Skip to main content

Posts

The scale of returns to Italy from North American collections

My analysis of the archaeological objects returned to Italy has appeared in the latest number of the International Journal of Cultural Property. The article includes a catalogue of the returned material. There is reference to the 3,500 fragments derived from Francavilla Marittima and returned to Italy.

Museums considered:

Boston, Museum of Fine ArtsCleveland Museum of ArtDallas Museum of ArtFordham UniversityMalibu, The J. Paul Getty MuseumMinneapolis Institute of ArtNew York, Metropolitan Museum of ArtPrinceton University Art MuseumToledo Museum of ArtUniversity of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville Objects from private collections, galleries and auction houses are also discussed.

'Returning archaeological objects to Italy’, International Journal of Cultural Property 25, 3 (2018), 283–321. [DOI]

Abstract
It has been more than 20 years since the raids on the premises at the Geneva Freeport were linked to Giacomo Medici. The seizure of photographic records led to a major investi…
Recent posts

Thefts from Archaeological Stores and Museums

One observable phenomenon in recent years has been that some recovered material was derived, not from an unexcavated archaeological site, but from archaeological museums and stores. This is explored in my latest column, 'Context Matters', for The Journal of Art Crime 20 (Fall 2018), entitled 'Thefts from museums and archaeological stores'. While many of the pieces come from collections in Italy, others are recorded from Greece, Egypt, and Libya. 

Cleveland Museum of Art: new curator of Greek and Roman Art

Seth Pevnick will be moving from Tampa to the Cleveland Museum of Art where he will be the curator of Greek and Roman Art (Steve Litt, "Cleveland Museum of Art hires Seth Pevnick as ‘profoundly ethical’ curator of ancient Greek and Roman art", cleveland.com 20 December 2018).

One of the acquisitions that will need to be addressed is the "Leutwitz Apollo". The modern history of the monumental bronze does not seem as secure as it has been presented by the museum (see here). It is time for some of the analyses to be made public and open to debate.

The case of the acquisition of the portrait of Drusus Minor is, perhaps, illustrative of the museum's policy towards acquisitions in recent years (see here).

| |

VFMA and the display of the horse in Greek art

The VFMA exhibition catalogue for 'The Horse in Ancient Greek Art' has been reviewed by Carl Shaw in BMCR. The review does not consider the wider issues of the histories of the objects, with previous handlers including Nicolas Koutoulakis, Walter M. Banko in Montreal, Edoardo Almagià, and Fritz Bürki.

These issues have been discussed in some detail in the Journal of Art Crime earlier this year [see previous post].

Becchina and a hydria attributed to the Pan painter

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that a hydria due to be auctioned at Christie's in London on 5 December 2018 (lot 126) also features in the Becchina archive. The estimate for the pot is £20,000-£30,000. 

The auction catalogue provides the following history for the piece:
with Holger Termer, Hamburg. Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1986.  The scene was interpreted by Erika Simon as Theseus and Hekale in a contribution to the Festschrift R. Berlinger ('Theseus und Hekale', in  Perspektiven der Philosophie 13, 1987, pp. 409-416, pl. 1.2). Simon appeared to know the piece from the Hamburg private collection.

The Beazley Archive (BAPD 29055) is a little more cautious: 'Old woman (Hekale) with phiale at kalathos, youth with chlamys, spears and pilos (Theseus ?)'. It also provides the information that the attribution was by Martin Robertson.

The invoice in the Becchina archive is dated to the 26 January 1987, though a proforma of 12 December 1986 is also…

Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

The post-excavation histories of objects are important as we map the that cultural property passes through collections and the markets. This is clear for an Attic black-figured amphora, attributed to Group E, that is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on October 31, 2018 (lot 31). It shows Herakles and the Nemean lion, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

The auction catalogue claims that it surfaced in the hands of John Hewett in London in 1970 (or earlier), then to a private collection in Europe, followed by a series of auctions:
A European private collection; Antiquities  Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 130thence to a private collection, New YorkAntiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1998, lot 102 The amphora appears in the Beazley Archive (BAPD 350425). This provides the history sequence as follows (though in the list of auction catalogues s…

Metal-detecting at Corbridge

The scheduled Roman site of Corbridge in Northumberland has been the target of illegal metal-detecting. Historic England has noted that English Heritage, the organisation that is responsible for part of the excavated site, has had to mount a security operation to protect the site. 

It is known that parts of Hadrian's Wall (just to the north of Corbridge), itself designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been targeted by such illegal activity.

Roman archaeological sites are found across this frontier zone. What actions are being taken to protect the finite archaeological record across the region? What information is being lost through illegal metal-detecting? What are the intellectual implications for Roman frontier studies? Where are the responses from the archaeological community?

This would be described as looting if this was taking place at a classical site in the Mediterranean. Does the language of describing such illegal activity in England need to change?
Thanks to @E…