Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Coins in context



One of the conservators at the British Museum speaks about why it is important to treat coin hoards as part of an archaeological context.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Context Matters: Collating the Past

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 discussion about the appropriate due diligence process that should be conducted prior to the acquisition of archaeological material. 

Gill, D. W. J. 2020. Context matters: collating the past. ARCA. ISBN-13: 978-1734302615.





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Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Peter Sharrer and the Getty

It would be interesting to know the source of the Greek Neolithic figures (eleven in number) and vase fragments that the Getty acquired in 1995. They appear in the published list as "donated jointly by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman and Herbert L. Lucas". But the Getty's online catalogue tells that they were sold by Peter Sharrer Ancient Art of New York. 

Why the differing accounts? Are the listed donors just the people who paid the bills?

Lucas, incidentally, donated fragments for the krater attributed to the Berlin painter that the Getty returned to Italy.

Sharrer also sold a proto-Corinthian recumbent ram and a Corinthian lion rattle to the Getty in 1986, and a Minoan jar in 1990. Sharrer is also known to have purchased from Robin Symes, e.g. the portrait head of Faustina the Younger.

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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Questions about the source of a dealer's fragments

I am working on the sources of Attic figure-decorated pottery fragments at the moment. I was interested to see that two fragments of a cup attributed to Euphronios by J.R. Guy (Euphronios no. 50) that had been on loan to Princeton University Art Museum (L.1990.134a–b) are now in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (2005.026.004A [and B?]). (I presume that the other fragment was acquired as the kalos inscription naming Lea]gr[os is on the second fragment. (Does the date for Leagros kalos need to be adjusted?)

The history of the fragment is provided as follows:
Ex coll. Peter Sharrer, New Jersey, acquired European art market, 1982-1983. Purchased by MCCM from Sotheby's New York, June 7, 2005, lot 26.
Sotheby's note the following:
acquired together on the European art market in 1982/1983 as part of a group of fragments by various painters
What were the other fragments acquired by Sharrer in 1982/83? Where are they now? Who acquired them?

But the more interesting question relates to the identity of the "European art market". Who was involved?

Why the interest in Sharrer? He supplied a fragmentary Roman relief to Princeton University Art Museum in 1985 that was returned to Italy in 2002 after it was realised that it had been found near Tivoli. Moreover, Sharrer was the source of a fragmentary Attic figure-decorated lekythos attributed to the Pan painter that was donated to Princeton in 1998 and again returned to Italy.

Were any of the pot fragments sold by Sharrer to another major North American university museum also derived from the same "European art market"?

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

The anonymous history of a Minoan larnax

Minoan larnax from the Becchina archive (l), and in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (r)
The Minoan larnax in the Michael C. Carlos Museum has been provided with a 'history'.

  • Ex private collection, Switzerland, 1980s. 
  • Ex private collection, Japan, 1990s. 
  • Purchased by MCCM from Robert Haber & Associates, Inc., New York, New York.

As the larnax appears in the Becchina photographic archive, it would be logical to identify Becchina (a dealer) as 'private collection, Switzerland'. There is no history prior to Becchina; in other words, there is no history that predates the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The identity of the 'private collection, Japan' is not provided. But we know that Becchina had links with at least one Japanese dealer. And as the Michael C. Carlos Museum seems to describe dealers and private collections, it could be fair to assume the possibility that the 'private collection, Japan' is also a 'dealer, Japan'.

As for Robert Haber & Associates, there is an instance of them handling what appears to be ex-Becchina material. What was their due diligence process to check the history of the larnax?

A responsible university museum would have resolved an issue that was first raised in 2007. Are the museum's curatorial team unaware of the apparent Becchina link with this piece? How do they explain the movement of the larnax from Crete to Switzerland in the '1980s'? Is there any supporting documentation?

I am grateful to Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis who made the first identification of the larnax from the Becchina archive.


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Wednesday, 18 March 2020

TEFAF Update

Following identifications made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis, two antiquities were seized at TEFAF, Masstricht last week (Theo Toebosch, "Twee oudheden in beslag genomen op kunstbeurs Tefaf", nrc.nl 17 March 2020). 

A Roman head of Apollo had formerly passed through the hands of Gianfranco Becchina and Palladion Antike Kunst in 1976. It is reported that it was displayed in the Merrin Gallery in New York from 1978–81, before passing into the hands of a Beverly Hills collector. It was auctioned in New York in 2008. This head had been displayed by the Chenel Gallery in Paris.

An Egyptian alabaster vase had passed through the hands of Robin Symes. This was displayed by the Merrin Gallery.

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The Reinstallation of the Getty Villa

Elizabeth Marlowe has written a review article on 'The Reinstallation of the Getty Villa: Plenty of Beauty but Only Partial Truth',  AJA 124.2 [online]. Sections include: 'Opportunities missed and stories not told', and 'Why context matters'.

Earlier this month I had listened to one of the Getty curators talking at a Cambridge conference on the "provenance" section of the Getty online catalogue. He was using examples that had a history that went back to the period before the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Marlowe's essay is a reminder of some of the histories that need to be told in more detail. Indeed, some of the stories may mean that the Getty will need to return further objects to Italy.

I was pleased to see my review of the Getty's Masterpieces cited:
Gill, D. W. J. 1998. Review of Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities (Los Angeles 1997). Bryn Mawr Classical Review. [BMCR]

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Coins in context

One of the conservators at the British Museum speaks about why it is important to treat coin hoards as part of an archaeological context. ...