Skip to main content

Glories of Ancient Greece: hype and links?

In June 2001 an exhibition was held at the Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem: Glories of Ancient Greece: Vases and Ancient Jewelry from the Borowski Collection. This fell exactly one year after the June 2000 sale at Christie's New York of Ancient Greek Vases Formerly in the Private Collection of Dr. Elie Borowski.

The objects in the 2000 sale 'were sold about 10 years ago in order to pave the way for the building of the Bible Lands Museum' (G. Max Bernheimer, Vice President, Antiquities Department, Christie's).

Nineteen of the lots at Christie's (over 10% of the total number of lots) reappear in Glories of Ancient Greece whose catalogue was authored by G. Max Bernheimer. In other words, the Bible Lands Museum spent over US$340,000 buying ex-Borowski pots which had been sold to raise money for the building in which they are now displayed.

Two had apparently failed to sell at auction.
  • An Italo-Corinthian black-figured olpe (Gl. 43) had only reached US$2800 (with an estimate of US$5000-8000; lot 19, as 'Corinthian').
  • A Boeotian bird bowl (Gl 52) reached US$3200 (with an estimate of US$6000-8000: lot 24).
The remaining 17 lots were purchased for US$344,627.50. Nine of these failed to reach their lower estimate. One of the biggest losers was the Attic red-figured palmette-eye cup (Gl. 65) which sold for US$35,250; US$14,750 under the estimate of US$50,000-80,000 (lot 72).

Only six of the 17 lots pieces exceeded their upper estimates. The most expensive was the Attic red-figured loutrophoros attributed to the Naples painter (Gl. 72) which sold for US$58,750 (estimate US$20,000-30,000: lot 102).

There was much hype around the sale. Bernheimer was quoted in the Christie's Press Release:
This was a sale for true connoisseurs ... A variety of international buyers, including a number of prestigious museums, bid enthusiastically for pieces that once formed one of the most outstanding private collections in existence. This encyclopedic assemblage of world-class masterpieces was unparalleled in terms of quality and provenance.
The nineteen lots acquired by the Bible Lands had no recorded find-spots: sadly such 'provenances' are not unparalleled.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.