Wednesday 30 April 2008

Iraq: Returning Antiquities

Dr Bahaa Mayar, advisor to the Iraq Minister of Tourism & Antiquities, has been discussing antiquities from Iraq with Mark Lawson on BBC Radio 4's Front Row. The programme abstract said that he would talk about:
the situation in the country regarding cultural heritage and explains why he thinks more should be done by the international community to safeguard treasures which have worldwide importance.
Mayar, talking in the wake of the recent return of some 700 objects from Syria, called for a ban on the trade in Iraq antiquities arguing that this would "strip" the commercial value of any items on the market. He then explained about the problems (and expense) of taking action in the courts to prove that antiquities had been stolen from Iraq. He noted that some unsuccessful legal challenges had been used by some to legalise their tentative hold on pieces. He explained that a unified legal procedure across Europe would help to control the trade.

He then talked about the problems of trying to post guards at all archaeological sites and suggested that Remote Sensing could play its part in reducing looting.

Lawson asked the provocative question about the possible return of Mesopotamian antiquities from the British Museum. Mayar was clearly thrown by the question but then talked about the March 2008 UNESCO conference in Athens and the general international support for the return of cultural property. But, yes, in the long term, Iraq would like to see the return of archaeological material from countries such as Britain.

Is the situation this simple? I feel that Philippe de Montebello has something important to say about the spread of significant antiquities between different collections and countries. It sounds as if the concept of the "Universal Museum" is under attack once again.

The programme is available for seven days from the BBC website.

© David Gill

Stewardship vs. Ownership?

Looking at my bookshelves I see Who Owns Objects? and Who Owns the Past?; soon they will be joined by Who Owns Antiquity?

I have had cause to comment on essays from or comments in the first two:
I have also remarked on James Cuno's forthcoming book (and also here).

SAFECORNER has now noted the proliferation of books and articles asking the "Who Owns ...?" question ("To own or not to own: Is that the question?").

And it struck me that while archaeologists and politicians have been talking about the stewardship of archaeological sites and cultural property, dealers and museum directors have been addressing a totally different question.

Tuesday 29 April 2008

The Acquisition and Exhibition of Classical Antiquities

The proceedings of a symposium held at the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, February 24, 2007 have appeared.

Robin F. Rhodes, Associate Professor of Art History at Notre Dame, has a concluding chapter in which he contrasts the range of positions:
at one end of the spectrum the American director of one of the world's great encyclopedic museums, at the other an Italian field archaeologist charged, among other things, with the responsibility of protecting provincial archaeological sites in Sicily from looting.
Rhodes argues for "the increasingly important voice of university museum directors, whose constituency and mission inevitably place them in a position of compromise between the encyclopedic museum and the field archaeologist". But did he write too soon given the returns from the Princeton University Art Museum?

Rhodes, R. F. Editor. 2007. The acquisition and exhibition of classical antiquities: professional, legal, and ethical perspectives. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. [WorldCat] [Press Website]

Malcolm Bell III, Nancy Bookidis, Douglas E. Bradley, James Cuno, Dennis P. Doordan, Patty Gerstenblith, Charles R. Loving, Michael Lykoudis, Joanne M. Mack, Mary Ellen O’Connell, Robin F. Rhodes, Marcia Rickard, Kimerly Rorschach, C. Brian Rose, Charles Rosenberg, Stefano Vassallo, Charles K. Williams II.

Michael Conforti and the Licit Market in Antiquities

Michael Conforti, the president elect of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and Director of the Clark in Williamstown. Ma, has been talking about his views on the "licit trade" in antiquities ("More Talk With: Michael Conforti", Time, March 28, 2008). In the wake of some many returns of antiquities from museums that are members of the AAMD it is interesting to read these comments:
There also needs to be established a "licit" market in works of art, including antiquities, in those countries that currently ban it. That's clearly what's encouraging so much illicit excavation. The source countries have a responsibility to establish some way that they can endorse a licit market. And that's a process that we would like to be part of at the Association of Art Museum Directors. We see traditional acquisitions as part of the future of museums as well.
These comments of course are recycled from John Merryman, James Cuno and Michael Brand (among others).

What I find rather frustrating is that Richard Lacayo never asks the difficult questions in these interviews.

Why have members of the AAMD been acquiring recently surfaced antiquities? Is the Merryman model for a licit trade flawed? Are member museums of the AAMD being transparent over their long-term loans?

Monday 28 April 2008

Coins in Context

Ancient coins form an integral part of the archaeological record. Nathan Elkins has started a new weblog, 'Numismatics and Archaeology'. He has made several postings on SAFECORNER (e.g. "Archaeologists don’t care about ancient coins?") and is sure to make some key observations and comments on the way that ancient coins surface on the market.

Saturday 26 April 2008

"Due diligence and good faith inquiries are no longer sufficient"

An extract of James Cuno's new book, Who Owns Antiquity? [Princeton UP, 2008] [WorldCat]) has appeared in the Wall Street Journal (April 26, 2008).

I am waiting to read the whole volume but I would like to comment on a few of points.

Language is important. Christopher Chippindale and I have long argued that the word "provenance" (and with it "unprovenanced") is confusing. We have tended to use the terms "history" and "archaeology". The first maps the collecting history and documentation (e.g. "from the Thomas Brand collection" or "given by Giacomo Medici"). The second provides information on where it left the ground (e.g. "excavated from tomb 42 at Abydos" or "said to be from Cerveteri"). Cuno comments:
Archaeologists argue that unprovenanced antiquities are almost always looted from archaeological sites or from what would become archaeological sites. But strictly speaking, since provenance is a matter of ownership and not archaeological status, and as some countries allow for the ownership of antiquities but not their export, it is possible to illegally export a legally owned, unprovenanced antiquity.
He generalises. But what we have shown is that antiquities with histories only after 1970—and 1983 is a distraction—have been included in the returns to Italy: this is particularly true for our comments on the Fleischman collection, and the Shelby White / Leon Levy collection.

Cuno again generalises when he talks about the debate looking at "the legal aspect of their ownership". This would ignore the material and intellectual consequences of looting (and subsequent collecting). But no doubt he will address this in the full volume.

He poses the question:
Is there convincing evidence that the unprovenanced antiquity was removed from its country of origin in violation of that country's laws?
He cites the example of a Roman object that could have been found anywhere across the empire. Need it have been found in Italy? But a more interesting example for him to have discussed would have been the quantities of Apulian pots that are being given back to Italy. (Or for Greece, how about Cycladic figures?)

Cuno is clearly critical of the way that the media has been used to reclaim antiquities for Italy. He does not comment in this extract on the use of Polaroids and documentation in the Italian public courts of law. If an image used in a trial is identified in a public collection, have the media a right to comment? And should a museum (or private collector) elaborate on the "history" of the piece in question? The reporting has been "sensational" because the revelations have been jaw-droppingly shocking.

Cuno now accepts "due diligence and good faith inquiries are no longer sufficient". He is right to recommend that "U.S. art museums have to be much more careful"—and Francesco Rutelli's successful reclamation programme has brought this painfully home.

Cuno grumbles that the recently surfaced antiquities—he uses the term "undocumented"—are going to public collections in other parts of the world.
Keeping them from U.S. art museums is not a solution, only a diversion.
The Italian authorities have said that they intend to pursue further antiquities in Denmark and Japan.

The issue to address is this: how can we work together to reduce the damage to our shared cultural heritage?

Friday 25 April 2008

Cosmopolitanism: "the past does in some sense belong to all of us"

World culture is part of our cosmopolitan heritage. I would agree with James Ede:
the past does in some sense belong to all of us.
There is common ground between dealers, museum curators, archaeologists and policy makers.

And the displays in great national and university museums have helped to develop a strong admiration for, say, the material culture (and art) of Greece.

Yet there has been a continuing problem with looting. The recent return of some 100 antiquities to Italy from public and private collections (as well as one dealer) remind us of the scale of the problem. And these objects represent perhaps as little as 1% of the objects captured on film by one dealer. Some of the objects were found together: the fragments of wall-painting, the 'Morgantina' silver. But all of the returning objects represent now lost archaeological contexts.

And this destruction is massive. If Elia is correct, some 94.5% of Apulian figure-decorated pots have been deprived of their archaeological contexts ("unearthed without the benefit of systematic archaeological investigation"). And Apulian pottery appears among the returns.

So is it fair of Ede to ridicule what he perceives as Italy's "siege mentality"? Is he justified in saying that legislation to restrict the export of antiquities "has nothing to do with protecting contextual information"?

Ede gave his paper at an Oxford seminar in the Michaelmas term of 2004 just as Italy stepped up its campaign to return antiquities: the returns from New York, Boston, Princeton, Shelby White, and (to a large extent) Malibu have taken place since then.

Returns do not restore "contextual information". But museums and private collectors will hopefully think long and hard before buying an undocumented antiquity however stunning it is.

And if those markets are not buying, does it lessen—I do not use the word eliminate—the incentive for people to go and dig up ancient cemeteries?

And that is something we can all applaud as "the past does in some sense belong to all of us".

Ede, J. 2006. "Who owns objects? A view from the antiquities trade." In Who owns objects? The ethics and politics of collecting cultural artefacts, edited by E. Robson, L. Treadwell, and L. Gosden, pp. 77-81. Oxford: Oxbow. [WorldCat] [Review]
Elia, R. J. 2001. "Analysis of the looting, selling, and collecting of Apulian red-figure vases: a quantitative approach." In Trade in illicit antiquities: the destruction of the world's archaeological heritage, edited by N. Brodie, J. Doole, and C. Renfrew, pp. 145-53. Cambridge: McDonald Institute. [WorldCat]

Thursday 24 April 2008

Vergina: Was Philip II's Tomb Looted in Antiquity?

The stunning finds from Tomb II at Vergina in Macedonia have frequently been taken to be associated with Philip II of Macedon. Eugene N. Borza and Olga Palagia have now talked about why they think the accepted interpretation is incorrect (Sara Goudarzi, "Alexander the Great's "Crown," Shield Discovered?", National Geographic News, April 23, 2008).

Borza comments:
Tomb II is a generation later than Philip II's death.
I agree with this interpretation as the weight inscriptions on the silver from Tomb II cannot, in my view, be earlier than the reign of Alexander the Great (if they were applied in Macedonia). My research (which is due to be published this summer) seems to be cited (without acknowledgement):
a number of silver vessels discovered in Tomb II and Tomb III are inscribed with their ancient weights, which use a measurement system introduced by Alexander the Great a generation after Philip II's death.
So where was Philip II buried? My hunch is that Tomb I is a likely candidate—and that it was looted in 274 BCE.

Who do I think was buried in Tomb II? You will have to wait and see ...

The plain at Vergina from the Royal Palace © David Gill

Greece: More Returns Expected?

Details about the return of a marble lekythos to Greece are beginning to emerge (see Press Release from the Hellenic Ministry of Culture [in Greek]). The piece, almost certainly looted from a late classical cemetery in Attica, now appears to have been identified from photographs seized in some police operation against looters (though it is unclear if these were Polaroids seized in operations in Switzerland and handed over to the Greek authorities in 2005).

Michalis Liapis, the Minister for Culture, has stepped up the campaign against looted antiquities in Greece. He has also indicated that other objects have been identified from photographs and that more returns can be expected in the near future.

Are these pieces on the market or have they already passed into public and private collections? Are we about to see returns on the scale of those from North America to Italy? (See the material exhibited in Nostoi.)

Greece's strategy seems to be threefold:
It will be interesting to see which further pieces will be returning to Greece.

From the Hellenic Ministry of Culture press release

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Iraq: Antiquities Returned from Syria

News is breaking that Syria has handed over some 700 antiquities to Iraq ("Syria returns stolen antiquities to Iraq", AFP, April 23, 2008). The report continues:
Syria on Wednesday returned to Iraq around 700 pieces of antiquities, including gold coins and jewellery, which were stolen in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of its neighbour.

Culture Minister Riad Naassan-Agha handed over the artefacts to the minister of state for tourism and archaeology, Mohammed Abbas al-Oraibi, at a ceremony at Damascus national museum.

"These objects stolen in Iraq were seized by Syrian customs officials," Naassan-Agha said, according to the official SANA news agency, adding that other "very precious" artefacts will be returned soon.
Syrian Culture Minister, Riyadh Na’ssan Agha, right, at the National Syrian Museum in Damascus, hands back to Iraq's state minister for tourism and antiquities affairs, Mohammad Abbas al-Oraibi, one of some 700 Iraqi antiquities which have been in the care of Syrian authorities. [Source]

Advertising Ancient Art

I was browsing through the Spring/Summer number of the British Museum Magazine and spotted a half-page advertisement for Rupert Wace Ancient Art (RWAA) complete with a headless Hellenistic marble Aphrodite.

There is a short statement about the appearance of such advertisements in the Magazine:
It is the policy of the British Museum Friends to accept antiquities advertisements only where we receive assurance from the advertiser that the illustrated object is documented to have formed part of a legitimate collection prior to 1970.
The Aphrodite is to feature in the RWAA Gallery's exhibition, "In Our Own Image: Gods and Mortals in Ancient Art" (4 June - 11 July 2008); an alternative title, "In Our Own Image: Gods and Mortals in Antiquity" is also used for the Press Release issued by Sue Bond, Press Relations Consultant. Further details about the statue (as well as an image) can be found in the press release:
Perhaps the centrepiece of the exhibition is the marble figure of Aphrodite. The goddess of love is shown turning towards us, shielding her nakedness as if surprised by our presence. The type, known as the Aphrodite of Knidos, is, with the Laocoon, one of the most famous sculptures of the ancient world. Copied throughout antiquity, it is also a corner-stone in the history of classical art. The original was so famous that Pliny describes it as a tourist attraction. Although there were numerous representations of nude men, soldiers, athletes and gods from the Archaic period onwards, this was the first Greek female nude. She pretends to be demure and tries, very ineffectively, to cover her modesty but this is an act in order to captivate the male observer. This example comes from a private UK collection, acquired between 1968 and 1978.
Who is behind this anonymous—and "legitimate"—"private UK collection"?

I ask because Wace has in the past used "private collection" as a euphemism for a Paris-based syndicate of auctioneers. (For the background on that case: Brian Handwerk, "Egypt's Antiquities Chief Combines Passion, Clout to Protect Artifacts", National Geographic News, October 24, 2006; and see key statement from Zahi Hawass.) Indeed, in an unrelated (but relevant) case, the holdings of Robin Symes have been presented by one scholar as part of a UK "private collection".

And if the Aphrodite could have been acquired by the "private UK collection" between 1970 and 1978—as the press release indeed implies—what sort of assurances about its documented history were given to the officers of the British Museum Friends? Or is it certain that the Aphrodite was acquired in either 1968 or 1969, and somebody forgot to update the press release (in the way that they forgot to change the exhibition title)?

Can we assume that somebody from the Magazine sought an assurance? Or did the staff of the Magazine hope that nobody would notice?

Tuesday 22 April 2008

From Gortyn to Switzerland ... and Back Again

Yesterday's news about the return of a marble lekythos to Greece from a Swiss-based dealer of antiquities made me go back through my notes. I see that in June 2007 a statue of Apollo was returned to Greece from Switzerland ("Greece reclaims stolen Apollo statue", AFP, June 14, 2007; see also "Greece hails return of stolen ancient statue", Reuters, June 14, 2007). The Apollo had been excavated by Federico Halbherr at Gortyn on Crete, and stolen from the site in 1991.

AFP commented:
Greece on Thursday presented a Hellenistic-era torso of the ancient Greek god Apollo discovered in Switzerland more than 15 years after it was stolen from an excavation site on Crete.

The headless torso was in the possession of art dealer David Cahn in Basel, and the Greek authorities intervened just before it was delivered to a private buyer, Culture Minister George Voulgarakis told a news conference.


The 1st-century BCE statue of Apollo ... was stolen from the archaeological site of Gortyn in 1991 along with nine Roman-era items including vessel fragments and coins.

In March, it was sold by a British art dealer to a German collector and imported into Switzerland for delivery by Cahn, who agreed to unconditionally hand it over to Greece, the ministry said.
Who was the British "art dealer"? What about the "German collector"?

And where are the other pieces that were stolen in 1991?

Monday 21 April 2008

"The Acquisition of Undocumented Antiquities": A Diversion From Real Arguments?

I am looking forward to reading James Cuno's new book, Who Owns Antiquity? [Princeton UP, 2008] [WorldCat]). He has issued a short essay: "Who Owns the Past? Antiquities from great cultures belong to humanity, not nation states that emerged centuries later", YaleGlobal, 21 April 2008.

Cuno seems to suggest that nationalism is a major threat and tries to explain the present debate in these terms:
Most nation states have cultural property laws that restrict the international movement in archaeological artifacts found within their borders. But some antiquities are undocumented, lacking evidence of archaeological circumstances or removal. In the current debate over the acquisition of undocumented antiquities, the world’s archaeological community has allied with nationalistic programs of nation states.
While it may be true that some archaeologists—but surely not "the archaeological community"—promote "nationalist retentionist cultural property laws", others may raise their concerns about looted antiquities because there is a genuine concern for the material and intellectual consequences for their subject.

There is surely some common ground. We could all agree that looting:
  • destroys archaeological sites
  • destroys information
  • corrupts knowledge
Cuno states: "the world is losing our common ancient heritage through theft and destruction, poverty, development, warfare and sectarian violence."

Where we probably disagree is over the following:
  • does collecting encourage looting?
  • does the UNESCO 1970 Convention discourage the acquisition of recently surfaced objects?
Cuno also questions the integrity of (some) archaeologists.
  • "Archaeologists go along because they depend on nation states to do their work."
  • "Archaeologists, especially those who benefit from working in host university museums, should examine their support of nationalist retentionist cultural property law. Many collections could not have been formed since the implementation of these laws."
Is he suggesting that (some) archaeologists only speak out over the issue of looting to gain access to choice sites or a pick of objects to publish from national collections?

Cuno talks about "our common ancient heritage". But do museum curators (and directors) who happily acquire recently surfaced antiquities care about our shared cosmopolitan heritage? And it is misleading to suggest that, as the archaeological record of, say, fourth century BCE Apulia predates the modern Italian state, we should be unconcerned about the wholescale looting of ancient cemeteries in southern Italy to supply the antiquities market.

We need to remember that Apulian pottery has been returned to Italy from four North American collections:
The failure has not been in the "laws to protect our common ancient heritage", but rather in the ethical frameworks and standards employed by (some) acquiring museums (and [some] private collectors). (See Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway's sensible comments quoted in "The time of illicit acquisitions is long gone".)

Cuno concludes his essay with this challenge:
Arguments between museums and archaeologists over the acquisition of undocumented antiquities are a diversion from real arguments, which ought to be between those who value antiquity and the nationalist governments who manipulate it for political gain.
We agree that undocumented antiquities will not regain their archaeological contexts by being returned to the country from which they had been looted.

But losing millions of dollars worth of acquisitions will surely make a museum think twice about acquiring what Cuno calls "undocumented antiquities". (And if there is one thing that the returns to Italy has taught us it is that [some] antiquities that were unknown prior to 1970 do have a habit of appearing in the Polaroids seized in Geneva.)

So let me take a current example.

Do we care about the destruction of sixth century BCE tombs in the Republic of Macedonia to supply antiquities for, say, private collectors?


Not because of "nationalist retentionist cultural property laws" (though I could understand a call by archaeologists working in the Republic of Macedonia for the return of specific pieces) but because looting is destroying some unique and highly significant archaeological contexts—and that destruction is removing part of human knowledge for ever.

Looting has intellectual consequences.

Marble Lekythos Returns to Greece

Mihalis Liapis revealed today that a marble funerary lekythos has been returned to Greece from an antiquities dealer in Switzerland ("Ancient Lekythos Returned", Athens News Agency, April 21, 2008). It is reported:
It is a funerary lekythos depicting a farewell banquet for the deceased, in a classic farewell scene. It was presented at an international antiquities dealers exhibition in 2007 in Maastricht, where it was put up for auction by a Swiss antiquities dealer.

After a series of negotiations, the Swiss dealer decided to hand over the lekythos to the Greek government in an out-of-court settlement, without reservations or conditions. It was delivered to a representative of the Greek embassy in Berne and then crated in the customs free zone in Basel before being transported to Greece.
The lekythos appears to have surfaced at TEFAF Maastrict in March 2007. The press release does not name the dealer. (The TEFAF website only lists those who are due to exhibit in 2009). It would be interesting to know if the lekythos had been recognised by the Art Loss Register (ALR) whose services are used for TEFAF.

Will more details be released? The return was "without reservations or conditions"—so why the secrecy?

Rompres has provided further images and the following statement:
A funerary lekythos made of Pentelic marble (400-350 B.C) is displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Athens, Greece, 21 April 2008. The lekythos was officialy [sic.] presented to the Press on 21st April by Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis after it was repatriated on 17 th April from Basel, Switzerland where it had been part of the collection of the antique dealer J.D.Cahn.
Presumably this is Jean-David Cahn AG of Basel.

Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis on Monday inspects a 4th-century B.C. marble funerary lekythos returned to Greece from the collection of a private antiquities dealer in Switzerland that he presented to the press at the National Archaeological Museum the same day.
From Athens News Agency.

Friday 18 April 2008

Context Matters: The Derveni Krater

I noticed this initiative from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). They have launched a new series, "Ancient Art and Architecture in Context", with the publication of The Derveni Krater: Masterpiece of Classical Greek Metalwork (2008) by Beryl Barr-Sharrar.

The report of the lecture on April 3, 2008, noted:
The aim of the Ancient Art and Architecture in Context series, published with the support of the Getty Foundation, a groundbreaking concept, is to emphasize that ancient art found in Greece can only be properly understood by scholars if the provenance of the antiquities is known.
It then adds this comment from Charles Watkinson, Director of ASCSA Publications at Princeton:
In other words, we are making a very strong statement against the trade in illicit antiquities.
Context matters because looting has intellectual as well as material consequences.

Marcus Aurelius and the Paris Connection: Update

A Roman portrait of Marcus Aurelius was returned to Algeria in January ("Marcus Aurelius and the Paris Connection"). It had been stolen from the Skikda Museum in 1996 and was recognised by the Art Loss Register (ALR) at a June 2004 auction at Christie's (New York); it has been consigned by "Galerie Samarcande" of Paris.

At the time of the return Marcy M. Forman, Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations, commented ("Immigration and Customs Enforcement Returns Ancient Marble Sculpture of Roman emperor to Algerian Government", US Fed News, January 15, 2008):
It is always a pleasure to return cultural artifacts to the people of another nation, particularly when they are stolen from public museums or other cultural heritage institutions ... This item is not a souvenir to be sold to the highest bidder, but a priceless treasure that holds an important place in Algerian history. ICE will do everything in its power to help preserve and protect a nation's heritage by working to locate and recover stolen antiquities.
It was reported yesterday that the portrait was placed in the Museum of Antiquity in Algiers ("Algeria: Stolen Marcus Aurelius Bust to Algiers", April 17, 2008; "Algérie: le buste de Marc Aurèle retrouve sa place au musée des antiquités", AFP, April 17, 2008).

But it is important to remember that eight other objects were stolen at the same time as Marcus Aurelius. Algierian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi reminded us:
"A further eight finds stolen together with the bust have not yet been recovered ... These are seven marble sculptures and one stone sculpture. In particular, they are heads of women, of one man, of a boy and a girl and of a clown.
Where are they now? Which gallery or galleries had handled them?

I also observe from recent stories that antiquities stolen from museums, stores and archaeological sites are passing through Paris:
Does this reflect a lack of rigour in the ethical standards by those involved in the antiquities market in France?

Thursday 17 April 2008

Elgin, the Firman, and the Parthenon Marbles

Dorothy King has discussed the issues surrounding her research on the firman issued to Elgin concerning the removal of the Parthenon marbles ("The Firman: Bring me the head of ..."). She has found a further version of the text—"a manuscript in a collection"—and has posted a working translation ("Elgin's Firman - permission to remove the Marbles"). (King has indicated that she will be issuing a "tidy" version shortly.)

No doubt the key phrases will be much discussed:
  • "when they want to carry away any of the stones with old inscriptions, or figures, you are not to oppose them in any way"
  • "you are not to interfere with their scaffolding, nor their tools, with which they make moulds, nor are you to oppose them in any way should they wish to take away with them any old pieces of stone with inscriptions, or figures, and this is the manner in which you are to operate, and to behave yourselves"
But will a decision to retain or return these architectural sculptures hinge on this document?

© David Gill

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Looted Antiquities and Cosmopolitanism

Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy for the Center for Human Values at Princeton University, now features regularly in discussions of cultural property (see Philippe de Montebello in "An Era of Scrupulous Acquisition Policies"). Appiah addresses cultural property in a chapter, "Whose culture is it, anyway?", in his excellent Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006).

Appiah understands some of the issues raised by archaeologists. In his discussion of terracottas from Mali he accepts the intellectual consequences of the desire to own these "wonderful sculptures". He comments:
They were sold to collectors in Europe and North America who rightly admired them. Because they were removed from archaeological sites illegally, much of what we would most like to know about this culture—much that we could have found out by careful archaeology—may now never be known.
Such a position is equally true for marble Cycladic figures from the Aegean or Athenian sympotic pottery placed in funerary contexts in Tuscany.

Appiah also raises the issue of material stolen from museums in Nigeria: he suggests "hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art".

But can you group Mali terracottas and museum objects from Nigeria?

  1. An Attic black-figured amphora stolen from a civic museum collection in Italy.
  2. An Attic black-figured amphora looted from an Etruscan tomb in Italy.
In both cases the amphora is a piece of cultural property which Italy (in my example) rightly could demand back. But in the second instance the removal of cultural property from a sealed archaeological context has destroyed knowledge for all time.

If archaeologists are concerned about intellectual consequences of looting, can "cultural patrimony" take second place? Appiah makes the point that Nok sculpture pre-dates the creation of modern Nigeria. Let me give a further example. The Sarpedon krater was made before the foundation of the modern Greek (it was made in Athens) or Italian (it was probably found in Italy) states. But Italy has the incentive to ask for the krater back because its return is a disincentive for future similar acquisitions. Why? Because such material often (but not always) comes onto the market through the looting of archaeological sites. (See my comment on a proposed "licit trade" in antiquities.)

I get the impression that Appiah would argue that the Sarpedon krater is part of our "cosmopolitan" heritage. Its iconography and design speak to our contemporary world culture. It makes a visual impact whether it is displayed in New York or Mantua. By the same token, its illegal and unscientific removal from its (Etruscan?) context has robbed a little bit of knowledge from the "cosmopolitan" viewing public.

And I am sure Appiah understands this. He writes:
For an object from an archaeological site, after all, value comes often as much from the knowledge to be gleaned by knowing where it came out of the ground, what else was around it, how it lay in the earth.
So is one outworking of cosmopolitanism an increasing awareness of a shared heritage and the need to preserve and secure archaeological contexts for the benefit of all?

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Hillary Clinton on Looted Antiquities

What do the US Democratic presidential hopefuls think about the looting of antiquities?

I came across this from 2000 (Walter V. Robinson, "Art Collection Said to Brake Appointment", The Boston Globe, June 29, 2000):
The issue might also prove awkward for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is campaigning for the New York Senate seat that Moynihan is relinquishing. In Turkey last November, Clinton decried the looting of archeological sites in that country. For several years, Turkey has been pressing White and Levy to return the top half of a marble statue of the "Weary Heracles" that Turkey and experts say was looted about 1980.

The bottom half sits, incomplete, in a museum in Antalya that Hillary Clinton visited. Years ago, Levy and White donated a half-interest in the top of the statue to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which has also rebuffed Turkish pleas for its return.
I have discussed the Weary Herakles before. Half of the upper part was given to the MFA in 1981 through the generosity of Jerome Levy Foundation; and the remaining title was transferred to the MFA in January 2004 by Shelby White.

Now that Shelby White has made a public acknowledgment that there were recently-surfaced antiquities in her collection (and that is why she has returned ten of them to Italy), has the time come for the MFA to return the upper part of the statue to Turkey?

It was the intention of the original sculptor that the legs and upper body should form a single composition. Can the staff of the MFA make it happen?

Saturday 12 April 2008

Lucius Verus to go on Display in Rome

A batch of figure-decorated pottery looted from Etruscan tombs and a marble portrait of Lucius Verus (130-169 CE; co-emperor, 161-69 CE, with Marcus Aurelius) have been recovered from a "boat garage" at Fiumicino near Rome ("Italian police recover rare statue of 'shy' Roman emperor among stash of looted antiquities", International Herald Tribune, April 11, 2008). The portrait is thought to have been taken from a site in Campania.

Lucius Verus will be displayed in Castel Sant'Angelo along with a marble portrait of Faustina (d. 140 CE), wife of the emperor Antoninus Pius. Faustina had been stolen from the theatre at Minturno (Minturnae) in 1961 and had resurfaced in a North American private collection during the 1980s.
  • "Recuperate due sculture di età imperiale", Guardia di Finanza (Press Statement, April 11, 2008)
  • Portraits from Minturnae in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology [Review] [Exhibition]
Guardia di Finanza

Friday 11 April 2008

Pots Passing Through The Market (Ancient and Modern)

I have been working my way through Trademarks on Greek vases: addenda (2006). The index has a section, "Vases once on the market, present location unknown". Alan Johnston notes in the "Introduction" (p. vii):
It will not escape those even skimming the following pages that the bulk [sc. of new material] has appeared, depressingly, on the antiquities market, virtually always without provenance; I retain a column "provenance" in the catalogue, but it is thinly populated indeed with respect to the addenda.
Here are some of the recent "surfacings" (but "present location unknown") on the largely unnamed North American and Swiss markets (ordered by Johnston Type) since the publication of the original volume in 1979. (I exclude here the 75 or so pieces from Sotheby's, London that entered the market in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as named dealers in Switzerland). In one case it has been possible to identify the present proprietors.
  1. Type 6A, 1a. Amphora (Type B). Hesperia Arts, auction (27 November 1990, lot 28). [For comments on this sale.]
  2. Type 14A, 1a. Neck-amphora, attributed to the Antimenes painter (von Bothmer). Geneva market.
  3. Type 16A, 12a. Hydria. Previously Sotheby's (London) 7-8 July 1994, lot 289; New York market.
  4. Type 21A, 103a. Column-krater. (Information from von Bothmer). Switzerland, market.
  5. Type 27A, 8. Neck-amphora. Geneva market (information from von Bothmer).
  6. Type 2B, 1a. Hydria. Geneva market (information from von Bothmer).
  7. Type 11B, 25a. Stamnos, attributed to the Siren painter (von Bothmer). Formerly Hunt brothers (no. 12); New York market, Atlantis; Sotheby's (New York) 19 June 1990, lot 13; New York, Shelby White and Leon Levy.
  8. Type 13B, 17a. Neck-amphora. Geneva market (information from von Bothmer).
  9. Type 2F, 18a. Hydria (attributed to the Leagros group). New York market (information from Michael Padgett).
  10. Type 9F, 32b. Lekythos (attributed to the Athena painter?). New York market.
  11. Type 10F, 13a. Pelike. New York market (information from Jasper Gaunt).
The loss of contexts means that there are intellectual consequences when trying to make sense of the distribution of commercial graffiti on Greek pottery.

One of the pots "once on the market, present location unknown" has a recorded history prior to 1970 and its present location is known:
  1. Type 9E, 118a. Amphora, attributed to the Niobid painter. Raymond Duncan (1874-1966) [brother of Isadora Duncan]; Dorée Duncan Seligmann [granddaughter of Raymond Duncan], by inheritance; Robert E. Hecht, Jr., New York, 1961 [mode of acquisition unknown]; New York market, Atlantis (1990); Baltimore, Walters Art Museum 48.2712 (acquired in 1993 by purchase).
Johnston, A. W. 2006. Trademarks on Greek vases: addenda. Oxford: Aris and Phillips. [Worldcat]

Thursday 10 April 2008

The Art Loss Register: The Wording on the Certificate

I have drawn attention to the use of the Art Loss Register (ALR) certificate as part of the due diligence process for antiquities.

I closed with this question:
Does the ALR need to start ensuring that its certificates are issued with a reminder that they provide no guarantee that the object has not appeared on the market as the result of recent looting?
Christopher A. Marinello, Executive Director & General Counsel at the ALR, has kindly responded in order to clarify the point. He states:
Please note that The Art Loss Register certificate contains the following…

“2) The database does not contain information on illegally exported artefacts unless they have been reported to us as stolen.”
Marinello answers my point.

There is a huge difference between objects that have appeared on the market as the result of recent looting and "illegally exported artefacts" that have been reported as stolen. Or to put it another way, there is a difference between an Athenian red-figured amphora looted from a tomb in Tuscany (totally unknown to scholarship and the authorities) and a Roman bronze stolen from a museum (presumably recorded and certainly known).

It sounds as if there is room for a little rewording ...

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Antiquities Waiting to be Returned to Greece?

The return of antiquities to Italy has been setting the agenda for discussion. The Polaroids seized in Geneva gave an advantage to the Italian negotiating teams.

But we also know that a set of Polaroids were handed over to Yiannis Diotis, the Greek prosecutor in 2005 (Nikolas Zirganos and Daniel Howden, "Greece and Italy team up to recover stolen antiquities", Independent, February 24, 2006). Zirganos and Howden reported
These images are said to include scores of ancient works, looted from Greece and sold to wealthy private collectors or major museums. The items were photographed while in the possession of crooked dealers and circulated to potential buyers, typically, before being sold through Swiss auction houses which operate outside EU laws on trafficking in stolen goods. Mr Diotis will now spearhead the effort to trace the pictured items, said to include priceless statues, vases, ornate wreaths and sculpted reliefs.
So what is happening to the Greek investigation?

Three items mentioned in the report by Zirganos and Howden have since been returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum:
  1. Gold funerary wreath. Formerly 93.AM.30.
  2. Inscribed tombstone of Athanias. Formerly 93.AA.47.
  3. Marble torso (kore). Formerly 93.AA.24.
No doubt there have been distractions for Diotis such as the raid on Schoinoussa in which some 142 items were seized (Nicholas Paphitis, "Senior prosecutor takes over Greek island villa antiquities investigation", AP, April 14, 2006). But more than two years have elapsed since the Greek authorities were given the Polaroids. How many pieces have been identified? Have negotiations started?

Gold wreath formerly in the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Monday 7 April 2008

The "Preveza" Athlete and Lost Context

Italy has had recent successes in retrieving antiquities looted from archaeological sites. But what about about other source countries?

I have been re-watching Network: The Illicit Trade of Antiquities (DVD) that has Greece as a focus. One of the cases dates back to May 1998 when the Greek authorities intervened in the suspected purchase of a large classical bronze figure of a youth ("Police in Germany seize cache of Greek antiquities", AP, May 30, 1998). A police raid intercepted the statue in a crate (apparently labelled "USA") at Saarlouis and arrested a man, Michail Kotsaridis, a Greek national who lived in Saarbrücken, Germany.

It appears that Marion True of the J. Paul Getty Museum had been negotiating with Christoph F. Leon of Switzerland for the statue. Remember that 1998 is after the the revised acquisition policy of the J. Paul Getty Museum (see my earlier comments). Leon supplied at least one Athenian calyx-krater that has been returned to Italy (formerly inv. 88.AE.66) and a gold funerary wreath that was returned to Greece (formerly inv. 93.AM.30). (Leon also supplied the "tomb-group" of Apulian pottery now in Berlin.)

A police statement said :
The 1.5-meter bronze statue, covered with barnacles and salt, is missing its arms but otherwise intact. Police said they believe it was found underwater near the western Greek port of Preveza.
Images clearly show that the piece had clearly been underwater. Giorgos Tzallas of the Greek police force, claimed in the Network interview that the statue was due to be sold to either the J. Paul Getty Museum for $6-7 million or a Japanese collector for $6 million. Apparently Leon was due to receive $1 million for acting as the middle man. There is no suggestion that Marion True was going to buy the piece once she had seen it.

The statue was not alone:
Also seized were 311 coins, 103 bronze objects and 39 clay animal figurines, all believed to be from the classical Greek period.
Kotsaridis was imprisoned for 15 years but no action was taken against any further parties.

The statue has been on display in the National Museum in Athens. But what was its context? Was it from a late classical shipwreck? In other words, was the wreck contemporary with the statue (like the bronze head of a "philosopher" from the Porticello shipwreck)? Or was the wreck of the Roman period reflecting the removal of "works of art" to Italy? Or had it been jettisoned (as the Riace bronzes seem to have been). We just do not know. The information has been lost.

The "Preveza" athlete reminds us of a world of intermediaries acting between the looters and collecting institutions.

© David Gill

Thursday 3 April 2008

Aegean Waves: Collecting Cycladic Figures

The Museum of Cycladic Art has published a volume, Aegean Waves, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its foundation. It is beautifully produced, with colour illustrations, and is "addressed ... principally to the general public".

It notes the phenomenon of
illegal excavations on the Cyclades Islands, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s, to meet the demand on the international [emphasis mine] antiquities market. The result of this intensive activity on the part of antiquities smugglers was the plundering of hundreds of Early Cycladic tombs and the removal of evidence of inestimable value for scholars. (p. 41)
There is acknowledgment of the "Keros haul" (and Sotirakpoulou has written a definitive study of what she considers a "hoard"). Entry 14 shows a selection of fragmentary figures attributed to the "haul" and notes that it is "a characteristic example of the intense antiquities-smuggling that went on in the Cyclades ... in order to meet the great demand for Cycladic figurines on the international antiquities market". Entry 18 shows joining fragments from two pieces from the "haul" in the Museum of Cycladic Art (inv. nos. 1033 and 1017) and two fragments excavated from Kavos (Naxos Museum 4197 and 4272). It is asserted:
this is indisputable evidence that the aforementioned part of the "Keros Hoard", that seems to have been smuggled out of Greece and sold abroad as a group, does indeed come from Kavos on Keros.
While the joins do indicate the connection for these pieces, I remain to be convinced that every piece associated with the "haul" was found in the same location. And parts of the "Keros haul" continue to be displayed in public exhibitions.

There was certainly an international market for Cycladic figures and the fragmentary male figure (no. 30; inv. no. 969) once graced the cover for Antiquities from The Erlenmeyer Collection, Sotheby's (London), July 9, 1990.

Aegean Waves
also illustrates a "Double marble figurine of unknown provenance" (p. 44, fig. 50). This featured in the Katonah Museum of Art's 2006 exhibition, Ancient Art of the Cyclades (no. 15, "mother-and-child composition") where it was listed as "Private collection, New York". This figure with "unknown provenance", or to be more precise "unrecorded find-spot", had in fact appeared in two other exhibitions: Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections as "Standing female two-figure image" (no. 18, "Collection of Shelby and Leon Levy") and Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection as "Two joined standing female figures of marble" (no. 9). Is this the sort of piece the authors of Aegean Waves had in mind when thinking about the sort of figures that have been sold on the "international market"? The Museum of Cycladic Art has a very fragmentary example illustrated here (no. 41; inv. no. 339).

But was the market only international?

I observe that the entries in Aegean Waves do not include information about find-spots (except for the fragments from the "Keros haul"). It is worth re-reading Ricardo Elia's comments in response to Colin Renfrew's Cycladic Spirit:
One can only guess at the cost of forming the Goulandris collection in terms of archaeological sites destroyed and information lost.
Christopher Chippindale and I have explored the extent of the loss of information in our study of the "Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures" (a work unreferenced in Aegean Waves). There is, however, an oblique reference in a discussion of marble figures attributed to the "Goulandris Sculptor" (no. 29).
Other scholars ... are of the opinion that these views carry the implication of artistic principles, aesthetic perceptions and social structures that are not consistent with what is known at present of Cycladic society in the 3rd millennium BC. They believe that the manner in which Cycladic figurines were made may have derived from a combination of a general sense of the proportions of the human body and the application of basic design principles that were established by centuries of repetition. The similarities between some of the figurines are attributed by them either to the existence of local workshops and traditions, or to the fact that they express a particular period.
The loss of archaeological contexts through the desire of collectors and museums to possess Cycladic figures has meant that the means of exploring such regional workshops has been lost for good.

Looting has had serious intellectual consequences for the study of Early Cycladic Culture.

Bothmer, D. von Editor. 1990. Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Doumas, C. G. 2000. Early Cycladic Culture: The N.P. Goulandris Collection. Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art.
Elia, R. J. 1996. "A seductive and troubling work." In Archaeological Ethics, edited by K. D. Vitelli, pp. 54-62. Walnut Creek: Altamira.
Getz-Gentle, P. 2001. Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press.
---. 2006. Ancient Art of the Cyclades. New York: Katonah Museum of Art.
Getz-Preziosi, P. 1987. Sculptors of the Cyclades: Individual and Tradition in the Third Millennium BC. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
---. 1987. Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Gill, D. W. J. 2002. Review of P. Getz-Gentle, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2001). Bryn Mawr Classical Review.
---. 2007. Review of Peggy Sotirakopoulou, The "Keros Hoard": Myth or Reality? Searching for the Lost Pieces of a Puzzle (Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art, 2005). American Journal of Archaeology 111: 163-65. [Full text]
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 1993. "Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures." American Journal of Archaeology 97: 601-59. [JSTOR]
Renfrew, C. 1991. The Cycladic Spirit: Masterpieces from the Nicholas P. Goulandris Collection. London: Thames & Hudson.
Sotirakopoulou, P. 2005. The "Keros Hoard": Myth or Reality? Searching for the Lost Pieces of a Puzzle. Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art.
Stampolidis, N., and P. Sotirakopoulou. 2007. Aegean Waves: Artworks of the Early Cycladic Culture in the Museum of Cycladic Art at Athens. Milan: Skira.

Operation "Ulisse": Oplontis Fresco on Display in Rome

In February I noted the seizure of antiquities at a private residence in Paris as part of the Italian Operation "Ulisse".

One of the seized items, a Roman fresco removed from a Roman villa at Oplontis, went on display in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Rome ("Rosso pompeiano. La decorazione pittorica nelle collezioni del Museo Nazionale di Napoli e a Pompei") last week ("Stolen Vesuvian fresco on show in Rome", ANSA, March 27, 2008). This painting (further image) shows:
a bower of vines, a satyr riding a mule, and a cloaked woman making a sacrifice at an altar. The three-metre long fresco is the largest landscape-themed painting ever found in the Vesuvian area.
The trail of the painting has now been released. It was apparently in Geneva in the early 1980s (but where? in a private collection? with a dealer?) before being displayed "in the house of a rich industrialist in Brussels" (who?). It was found "in the house of French publisher and art collector Jacques Marcoux in Place Vendome [Paris] in February".

The painting will be returned to one of the archaeological collections in the Bay of Naples area.

From ANSA.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

La Forza del Euphronios: Sarpedon Carried to Mantua

Four antiquities returned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York are on display in Rome. However the Sarpedon krater is now in an exhbition, "La Forza del Bello", in the Palazzo Te, Mantua ("Ancient Greek art dazzles Mantua", ANSA, March 31, 2008).

The press release provides further information:
The exhibition also features a small ''bonus'' section at the end, showcasing three masterpieces that US museums have recently returned to Italy after lengthy negotiations.

These include a marble ceremonial basin decorated with Nereids and a striking painted marble sculpture of griffons attacking a doe, both returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The third piece - returned from New York's Metropolitan Museum this January after decades of discussions - is a terracotta drinking cup [sic.] painted by the 5th-century BC Greek master Euphronios.

Homecomings: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

One of the first agreements to return antiquities to Italy was made with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (February 21, 2006) [Press Release]. The discussion has tended to centre around the Sarpedon krater but there were other pieces as well.

The current Nostoi exhibition in the Palazzo Poli in Rome contains the following pieces (with the number in the previous Nostoi exhibition):
  • Laconian cup with warrior. Attributed to the Hunt painter. Formerly New York 1999.527. Gift from the family of Howard J. Barnet. "Lent to the Museum periodically since 1981" (Mertens). Publ. Joan R. Mertens, in "Ancient World", The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, 58, No. 2, Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1999-2000 (Autumn, 2000), 13 [JSTOR]. (Nostoi no. 3; old no. 3).
  • Attic red figure psykter with young horsemen. Attributed to Smikros (attributed by J. Robert Guy). Formerly New York L1980.104 (loan from Mr & Mrs Spears, Riverdale [NY]); 1996.250. Gift of Thomas A. and Colette Spears. Publ. Dietrich von Bothmer, in "Ancient World", The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, 55, No. 2, Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1996-1997 (Autumn, 1997) 12 [JSTOR]. (Nostoi no. 15; old no. 14).
  • Attic red figure amphora with cithara player. Attributed to the Berlin painter. Sold at auction, Sotheby's (London), December 13-14, 1982, lot 220. Formerly New York 1985.11.5. Publ. Dietrich von Bothmer, in "Greek and Roman Art", Recent Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1985-1986), 9 [JSTOR]. (Nostoi no. 17; old no. 16).
  • Apulian red-figured dinos with Herakles and Busiris. Attributed to the Darius painter. Formerly New York 1984.11.7. Purchase, The Bothmer Purchase Fund, Rogers Fund, and Norbert Schimmel and Helen H. Mertens Gifts, 1984; Anonymous Gift, 1989. Dietrich von Bothmer, "Greek and Roman Art", Notable Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art) (1984-1985), 6-7 [JSTOR]. (Nostoi no. 57; old no. 51).
Not included this time:

Entry revised: August 21, 2008.

Image courtesy of New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (

Dinos with Herakles and Busiris, ca. 340–320 B.C.; Red-figure. Greek, South Italian, Apulian. Attributed to the Darius Painter. Terracotta; H. 9 3/4 in. (24.79 cm). Purchase, The Bothmer Purchase Fund, Rogers Fund, and Norbert Schimmel and Helen H. Mertens Gifts, 1984; Anonymous Gift, 1989 (1984.11.7).

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Nostoi: Capolavori Ritrovati. Exhibition List

The list of objects now on display at the Palazzo Poli, Rome has now been issued. (There are differences from the earlier exhibition.) The present exhibition that opened last weekend consists of the following:
  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (12): nos. 7, 10, 16, 19, 30, 31, 47, 48, 50, 56, 59, 74.
  • France, private collection (1): no. 42.
  • London, Robin Symes (1): no. 66.
  • Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum (41): nos. 2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, 38, 40, 41, 46, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 68, 69, 72, 73.
  • New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art (4): nos. 3, 15, 17, 57.
  • New York, Royal Athena Galleries (5): nos. 23, 35, 39, 43, 71.
  • New York, Shelby White collection (9): nos. 5, 8, 18, 36, 37, 44, 45, 65, 70.
  • Princeton, University Museum of Art (1): no. 1.
I posted a list of the Shelby White material yesterday. As there has been a suggestion that my list varies from the Italian list, I reproduce it here with the Italian titles, Nostoi catalogue number, and the New York Glories of the Past exhibition catalogue entry. (The two lists are the same.)
  1. Anfora attica a figure nere "panatenaica" con corridori (no. 5). Glories of the Past no. 104.
  2. Anfora attica a figure nere con Dioniso e Arianna a banchetto (no. 8). Glories of the Past no. 107.
  3. Cratere a calice a figure rosse con Zeus e Ganimede (no. 18). Glories of the Past no. 117.
  4. Hydria ceretana con pantera e leonessa che attaccano un mulo (no. 36).
  5. Hydria ceretana con la fuga di Ulisse dall'antro di Polifemo (no. 37).
  6. Anfora calcidese con cavalcata di giovani (no. 44). Glories of the Past no. 102.
  7. Statuetta bronzea di Kouros (no. 45). Glories of the Past no. 87.
  8. Frammento di decorazione parietale ad affresco: prospettiva architettonica e maschera teatrale (no. 65). Glories of the Past no. 142.
  9. Frammento di decorazione parietale ad affresco: figura di Menade sdraiata (no. 70). Glories of the Past no. 143.

The Art Loss Register: Readers' Views

How do readers of Looting Matters perceive the Art Loss Register?

I felt that it was a question worth asking as there appears to be a little bit of confusion among museum curators and dealers.

The Director of the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) felt he could buy an Egyptian mask with confidence because it did not appear in the ALR database.

Hicham Aboutaam was quoted in 2005 as saying that the ALR was "a registry for stolen and looted artifacts".

Due Diligence is now a key issue - but does the ALR solve the problem of recently surfaced antiquities? What does an ALR Certificate say about an object passing through the antiquities market?

So I posed the question:
What does it mean when a certificate from The Art Loss Register (ALR) accompanies an antiquity that is for sale?
70 people cast a vote (and they could choose more than one option).

The different options were:
  • The object does not appear in the ALR database [60 votes]
  • The object comes from a documented old collection [4 votes]
  • The object does not come from an illicit excavation [2 votes]
  • The object has not been stolen from a museum [7 votes]
  • The object has not been stolen from a private collection [5 votes]
  • No country will have a legal claim on the object [4 votes]
Most people got the right answer. The ALR Certificate means that that the object does not appear in the ALR database. No more; no less.

Hopefully if the piece had been stolen from a museum, there would be a record and the authorities would be alerted. But this is not always the case. And what about stores of archaeological material? How frequently are they audited for thefts?

Are all pieces in private collections registered with the ALR?

And can a piece that has been buried for (say) 2500 years appear on the ALR database? No! So it will not be on the database if it has come onto the market as a result of recent looting. And if it can be shown to have been looted, it is likely that a country will have a legal claim on it. And suddenly the ALR Certificate is not the complete answer to the due diligence process.

Does the ALR need to start ensuring that its certificates are issued with a reminder that they provide no guarantee that the object has not appeared on the market as the result of recent looting?

Another Bubon bronze head likely to be repatriated

It appears that a bronze head acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis has been removed from display and appears to be...