|Courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis
Friday 26 January 2024
Doubts have already been raised by eminent archaeologist Christos Doumas that the collection contains modern creations. Have these concerns been addressed by those who have organised this display of ungrounded material?
Earlier this week a delegation from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture accepted the return of three items from the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Two of the pieces, a Minoan larnax and a funerary sculpture, were returned on the basis of their identification (by Christos Tsirogiannis) in the Becchina photographic archive. Yet Tsirogiannis has been able to identify at least one of the Stern figures in the same archive.
At the same time five of the Stern figures are catalogued as part of the Keros haul. (The Hellenic authorities overlooked the Keros haul material at the Michael C. Carlos Museum even though they had taken action when the fragments were auctioned in London.)
It seems that some have not taken steps to learn about the material and intellectual consequences of collecting Cycladic figures.
Monday 22 January 2024
The return of three antiquities acquired in 2002 and 2003 raise a number of issues for the curatorial team at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. The museum appears to overlook a number of 'facts' in the way that it has written about the return.
First, a Greek journalist, Nikolas Zirganos, raised the issue of three pieces back in 2007: two of the pieces are included in the return.
Second, there was a suggestion that the Greek authorities had raised concerns about the three pieces at the time.
Third, the identifications had been made by Christos Tsirogiannis.
Fourth, discussion of these issues had been raised on social media and in an academic paper by 2009.
Yet, reading the Emory press statement you would never realise that concerns had been raised over such a long period of time. You could even have been forgiven for thinking that the road to repatriation had been researched by one of their own. Why did it take the museum so long to enter negotiations with the Greek authorities?
The link to the page listing the three objects does not give a complete picture of the owners / handlers of the three pieces. Indeed, there is no mention of the association of one of the items with Japan.
It would have been helpful if the museum had given the full (and correct) history of each of the pieces. And the suggestion that two of the pieces are associated with a particular dealer pointed to problems with the collecting history. Yet the third piece mentioned by Zirganos was linked to this same dealer: why has this been excluded from the agreement? Is it assumed that the full history had been disclosed?
How much of the supplied information is trustworthy? What is the basis of this knowledge? Is there supporting evidence?
What other pieces in the collection need to be investigated with the same level of rigour?
Some things take time. Back in 2007 Nikolas Zirganos wrote a story about three antiquities in the Michael C. Carlos Museum [see here]. The identifications had been made by Christos Tsirogiannis.
Over the years the museum has released further snippets of information: e.g. the revised history for the larnax.
It was announced today that as part of a cultural agreement between Emory University and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, three items would be returning to Greece:
a. Minoan larnax (inv. 2002.034.001). "The Carlos purchased the larnax from Robert Haber, New York in 2002. At the time of purchase, the museum believed the larnax to have been in the collection of Nicholas Koutoulakis (1910-1996) since the late 1960s."b. Statue from funerary naiskos (inv. 2003.005.001). "The Carlos purchased the figure in 2003 from Michael Ward, New York. No provenance information was given by the dealer. "c. Statue of a muse (formerly inv. 2002.031.001A/B). "Carlos purchased the sculpture in 2002 from New York-based dealer Robert Hecht (1919-2012), who stated he and partner George Zakos (1911-1983) had owned it since 1974."
It is puzzling that the pithos was not included in the return even though it appears in the Becchina archive (see here). It was said to have resided in the Goumaz collection and was sold to the Carlos by Phoenix Ancient Art. The pithos featured in the original Zirganos article.
Nor is there mention of the fragmentary Cycladic figures from the Keros haul. The Greek Government sought to stop their sale when they passed through an auction in London in 1990 for the benefit of Save the Elephants.
For more on the agreement: press release.
Friday 8 December 2023
Among the returning antiquities from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a silver pyxis lid. My colleague Christos Tsirogiannis has confirmed that an image is in the Becchina archive with the annotation indicating a link with Robert Hecht. Another colleague has confirmed that the the lid was a gift of Jonathan Rosen, an associate of Hecht in Atlantis Antiquities.
VMFA has yet to release a list of the returns that contains the inventory numbers as well as the previous histories (so-called 'provenance'). The museum also appears to have scrubbed the digital record of these accessions unlike some other institutions that have recorded their deaccessions.
Thursday 7 December 2023
|Gnathian Askos formerly in Virginia MFA 80.72
One of the announced returns from the VMFA is a Gnathian askos attributed to the Rose painter (inv. 80.72). This was identified from a photograph in the Medici Dossier by Christos Tsirogiannis ten years ago:
Tsirogiannis, C. 2013. "Nekyia. From Apulia to Virginia: An Apulian Gnathia askos at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts." Journal of Art Crime 10: 81-86.
The museum purchased the askos from Fritz Bürki. One wonders what other pieces in the collection were derived from this source.
|Apulian lekythos. Formerly Virginia MFA 80.162
It has been announced that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond will be returning 44 antiquities to their countries of origin, namely Egypt, Italy and Türkiye (see press release). The press release gives limited information and omits inventory numbers. One of the pieces is a bronze Etruscan warrior that was stolen from the Museo Civico Archeologico in Bologna in 1963 (apparently inv. 2014.217).
Other pieces that can be identified included an Attic marble funerary stele apparently handled by Gianfranco Becchina (inv. 79.148), and a pair of Apulian lekythoi attributed to the Underworld painter that were acquired from Fritz Bürki (inv. 80.162, 81.55; the one acquired in 1980 was a gift of the Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on the Occasion of its 25th Anniversary) [see earlier post]. A group of funerary terracottas from South Italy, and acquired in 1985, forms a large batch within the return.
Another piece is the marble statue of a boy (inv. 89.24) that was identified ten years ago by Christos Tsirogiannis:
Tsirogiannis, C. 2013. "A marble statue of a boy at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts." Journal of Art Crime 9: 55-60.
The statue was purchased from Galerie Nefer (Freida Tchacos) though it can be traced back to Becchina.
We look forward the VMFA releasing more details about the returns.
Tuesday 5 December 2023
Among the antiquities being returned to Türkiye today are several bronzes associated with the Sebasteion at Bubon ("D.A. Bragg Announces Return of 41 Antiquities To The People of Türkiye", December 5, 2023; see here). It is reported to have been handled by Robert Hecht. Among the other pieces are two bronze heads of Caracalla, one from Fordham University, and the other that had been seized from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two pieces have been returned from Boston's MFA: the head of ruler, and the right leg (perhaps linked to a statue of Commodus). Both Boston pieces are linked to Jerome Eisenberg.
Details of the other items being returned to Türkiye (but unassociated with Bubon) are not provided in any detail except for a silver statue of Cybele that was seized from Michael Ward (see observations from ARCA).
|Reconstruction of part of the Sebasteion at Bubon. Source: David Gill
Courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis There appears to be excitement about the display of 161 Cycladicising objects at New York's Metropolit...
Source: Sotheby's A marble head of Alexander the Great has been seized in New York (reported in " Judge Orders Return of Ancien...
Cup seized from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art The New York Times has run a discussion of one of the Attic red-figured cups seize...
The Fire of Hephaistos exhibition included "seven bronzes ... that have been linked to the Bubon cache of imperial statues" (p. 1...