Monday, 1 August 2022

Parthenon Partnership Proposed

Pedimental Sculptures from the Parthenon © David Gill
Jonathan Williams, the Deputy Director of the British Museum, has called for a 'Parthenon Partnership' to encourage discussion about where the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon should be displayed ("British Museum calls for ‘Parthenon partnership’ with Greece over marbles", The Guardian 31 July 2022). Williams was interviewed by Sarah Baxter of The Sunday Times ("Will the Marbles Finally Go Home?"). 

The museum seems to be restating its ownership of the sculptures though opening up opportunities for dialogue.

The issue is simple. Should architectural sculptures created for a specific building in Athens be displayed within line of sight of that structure? Or should they be retained in London?

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Saturday, 23 July 2022

Myson krater returning to Italy

Back in 2014 I commented on an Attic column-krater attributed to Myson that had been identified by Christos Tsirogiannis from the Swingler collection of photographs (see here).  Tsirogiannis has subsequently published the krater and discussed its links with the Royal-Athena Galleries:
Source: Manhattan DA
Tsirogiannis, C. 2020. "The antiquities market we deserve: 'Royal-Athena Galleries' (1942-2020)." Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia 32: 147–75. [Online]
Tsirogiannis has spotted that the same krater appears prominently in the Manhattan DA repatriation ceremony that took place this week. 

The krater itself surfaced in 1980 (Royal-Athena Galleries) and then had passed through the John Kluge collection (BAPD 9032028 [though without complete history]). The presence of its image in Swingler's photographic archive may suggest that it arrived in the US with consignments of pasta. Did Royal-Athena Galleries receive other consignments from this same source? 

Myson krater in Swingler archive
Image source: Christos Tsirogiannis
Is the krater one of the 60 pieces that are being returned from the stock of the now closed Royal-Athena Galleries? Or is it one of the 34 from other investigations? 

We look forward to the Manhattan DA listing the returned pieces.
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Thursday, 21 July 2022

Crustumerium material


I am aware of an impasto amphora in a North American university collection that appears to come from Crustumerium and was handled by Edoardo Almagià. I presume that curators are checking their items for material from these sources.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2022

New Returns to Italy Announced: Some Linked to Edoardo Almagià

Source: Manhattan DA

It was announced today that 142 antiquities will be returning to Italy (Press Release, "D.A. Bragg Returns 142 Antiquities Valued at Nearly $14 Million to the People of Italy", July 20, 2022). The returns consisted of 
"60 were recovered from Royal-Athena Galleries, 48 were recovered from STEINHARDT, and an additional 34 were seized pursuant to other ongoing investigations".
The Steinhardt material included:
Among the items being repatriated today is the Ercolano Fresco, which was seized as part of the investigation into STEINHARDT. Depicting an infant Hercules strangling a snake, the piece dates to 50 C.E. and was looted in 1995 from a villa in Herculaneum, an archaeological site that was buried for millennia under volcanic ash from the fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius. STEINHARDT purchased the Ercolano in 1995 for $650,000 with no verifiable prior provenance. It is currently valued at $1,000,000.
Other items identified include:
Three fresco paintings dating to the 4th century B.C.E. from Paestum, an ancient Greek city located in southern Italy, which were seized pursuant to an ongoing investigation. These paintings depict scenes of mourning women, and were hacked from the wall of a tomb by looters.
An Archaic pithos (storage jar) dating back to 700 B.C.E. that was seized pursuant to an ongoing investigation into Edoardo ALMAGIÀ, an Italian native and former New York resident.
The press release also acknowledges the following museums and a single gallery:
Indiana University’s Eskenazi Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston, Royal-Athena Galleries, and the Toledo Museum of Art
One wonders if the Indiana material is linked to Almagià. 

The Boston material includes 9 pots apparently derived from Crustumerium in Latium that was acquired in 1995:
Probably about 1993/1994, illicitly excavated from Crustumerium, Italy and sold to Edoardo Almagià, New York; 1995, sold by Almagià to Jonathan Kagan and Sallie Fried, New York; 1995, year-end gift of Jonathan Kagan and Sallie Fried to the MFA (Accession Date: January 24, 1996); December 16, 2021, deaccessioned by the MFA for transfer to the New York County District Attorney and return to the Republic of Italy.
So far Boston is the only museum that appears to have provided full information.

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Thursday, 26 May 2022

Developments in Sicily: Gianfranco Becchina


It has been reported that the assets of Gianfranco Becchina have been confiscated by a court in Sicily (Francesco Patanè, "Commercio illegale di reperti archeologici, confiscato il patrimonio al mercante d'arte Becchina", La Repubblica 25 May 2022). The report suggests that the reason was that Becchina had benefitted from the trade in recently surfaced antiquities. There is a specific link to activity at Selinunte in Sicily. 

This has implications for museums that purchased antiquities from Becchina or his gallery Palladion Antike Kunst in Basel such as the Getty where over 800 items can be identified in the online catalogue. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a pair of Apulian gold cylinders that were received as a gift in 1981. Other material from Palladion Antike Kunst was given by Robert Hecht (e.g. cup fragments attributed to the Colmar painter; ) or purchased directly from the gallery (e.g. a black-figured lekythosthe white ground cup attributed to the Villa Giulia painter). Moreover, the confiscation gives fresh impetus for the identification of objects that can be recognised from the Becchina archive. This includes the Minoan larnax and a pithos in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. 

Among recent returns from north America are three Etruscan gorgon feet from a brazier that were seized from the Steinhardt collection. 

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Friday, 1 April 2022

Loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art returned to Libya

Source: Manhattan DA


A marbled head of a veiled woman has been returned to Libya after being placed on long-term loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1998 ("D.A. Bragg Returns Two Antiquities Valued at Over $500,000 to the People of Libya", Manhattan DA March 30, 2022). It appears that the head had been looted from Cyrene. It is being returned with the head of a bearded man that surfaced through the market in Switzerland. 
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Friday, 25 March 2022

A Roman Cavalry Helmet withdrawn from sale

Helmet from Hecht archive
Source: Christos Tsirogiannis

Christie's had been due to auction a Roman cavalry parade helmet on April 12, 2022 (lot 90). It currently forms part of a 'distinguished private collection'. The helmet has a recorded history. It surfaced in the collection of Axel Guttmann in 1996, and was sold in The Art of Warfare: The Axel Guttmann Collection, Part 1, at Christie's, London, 6 November 2002 (lot 89) for £58,750. It then passed into a UK based private collection before being sold at Christie's, London, 2 May 2013 (lot 115) for £205,875.

The Guttmann collection is not without issues

The helmet has now been withdrawn from sale at Christie's. It appears to be the one that features in a series of photographs in the Hecht archive. The identification was made by Christos Tsirogiannis. 

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Parthenon Partnership Proposed

Pedimental Sculptures from the Parthenon © David Gill Jonathan Williams, the Deputy Director of the British Museum, has called for a 'Pa...