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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…
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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…

Cadbury's, Treasure and Damage to the Archaeological Record

LM has consistently commented on the damage to the archaeological record sustained by unscientific digging. In the UK, and specifically in England and Wales, LM has discussed the damage sustained by (some) metal-detecting. I was asked by the editors of the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology to write a forum piece on the issue. Subsequent published research has considered the cases of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet, and the Lenborough Hoard. I have been present at a meeting of the Cultural Property APPG and heard members from a major national museum refuting comments about the looting of archaeological sites in East Anglia. Contemporary concerns about looting have been raised in a review article for Antiquity. 

In this permissive culture there is little surprise that Cadbury's thought that it was acceptable to encourage individuals to go and dig up an archaeological site in order to find 'treasure'. The reaction from the archaeological community was resounding. Peo…

"Do whatever you can to avoid admitting the unattractive truth"

Peter Watson has written a short piece in The Times (7 March 2019) about the return of antiquities to Italy by Christie's. He reminds readers about how the story was revealed in The Times back in 2014, and that the identifications had, in part, been due to the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. Watson writes:
The man who spotted the looted objects in the 2014 sales was Christos Tsirogiannis, a Greek-born forensic archaeologist. Though Christie's was aware of this tainted history, it still took it five years to persuade the consignors of these objects that they were looted. So it's a little rich for Christie's to talk of the "voluntary" return of these artefacts. It was embarrassed into doing so. A spokeswoman for Christie's conceded last week that Dr Tsirogiannis was right about the objects he spotted. She added that illicit antiquities were a minute amount of a predominantly "honourable" market. See my comments on the Apulian hydria, the gla…