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Operazione Demetra

Earlier this month the Italian authorities issued a statement about Operazione Demetra with its focus on Sicily [press release, 4 July 2018; Carabinieri]. One of the key elements is that arrest warrants were served on individuals in London, Barcelona and Ehningen. They are listed as:
VERES William Thomas 64 anni, residente a Londra;  PALMA Andrea 36 anni, originario di Campobasso, residente a Barcellona; MONDELLO Rocco, 61 anni, originario di Gela, residente a Ehningen. Veres appears to be the same individual who handled the Steinhardt gold phiale when it passed through Switzerland ('Caveat emptor', The Economist 16 September 1999). He also appears to have sold ancient coins, largely minted in Turkey, to the British Museum. (A British individual with the initials W.T.V. was arrested in an antiquities related incident near Seville in August 2017.)

It appears that two auction houses in Munich are under investigation (John Phillips and Justin Huggler, 'Italian police smash £30…
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Potential Kress-funded project on cultural property

Liz Marlowe is looking for professors who teach courses on issues of cultural property/heritage/looting/archaeological ethics/art market, etc., who are based at a U.S. college or university with a campus museum.

She is looking for participants in what she hopes will be a large, important, Kress-funded project.

If you are interested and/or would like more details, please contact her at emarlowe@colgate.edu.



Fano Athlete Decision: Getty Responds

The J. Paul Getty Museum has issued a statement in response to the Italian court ruling over the Fano Athlete ("Statement from Ron Hartwig, spokesperson for the J. Paul Getty Trust, regarding the ruling in Pesaro on the Victorious Youth",  June 8, 2018). 

We have just received the judge’s decision and are reviewing it. We are disappointed in the ruling, but we will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The facts in this case do not warrant restitution of the object to Italy. The statue was found in international waters in 1964, and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977, years after Italian courts concluded there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy. Moreover, the statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object. Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the Bronze has only a fleeting and incidental co…

UNESCO World Heritage Site damaged

A UNESCO World Heritage site in Northumberland has been damaged by metal-detectorists ("'Nighthawk' metal detectorists damage Hadrian's Wall", BBC News 20 June 2018).

Some 50 holes have been noted in the vicinity of Brunton Turret (T26b), on Hadrian's Wall.

Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime and policing advice for Historic England, was quoted:
"We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context. "Historic England will continue to work with Northumbria Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice."

The Symes Athlete

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a Roman marble athlete from the Schinoussa photographic archive. The sculpture, "A Roman Marble Figure of an Athlete, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D.", is acknowledged as "perhaps acquired from Robin Symes". The photographic evidence can now confirm this part in the statue's history. 

The sculpture is due to be auctioned at Sotheby's, London on 3 July 2018 (lot 23). The estimate is £30,000–£50,000. The stated history is as follows:

John Hewett (1919-1994), London, perhaps acquired from Robin Symes James Freeman, Kyoto, probably acquired from the above in the early 1970s acquired from the above by Willard and Elizabeth Clark on December 21st, 1980 Tsirogiannis has observed that the statue in the Schinoussa archive is "uncleaned and unrestored, since soil encrustations are obvious on its surface".  Note also the damage to the right thigh.

Did Symes sell the statue to Hewett? Or did Hewett sell it to Symes? Or did Sy…

Horse Trading and Virginia

The latest number of the Journal of Art Crime (19, Spring 2018) has appeared. It contains my 'Context Matters' column, ‘Horse trading: museum exhibitions and cultural property’, The Journal of Art Crime 19 (Spring 2018), 63-70. 

Back in February I write about some of the sources behind the objects in the collection. There is a consideration of material associated with Walter M. Banko of Montreal. More important is the identification of material derived from Fritz Burki that now resides in Virginia.

The paper also considers Apulian pots attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter (some of which have been sold for the benefit of Columbia University). 

I had written to the curatorial staff in Virginia to clarify some of the detail in the paper but, as I stated in the paper, I have yet to receive a reply.

The Ortiz Bronze Sphinx

In 2000 New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a bronze foot in the form of a sphinx as a "gift from the family of Howard J. Barnet, in his memory, 2000" (inv. 2000.600).

The modern history of the piece is given as follows:
Collection of George Ortiz, Geneva, Switzerland; with Robin Symes, London, England; by 1989 and until 2000, collection of Howard J. and Saretta Barnet, New York; acquired in 2000, gift of the family of Howard J. Barnet. It is not clear when the sphinx was acquired by George Ortiz. Was it before or after 1970? And why did Ortiz dispose of part of his "collection" to Robin Symes? How long was the sphinx held by Symes?

The Barnets also acquired a Geometric bronze horse from Symes. What other items were purchased from Symes? The Barnets are also associated with a cup fragment derived from Palladion Antike Kunst.

What is the history of the sphinx prior to Symes? When and where did it surface?