Skip to main content

Shelby White, the Returns to Italy, and the Geneva Polaroids

The complete list of the 10 antiquities from the Shelby White collection that are being returned to Italy has yet to be released.

Elisabetta Povoledo in the New York Times has noted three (and I expand on them here):

a. An Attic red-figured calyx-krater. Herakles slaying Kyknos. Euphronios. Discussed in Watson and Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy 128-32. Illustrated in J. Boardman, The History of Greek Vases (London: Thames & Hudson, 2001), fig. 120. According to Watson and Todeschini, "Medici ... Hecht ... Summa Gallery"; then Hunt collection; Sotheby's (New York) June 19, 1990 (US $ 1.76 million); Robin Symes (on behalf of Leon Levy and Shelby White). Polaroids show in "dirty and in separate fragments".

b. An Attic red-figured calyx-krater. A: Zeus and Ganymede. B: Herakles and Iolaos. Attributed to the Eucharides painter. Glories of the Past no. 117. The underside of the foot appears to carry an Etruscan graffito. Known from the Geneva Polaroids ("appears in fragments").

c. A fragment of Roman fresco. Glories of the Past no. 142. This appears to come from the same room as a fragment once in the Fleischman collection, and now returned to Italy from the Getty. (The other fragment is now on exhibition in Rome.)

Watson and Todeschini have listed "Antiquities in the Levy-White Collection Shown in the Polaroids seized in Corridor 17 in Geneva". It is not known if any of these are included in the agreement.

i. Bronze statue of naked youth. Glories of the Past no. 87. "This appears in three Polaroid photos and in about ten photographs in which the small bronze clearly appears still dirty with earth". Said to have been acquired from Robin Symes.

ii. Chalcidian neck-amphora. Attributed to the painter of the Cambridge Hydria Cavalcade. Glories of the Past no. 102. "Appears among many seized photographs, where it is shown before proper restoration, with many gaps between the fragments."

iii. Attic black-figured neck-amphora of Panathenaic shape. Attributed to the painter of Louvre F 6. Glories of the Past no. 104. Surfaced in Sotheby's (London) July 17, 1985, lot 313. "In the Polaroids, the amphora is broken and dirty with earth. In the other photographs ... it is shown as restored."

iv. Attic black-figured neck-amphora. Attributed to the Bucci painter (by J. Robert Guy). Glories of the Past no. 106. Surfaced in Sotheby's (London) December 9, 1985, lot 132.

v. Attic black-figured neck-amphora. Attributed to a painter of the Medea group. Glories of the Past no. 107. "In four seized Polaroid photographs."

vi. Attic black-figured psykter. "Departure of a troop of cavalry". Glories of the Past no. 112. "The object in the seized photographs is completely fragmented and pictured on a kitchen tablecloth."

vii. Two Caeretan hydriae. One showing a panther and lioness; the other showing Odysseus and Polyphemos' cave. "Both these vases were shown in the seized photographs, where they are both broken and in fragments, with sizable gaps."

Lee Rosenbaum ("Shelby White and the "Why Me?" Antiquities Defense", Culturegrrl) has also commented on the story (though the piece she mentions that is used to illustrate the ANSA news story is in fact one of the pieces from Princeton). The posting concludes with the as yet unissued press statement providing statements from Rutelli and White:
Mr. Rutelli went on to say, "Although Italy had no legal claims against Ms. White or her late husband, Leon Levy, she has shown great sensitivity in resolving this matter by concluding based on available evidence that these pieces should go back to the Republic of Italy. We look forward, as she has requested, to exhibiting these objects in museums [in] Italy."

Ms. White said, "From the beginning, Leon and I collected with the intention of preserving the past, so that people around the world could learn more about their history. That's why we have supported many facets of archaeology -- excavations, publications, exhibitions, conservation, and education, and that is why we established the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. Our collection was purchased at public auction and from dealers we believed to be reputable. In the case of the returned objects I believe I have taken the appropriate action.
The mention of the Institute is key and probably explains why White has decided to offer up the pieces on a voluntary basis at this point.

The Chippindale and Gill 2000 article, "Material Consequences of Contemporary Classical Collecting", in the American Journal of Archaeology (with supporting tables) is available on-line and from JSTOR.

Comments

David Gill said…
See now Tom Leonard, "New York collector to return 'looted' antiques", Daily Telegraph, January 18, 2008.

Popular posts from this blog

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

Symes and a Roman medical set

Pierre Bergé & Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". The catalogue entry helpfully informs us that the set probably came from a burial ("Cette trousse de chirurgien a probablement été découverte dans une sépulture ...").

The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes.

Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.

What due diligence was conducted on the medical set prior to offering it for sale? Did Symes sell the set to Hishiguro? How did Symes obtain the set? Who sold it to him?

I understand that the appropriate authorities in France are being informed about the …

The Minoan Larnax and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

I was recently asked to comment on the acquisition of recently surfaced antiquities in Greece as part of an interview. One of the examples I gave was the Minoan larnax that was acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Although this piece has been discussed in the Greek press, the museum has not yet responded to the apparent identification in the Becchina archive.

Is the time now right for the Michael C. Carlos Museum or the wider authorities at Emory University to negotiate the return of this impressive piece so that it can be placed on display in a museum in Greece?