Thursday 20 September 2007

The Art Loss Register: "The Stanford Place Collection of Antiquities"

In April 2006 Christie's (London) auctioned "The Stanford Place Collection of Antiquities". The 71 lots in the sale realised £2,186,880: of this £736,000 was represented by the "Stanford Place Apollo" (lot 29). Each lot (except the books) was accompanied with the statement:
"This lot is accompanied by a certificate from The Art Loss Register".
Does consulting The Art Loss Register mean that the antiquities were known prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

Items known before 1970

Excluding the books (lots 53-57), 20 lots (i.e. 30% of the antiquities) are claimed to have been known prior to 1970. Some come from historic British collections. These include:
1. A Greek bronze "formerly in the collection of Humfry G.G. Payne (1902-1936)" (lot 24).
2. A neo-Attic marble vessel fragment once owned by Sir Charles Walston (1856-1927) (lot 38).
3. A Hellenistic marble draped figure of Artemis "formerly in the collection of the Earls of Hopetoun, Hopetoun House, West Lothian" (lot 41).
4. An Attic black-figured lekythos was known to Sir John Beazley in 1971, and passed into the collection of the Hon. Robert Erskine (lot 19). (I presume Beazley was aware of this before the publication of Paralipomena in 1971 so I have given it the benefit of the doubt.)
Other pieces come from "old" named European collections:
5. An Egyptian Old Kingdom stone jar, "formerly in the collection of Wilhelm Horn (1870-1959), Berlin" (lot 67).
6. A classical Greek marble head first owned by Paul Hartwig (1859-1919) and later part of the Ernst Langlotz (1895-1978) collection (lot 28).
Langlotz is reported to have owned two further pieces:
7. An Attic white-ground fragment (lot 23).
8. A Roman marble head of a boy (lot 51).
Four pieces come from the Swiss-based Erlenmeyer collection:
9. An East Greek marble head of a kore (lot 16).
10. A Western Asiatic stone female head (lot 61).
11-12. Mesopotamian dark grey stone mortars (lots 65, 66)
The remaining eight pieces come from anonymous collections which do not appear to be documented:
13-15. Three Etruscan painted relief fragments (lots 34-36). "Formerly in a Swiss private collection, since the 1960s".
16. A Canosan female figure (lot 37). "Formerly in a Swiss private collection, since the 1960s".
17. "The Stanford Place Apollo" (A Greek bronze head of a youth) (lot 29). "Formerly in a German private collection, since the 1960s"; acquired in 1992; on loan to Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, Basel (1996-2006).
18. An Egyptian Middle Kingdom torso of a temple official, Nefer-Rudj (lot 70). "Previously in a North American private collection formed before 1960"; acquired from Rupert Wace Ltd., London 1999.
19. A Western Asiatic limestone head of an ibex (lot 59). "Formerly in a Canadian private collection, since the 1960s"; subsequently sold at Sotheby's New York, 17 December 1997.
20. A Mesopotamian copper alloy head of a bearded man (lot 63). "Formerly in a private collection, acquired prior to 1970"; subsequently sold at Bonhams London, 26 April 2001.
Items known after 1970

The remaining 46 lots come from a range of sources:

The New York market (1988: lot 44; early 1990s: lots 32, 46; 1992: lots 7, 26; 1994: lot 30; mid 1990s: lot 11; late 1990s: lot 40) and specifically
a. Acanthus Ancient Art, New York: 1988: lot 39; 1989: lot 45 (exhibited in Zurich, 1974); early 1990s: lot 33; 1996: lot 42
b. Fortuna Fine Art, New York: 1990: lots 10, 48; early 1990s: lot 2; 1992: lot 49; 1996: lot 6
c. Robert Haber & Associates, New York, 1997: lot 21
d. Ward & Company Works of Art, New York: mid 1990s: lot 3; 1996: lot 5; 1998: lots 14, 18
The London market (1999: lot 64)
e. Bruce McAlpine, London 1993; formerly in an English private collection, early 1980s: lot 22
f. Jean-Luc Chalmin, London: early 1990s: lot 62; mid 1990s, lot 1; 1997: lot 4
g. Phillips London, 1988: lot 43
h. Robin Symes, London, early 1970s: lot 58
i. Sotheby's, London: 1987: lot 71; 1995: lot 47 ("formerly in a European private collection"), lot 50
The Swiss market
j. Donati Arte Classica, Zurich Art Fair, 1994: lot 52
k. Galerie Nefer, Zurich, mid 1980s: lot 20; 1989: lot 27; 1991: lot 25; 1993: lot 69
l. Galerie Rhéa, Zurich, 1990s: lot 13
m. Jean-David Cahn AG, Basel, mid 1990s: lot 15
n. Switzerland, 1992: lot 12
The European market
o. European art market: early 1990s: lot 8; 1991: lot 9; 1992: lot 31
Anonymous Private Collections
Finally there are three pieces from anonymous private collections:
p. American West Coast collection, acquired in 1979: lot 60
q-r. Swiss private collection, since the early 1970s: lot 17; since the 1970s: lot 68
Unsold Lots

In spite of the reassurances that the pieces came with a certificate from The Art Loss Register some 22 lots - including two books - were unsold (lots 2, 3, 10, 11, 15, 20, 24-27, 32, 34, 51, 52, 54, 55, 60-63, 65, 66). 13 of these unsold lots were first recorded after 1970 (lots 2, 3, 10, 11, 15, 20, 25, 26, 27, 32, 52, 60, 62).

"The Stanford Place Collection"

"The Stanford Place Collection" was presented as continuing the line of Grand Tour collections to be found in "grand London houses or country estates such as Wilton House, Holkham Hall and Lansdowne House". Yet only three Stanford Place pieces appear to have been known in the nineteenth century let alone the eighteenth like the objects (mainly sculptures) which once resided in the cited country and city houses. "The Stanford Place Collection" is a new collection largely formed since the 1970s.

"The Stanford Place Collection of Antiquities" was sold by the Trustees. Linda Sadler ("Ancient Clash: Christie's Says It's Greek, Dealers Say Roman",, May 18, 2006; and conveniently archived at Phoenix Ancient Art) commented:
"Christie's won't name the seller, though dealers and scholars said the pieces belonged to Claude Hankes-Drielsma, adviser to Iraq, critic of the Oil for Food program, British Museum patron and longtime collector."
Sir Claude Hankes, as he is now known, is an advocate of the Art Loss Register. His view is that if the object had been stolen then it should be listed on the Register. Is that why each object was sold with a certificate?

The Art Loss Register

The Art Loss Register has serious limitations when it comes to providing information about newly-surfaced antiquities. Would objects removed at the dead of night from an unknown and unrecorded archaeological site appear on the Art Loss Register database? Surely not.

As one British-based dealer in antiquities recently put it:
"Smuggled antiquities will not of course appear on a Stolen Art Register because they have never been reported as stolen; in most cases the authorities in their country of origin are not even aware that they have been dug up".
There is no suggestion that any of the pieces from the Stanford Place Collection were acquired illegally. Indeed, the catalogue has been careful to document the sources. But when and how did the antiquities enter the market? Does the Art Loss Register certificate provide any sort of reassurance for the buyers?

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