Friday 30 May 2008

Newly Surfaced Archaic Greek Objects

My attention has been drawn to two separate lots from the sale of "The Stanford Place Collection of Antiquities" auctioned at Christie's (London) on Wednesday April 26, 2006. (It is a collection I have discussed before.)

They illustrate some of the intellectual consequences of recently-surfaced antiquities.
  • Lot 3: 'a Greek silver-gilt repoussé plaque'. 'circa 540-525 BC'. 'With winged Nike in a frontal chariot with facing quadriga, each pair of horses with heads turned to opposing sides, with finely incised details, bound lotus filling motifs, pierced around the edge for attachment, from an arm-guard'. 6.8 cm high. Unsold.
  • Lot 18: 'Three Laconian bronze helmeted warriors'. '6th century BC'. 'Each animated nude standing figure standing with right arm outstretched to the side and left arm raised, with fists clenched, wearing tall crested helmet'. 6.4 cm high (max). £30,000.
Both were acquired from "Ward & Company Works of Art, New York", lot 3 in the "mid 1990s" and lot 18 in 1998.

Both pieces were accompanied by a certificate from The Art Loss Register.

The silver-gilt plaque is almost identical ("similar") to a more fragmentary example acquired by the Princeton University Art Museum in 2002 (and illustrated in the Record of the Princeton University Art Museum 62 [2003] 151-52 [JSTOR]):
  • "Greek (North), mid-6th century B.C.: pierced appliqué plaque: frontal quadriga with Nike charioteer, gilt silver, h. 5.9 cm, w. 6.5 cm. Museum purchase, gift in memory of Emily Townsend Vermeule ... (2002-155)."
And does the "arm-guard" interpretation suggest that it was a part of a set of armour, perhaps from the burial of a warrior? Do the two plaques derive from the same deposit? Or were they just the products of the same workshop?

And the fact that there are three near identical bronze warriors also intrigues me. Were they found together? Or did they come from three separate private collections and converge, fortuitously, in the New York gallery? Do they need to be Laconian?

I am left asking some questions.
  • Who owned the "Stanford Place" plaque and the warriors before they were purchased from Ward & Company Works of Art, New York?
  • Who sold the plaque to Princeton? Does the plaque have a documented history?
  • Do these pieces come from several locations or a single deposit?
  • When were these pieces first known?
  • Is the certificate issued by the Art Loss Register worthless?
All these pieces may, of course, have been in old documented collections (though I am surprised that the sale catalogue had not mentioned the fact).

What is needed is more transparency.


advocatus diaboli said...

Oh my dear!Post like this make the whole thing so transparent... Thank you very much for helping us to understand in a so vivd way.

David Gill said...

For the Princeton relief:

The Parthenon Sculptures and the political arena

Metope from the Parthenon © David Gill Listeners to Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament today can hardly have failed to notice that...