from Mario Bruno. Presumably one of these two sources is to be identified as the 'Swiss private collection'.

In the report in the Telegraph it is noted:
A Sotheby’s spokesman said that they “uphold the highest standards of due diligence”.
How did Sotheby's conduct a rigorous due diligence test on the anonymous Swiss private collection? Had they considered the possibility that Becchina or another such individual was the origin? 

Royal-Athena Galleries should also have raised an alert. Only in November three antiquities from this source were returned to Turkey: e.g. silver Apollo. Or in July this year an Attic krater from the Gallery was returned to Italy. This was among 60 antiquities from Royal-Athena Galleries. Again, had Sotheby's taken this into account as part of their rigorous due diligence process? 

In May 2017 a Paestan lekythos was provided with a nearly identical history to the bronze spout. Did this raise concern? Indeed it is clear that the Kluge collection has been linked to several antiquities that have been returned to Italy. This in itself should have alerted those preparing the catalogue entry for Sotheby's.

Will Sotheby's in London tighten up its processes? Is there a need to raise the standard of the due diligence approach to a more rigorous level?


| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Apulian Dinos Seized from NYC Private Collection

Source: Manhattan DA.

It seems that another piece displayed in the exhibition, Glories of the Past, was seized from a NYC private collection in June 2021 (though the information has only just been made available). The object is an Apulian dinos attributed to the painter of Louvre MNB 1148 (Glories no. 128). The catalogue entry by Dietrich von Bothmer notes that the dinos 'has been broken into many fragments and repaired'. Who restored the piece?

This adds to the 14 other pieces from the exhibition that have been returned to Greece, Italy or Turkey.

I am grateful to Jason Felch for pointing me in the direction of the relevant Search Warrant. 

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, 2 December 2022

The Bubon statue in the Cleveland Museum of Art

Imperial bronze in Cleveland Museum of Art
Source: Open Access

In 1986 the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired a bronze statue (Inv. 1986.5). It had previously resided in the collection of Mr & Mrs Charles Lipson of Boston (Mass.). The Lipsons were also the owners of the bronze statue of Lucius Verus that has been returned to Turkey from the Shelby White collection. Both statues are reported to have the same findspot: 'reported to be from Ibecik (ancient Bubon in Lycia), Turkey' (Fire of Hephaistos no. 50; fig. 2 under no. 54). 

Will the Cleveland Museum of Art be contacting Turkish authorities to arrange the return of this statue? 

A discussion of the issues for this statue can be found on Chasing Aphrodite.


| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

$24 million worth of antiquities reported to have been seized from NYC collector

Source: BusinessTurkeyToday.com

I understand that back in April this year 18 antiquities valued at $24.393 million were seized from a New York private collection. The most valuable was a bronze statue of Lucius Verus valued at $15 million, followed by an Attic red-figured calyx-krater and a bronze bust, each valued at $3 million. Some of these items had been displayed in an exhibition, Glories of the Past, at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two of the seized items have been returned to Turkey, and others to Italy: it is unclear if and when one or more of the items will be returned to Greece.

The Art Newspaper revealed today that the objects formed part of the Shelby White collection (Claire Voon, "Looted antiquities returned to Turkey and Italy were seized from New York home of Met trustee Shelby White", December 2,  2022).

Source: Manhattan DA.


I grateful to Jason Felch for assistance with this post, and to Christos Tsirogiannis who made many of the identifications. 

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Returning Glories of the Past

Source: Manhattan DA.
The return of the marble sarcophagus fragments and the bronze statue of Lucius Verus from Bubon highlight how far the Leon Levy and Shelby White collection has been the source of returns to Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Many of these identifications were made by Christos Tsirogiannis.

Returned items that appeared in Glories of the Past include:
87: Bronze statue of naked youth. [Italy]
97: Fragment of an Attic funerary stele. [Greece]
102: Chalcidian neck-amphora, attributed to the painter of the Cambridge Hydria Cavalcade. [Italy]
104: Attic black-figured neck-amphora of Panathenaic shape, attributed to the painter of Louvre F6. [Italy]
107: Attic black-figured neck-amphora, attributed to the painter of the Medea group. [Italy]
112: Attic black-figured psykter. [Italy]
113: Attic black-figured skyphos. [Italy]
117: Attic red-figured calyx-krater, A: Zeus and Ganymede, B: Herakles and Iolaos, attributed to the Eucharides painter. [Italy]
129: Apulian guttus with ram's head spout. [Italy]
131: Apulian fishplate attributed to the Cuttlefish painter. [Italy]
142: Fragment of Roman fresco. [Italy]
143: Fragment of Roman fresco. [Italy]
169: Four fragments of Roman sarcophagus. [Turkey]
174: Bronze statue of Lucius Verus from Bubon. [Turkey]

Concerns about the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection were discussed in:
Chippindale, C., and D. W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." AJA 104: 463-511. [DOI]

There appear to be other returned items that do not feature in Glories.

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

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? 

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

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. 

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Identifications at Sotheby's in London

Image from the Becchina archive courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified three objects from the Becc...