Friday 29 August 2008

Robin Symes: Reflecting on Recent Returns

A picture is beginning to emerge from a study of the return of antiquities to Italy (and Greece). The view is not yet complete as full details about the dealers lying behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton, and Shelby White returns have yet to be released.

One of the more prominent dealers to feature among the returns was Robin Symes. Pieces that are said to have passed through his hands are:
In addition there was the ivory face from Tuscany. (At some point the issue of items that were seized in warehouses in London will be resolved.)

So museums, private collectors and dealers need to check that they are not holding items (or stock) that had passed through Symes' hands. They should also remember that one piece was recorded with the euphemism as coming from "a private collection in Great Britain". Or perhaps it would be recorded as the "R.S. European collection".

It is a reminder that museums need to do more to present full recorded histories for individual pieces (which is why I welcome the new policy of the American Association of Museums).

Thursday 28 August 2008

Intellectual Consequences of Collecting Antiquity

It is easy to be disturbed by the destruction of archaeological sites to supply antiquities. But what are the intellectual consequences as the pieces enter the corpus of knowledge?

Here are some of the topics covered so far:
One of the pieces returned to Italy: an Attic red-figured column-krater showing Dionysos, attributed to the Geras painter.

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 1986) was that the statue had "left Greece a half century ago" (i.e. 1930s) and was then "sent for sale from a private collection in Switzerland". The 1930s is an interesting decade as it coincides with the 1937 surfacing (and seizure) of the "Anavysos kouros" in Paris, and its return to Greece (where it is now displayed in the National Museum NM 3851). So if the "Anavysos kouros" had been smuggled out of Greece in the 1930s, why not another similar statue?

Documentation and Old Collections
The evidence that the Getty kouros had been known in the 1930s was based on supposed documentary evidence. Kimmelman (1991) presented the documentation:
The documents traced the work to the collection of a Geneva physician, Jean Lauffenberger, who had purportedly bought it around 1930 from a Greek dealer. A letter in German, dated March 12, 1952, to Lauffenberger from the late Ernst Langlotz, an eminent scholar of archaic sculpture, linked the kouros stylistically to the so-called Anavysos youth, a famous archaic sculpture in the National Museum in Athens. A second letter to Lauffenberger, in French, dated March 20, 1952, is from a Herman Rosenberg, who writes that Langlotz had repeated to him that the kouros was "a masterpiece of Greek archaic sculpture of the greatest rarity." Yet another letter, dated 1955, was from a Basel artisan named A. E. Bigenwald, whom Lauffenberger supposedly consulted about repairs on the kouros.
Only photocopies were made available to the Getty (True 1993: 13).
Then, when these photocopies were subject to the scrutiny of a German expert in typewriters, postal codes and other means of verification, they proved to be cleverly manufactured composites. The Langlotz letter in particular could be shown to be a forgery because, though the letter is dated 1952, the postal code on the letter head did not come into existence until 1972. The association with the Lauffenberger collections thus appears to have been a clever hoax, and the real modern history of the statue prior to 1983 remains a mystery.
Moreover the bank account printed on the (1955) letter head relating to Bigenwald was not opened until 1963 (noted in Kimmelman 1991).

The use of the "Lauffenbruger collection" is not dissimilar to the attribution of some of the pieces returned to Italy to "old" collections (Gill and Chippindale 2006: 314; Gill and Chippindale 2007: 216). Here are four examples:
  • Formerly Boston, MFA 1979.40. Attic red-figured pelike, attributed to the Nausicaa painter. Phineus with the sons of Boreas. Collecting history: said to have been in the Karl Haug collection, Basel since 1936; by 1971 with Palladion Antike Kunst, Basel; sold 1979. Bibl. Gill and Chippindale 2006: 325, appendix 1, no. 7.
  • Formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 79.AE.139. Attic red-figured amphora. Herakles and Apollo struggle for the tripod. Collecting history: said to have been in the Rycroft collection, England in 1890; sold by "a company owned by Gianfranco Becchina"; purchased in 1979 from Palladion Antike Kunst, Basel. Bibl. Watson and Todeschini 2006: 345-46.
  • Formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 83.AE.203. Collecting history: said to be from the S. Schweitzer collection in 1940; gift of Vasek Polak, Canada. Etruscan red-figured plastic duck askos. Bibl. Gill and Chippindale 2007: 229, no. 23.
  • Rome Villa Guilia 121110; formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 83.AE.362, 84.AE.8, 85.AE.385. Attic red-figured cup, Onesimos; Euphronios as "potter". Ilioupersis. Collecting history: tondo said by Frida Tchacos-Nussberger of Galerie Nefer, Zurich, to have been acquired from Nino Savoca, Munich; other fragments said to have come from the S. Schweitzer collection, Arlesheim; other fragments said by Christian Boursaud to have been in the Zbinden collection and acquired in 1985 from the Hydra Gallery; cup returned to Italy in 1999; two further fragments donated by Giacomo Medici in 2005; new fragment seized at Cerveteri in 2008. Bibl. Gill, review of Getty Masterpieces in BMCR (1998); Watson and Todeschini 2006: 94-95.
These four examples suggest that from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s it was possible for acquisitions to be "falsely historied". Such "old" collections were believable even if there does not appear to have been reliable documentation. And such fabrications continue, such as the "Silverton Park" history for the "Amarna Princess" acquired by the Bolton Museum.

The Dealer
The Getty kouros is reported to have been purchased from the Sicilian Gianfranco Becchina based in Basel (Kimmelman 1991). Papers relating to the sale were reviewed by a court in Rome in April 2006 (see Povoledo 2006).
Mr. Putrino also testified about documents related to the sale of a marble kouros, or naked youth, by Mr. Becchina to the Getty for $10 million in 1983, when Jiri Frel was curator of antiquities.
Becchina's Basel Gallery, run by his wife "Rosie", is Palladion Antike Kunst (Watson and Todeschini 2006: 290-91). Three of the pieces returned from Boston to Italy came from this gallery (Gill and Chippindale 2006: 317-319, 324-25, nos. 3, 7, and 10).

The Fragmentary Kouros
The authenticity of the Getty kouros was brought into sharp focus in early 1990. Jeffrey Spier was given access to photographic evidence of a companion piece (Spier 1990: 630):
Early in 1990 I was shown a photograph of a fragmentary kouros; the head, one hand, and both legs below the knee were missing. It rested on a wooden pallet and was said to be in storage in Switzerland. The resemblance to the Getty kouros was striking, and after making this observation, I was told that the piece was indeed its 'brother', made by the same workshop in Rome in the early 1980s. Elaborate stories followed about how an ancient marble block was taken from a Sicilian site to Rome, cut into two pieces (one larger than the other) and carved into two kouroi, the larger going to the Getty Museum and the smaller to Switzerland.
Spier and Marion True went to inspect the torso in Basel and drew the conclusion that it was indeed a fake (True 1993: 13-14). It was purchased by the Getty in August 1990 "for study purposes".

The missing head from the torso was donated to the Getty by "a dealer in Geneva" (True 1993: 14). This second "kouros" is said "to have been made in Rome around 1984-1985, reportedly by a man named Fernando Onore". The helpful Geneva dealer is reported to have been Giacomo Medici (Watson and Todeschini 2006: 99, 198).

The Desire to Acquire
Any museum that wished to develop its archaeological holdings in the late 20th century (or now in the early 21st century) was faced with the issue of establishing the history (or "provenance") of the object. Chippindale (1996) asked this question in his review of the volume that emerged from the Getty kouros conference in Athens.
Where is the stuff to come from? Not from existing great museums because they do not sell. Not from Greece or Turkey, because those countries of origin feel the acquisitive museums do not have a record of honorable behavior; so they are in no mood to relax their frontiers. That leaves the Getty to fish in the shrinking private pool. In it there swim, alongside the pieces known to have left their Mediterranean countries of origin long ago, alluring items that have simply "surfaced" in dealers' hands or in private possession; some of these will be "good," emerging silently from old collections, others may be recently looted or fakes.
In the past some archaeological material has reached museums through the system of partage. Think of the material from the British excavations at Phylakopi on Melos in university museums such as the Ashmolean or Fitzwilliam. However, pieces that are offered for sale either have no disclosed recorded history or are stated to come from old collections; it is rare, but not unknown, for excavated pieces to appear on the market.

This is where "due diligence" steps in. Can the museum establish that the proposed acquisition was known prior to 1970? Is such an "old collection" known? Is there any reason to be suspicious?

In the case of the Getty kouros, the statue appeared to have documentation that suggested that it had been known in the 1930s.

The Acquisition that is "Too Good To Be True"
The case of the Getty kouros is not unlike the acquisition of the "Fitzwilliam Goddess", which was said to have been found in the 1920s near Knossos (see Butcher and Gill 1993), the "Amarna Princess", or the "James Ossuary". Chippindale concluded his review relating to the Getty kouros with the following statement about the intellectual consequences (and try replacing "Archaic Greece" with "Bronze Age Crete" or "First Century CE Jerusalem"):
If he is fake, he has wrongly altered our perception of Archaic Greece. If he is genuine, then his murky story prevents our vision of Archaic Greece being informed by full acknowledgment of a supreme sculpture.
The acquisition of unhistoried antiquities (is that better than "unprovenanced"?), whether they are ancient or of modern manufacture, has an intellectual consequence.

Butcher, K., and D. W. J. Gill. 1993. "The director, the dealer, the goddess and her champions: the acquisition of the Fitzwilliam goddess." American Journal of Archaeology 97: 383-401. [JSTOR]
Chippindale, C. 1996. Review of The Getty kouros colloquium: Athens, 25-27 May 1992: 11-15 (Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art) in American Journal of Archaeology 100, 1 (1996) 185 [JSTOR]
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2006. "From Boston to Rome: reflections on returning antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 13: 311-31. [link]
—. 2007. "From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 14: 205-40. [link]
Kimmelman, M. 1991. "Absolutely real? Absolutely fake?" New York Times August 4, 1991: 1.
Povoledo, E. 2006. "Focus in Getty trial shifts to a Sicilian antiquities dealer." New York Times April 27, 2006: 3.
Russell, J. 1986. "Disputed Greek statue to go on exhibition." New York Times August 12, 1986: 1.
Spier, J. 1990. "Blinded with science: the abuse of science in the detection of false antiquities." Burlington Magazine 132: 623-31. [JSTOR]
True, M. 1987. "A kouros at the Getty Museum." Burlington Magazine 129: 3-11. [JSTOR]
True, M. 1993. "The Getty kouros: background on the problem." In The Getty kouros colloquium: Athens, 25-27 May 1992: 11-15. Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Shelby White and Greece: Antiquities in Athens

There were reports in the Greek press yesterday (August 26, 2008) that the two items from the Shelby White collection were now in the National Museum in Athens. (As I write there is no press statement on the Hellenic Ministry of Culture website.) The items are confirmed as:
The krater is described as being 70 cms high, with a silver wreath on the walls, and maenads under the handles. It looks as if this is the calyx-krater that featured in Greek Bronze Vessels from the Collection of Shelby White & Leon Levy (2005), 24-25, no 9 [further details]; indeed one of the maenads graces the cover. The newspaper report suggests that it came from a "royal tomb" (βασιλικό τάφο).

The funerary stele carries the personal names of Menon and Kleobolos. The link between the Shelby White fragment and the lower part excavated near Porto Rafti was made by George Despinis.

There is no further comment about the sources for the two pieces though the report does hint that the due diligence process was lacking (χωρίς να έχει ελεγχθεί η νομιμότητα της προέλευσής τους).

From September 23, 2008 the pieces will feature in the "Nostoi" exhibition at the New Akropolis Museum.

Monday 25 August 2008

Archaeological remains "ripped from their context"

David Welsh, "a tireless defender of ancient coin collecting", has recently commented on looted antiquities (BritArch, August 18, 2008; see also Paul Barford's "Ethical Dealing" [August 24 2008]).
Artifacts that have been "ripped from their context" are of no further use to archaeology, according to what I have seen on this list. They might as well be in the hands of collectors who will study them as artifacts, as any other place.
I was interested in the phrase "ripped from their context" and find it comes in The Medici Conspiracy (2006) in a discussion of looted Roman frescoes.
The frescoes ... had been rudely and crudely ripped from their context and sold off to people ("collectors") who might profess to care about archaeological objects but obviously had no interest in the original and proper context.
(Three chunks of the wall-painting indeed passed into separate North American private collections; two have now been returned to Italy.)

The phrase also appears in the "Statement of Concern" for the Biblical Archaeological Society.
We also recognize that artifacts ripped from their context by looters often lose much of their meaning.
Welsh has perhaps unwittingly acknowledged that there are indeed intellectual consequences of looting. Looting removes the archaeological context.

Welsh effectively asks, should private collectors retain objects derived from looting?

But the issue, demonstrated by the Italian government and the returned pieces in the Nostoi exhibition in Rome, is this: do returning antiquities provide a disincentive for collectors of recently surfaced antiquities?

Saturday 23 August 2008

Cyprus and Private Collections

Martin Fehlmann of the Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus has drawn attention (via one of my earlier postings) to the problem of find-spots (or lack thereof) in private collections in the Republic of Cyprus. He suggests that antiquities looted from archaeological sites no longer surface on the market but "seem to find a quick way to collectors on the island".

Fehlmann cites three collections:
  1. Severis
  2. Giabra Pierides
  3. Zintilis
He notes that the objects in the three collections largely lack information about their find-spots ("provenance" - a term I am trying to discourage):
98.4% of the objects in the Severis-Coll., 98.6% in the Giabra-Pierides and 37.7% in the Zintilis-Coll. have no provenance or previous owner at all.

Compare this with the 92% in one North American private collection of antiquities studied by David Gill and Christopher Chippindale.

What are these three collections?

1. Leto Lymbouridou-Severis of Nicosia. The collection is said to number around 1900 pieces of which 257 featured in the catalogue: V. Karageorghis, Ancient Cypriote Art in the Severis Collection (Nicosia 1999) [WorldCat].

Jane A. Barlow reviewed the volume in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 321 (Feb., 2001) 95-96 [JSTOR]
"At the time that Mrs. Severis was forming her collection, the laws regulating the sale of unprovenanced antiquities were very different from what they are now. ... In the years between the early 1960s and the early part of the 1970s, when, according to the foreword, the bulk of the collection was made, the Department of Antiquities adopted a policy of "silent accord." This policy allowed Cypriot citizens to buy the spoils of looting so that the objects could remain in the country.

The volume was also reviewed by Danielle A. Parks in the American Journal of Archaeology 107, no. 1, (2003) 128.

Four jugs from the Severis collection ("from the collection of Mrs Lito Severis ... Lito Severis was an amateur archaeologist and a prolific writer of childrens' books") appear to be for sale on the BidAncient website (as observed by Paul Barford; BidAncient Ltd. is based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England and is run by Eftis Paraskevaides):
  • jug. $590. Lable: LS N140. Stated to be from an English private collection: Christie's (King Street), October 25, 2007, lot 251.
  • olpe. $220. Stated to be from an English private collection: Christie's (King Street), October 25, 2007, lot 251.
  • olpe. $250. LS 2001. Stated to be from an English private collection: Christie's (King Street), October 25, 2007, lot 251.
  • olpe. $580. Label LS 1061. Stated to be from an English private collection: Christie's (King Street), October 25, 2007, lot 251.
There was a sale of antiquities at Christie's (King Street, London) on October 25, 2007 (sale no. 7521). According to the Christie's summaries there were three Cypriot lots:
  • Lot 251. This contained "another group of mainly red polished ware round-bottomed jugs". Objects in this lost are stated to be: "Formerly in a European private collection: sold Christie's London, 12 April 2000, lot 389".
Tracing the piece back to Christie's (South Kensington) 12 April 2000, lot 389 [sale 8724]. This lot contained "another group of mainly Red Polished Ware round-bottomed jugs, one with three deeply incised lines on the handle, another trefoil-lipped with central lip slit and incised cross on the handle". A substantial number of Cypriot antiquities were offered at this sale.

2. George and Nefeli Giabra Pierides. The objects are displayed in the Museum of the George and Nefeli Giabra Pierides Collection in Nicosia.

The George and Nefeli Giabra Pierides Collection covers a wide range of the history and archaeology of Cyprus, from the Early Bronze Age (2500 BC) to the end of the Mediaeval period (sixteenth century). This chronological succession of the objects has dictated the structuring of the Collection's presentation in the Museum. Designed to state-of-the-art specifications, its purpose is to highlight age-old Greek civilisation at the southernmost extremity of Europe. The whole Collection, numbering more than 600 items, is exhibited in the Museum. The objects which are not on display in the main show-cases have been collected together in a special case, accessible to researchers and the public.

As one of the most important private collections in Cyprus, it is considered unique in possessing superb examples of Mycenaean pottery in the Pictorial Style (fourteenth - thirteenth century BC). Amphora-shaped and bell-shaped krateres (mixing-bowls), prochoi (ewers), kylikes (cups) and phialai (bowls) are decorated with scenes of chariot-races, boxers and bull-fights, as well as of fishes or birds.

The collection is displayed within the context of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation.
The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation was established in 1984, a decade after the Turkish invasion and the ongoing occupation of the northern part of the island.

The Foundation was born out of the Bank’s growing concern to assist in the rescue of the island’s cultural heritage, which has been pillaged or stolen by the Turkish forces from the occupied areas, and to promote the Hellenic culture of Cyprus at a professional and scholarly level.

Thus, while the context of all projects undertaken by the Foundation is meant to be Cyprological, i.e. pertaining to Cyprus (art, history, literature, etc.), the philosophy and policy of the Foundation is to promote the Hellenic character of Cyprus, in as much as this is an island of the wider Hellenic world. This assessment does not by any means detract from the unique, historical development of Cyprus from antiquity to the present.

There is a catalogue of the collection: Vassos Karageorghis, Ancient Art from Cyprus in the collection of George and Nefeli Giabra Pierides (Athens: Kapon Editions, 2002). [WorldCat]

3. Thanos N. Zintilis. The collection is displayed in The Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens which lists Zintilis as one of its donors:
In 2002, the Cypriot collector Thanos N. Zintilis, with the consent of the Cypriot State, assigned a large portion of his collection to the MCA on long-term loan. More than 800 Cypriot objects gave the MCA the opportunity to set up the first comprehensive collection of Cypriot antiquities in Greece. The collection, which includes stone figurines, bronze weapons and tools, terracotta figurines, sculptures, glass vases, jewellery, and pottery of all periods, gives an overall picture of the ancient history of Cyprus and its relations with other regions in the Eastern Mediterranean, namely the Aegean, Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor.
There is a published catalogue: Stella M. Lubsen-Admiraal, Ancient Cypriote Art. The Thanos N. Zintilis Collection (Athens: Museum of Cycladic Art, 2004). [WorldCat]
The full catalogue of the Thanos N. Zintilis Collection of Cypriot Antiquities, authored by St. Lubsen Admiraal, for many years curator of the collection at the Allard Pierson Museum of Amsterdam, and edited by Maria Tolis, curator of the collection in the MCA. The catalogue includes approximately 780 entries with detailed descriptions, colour photos of all objects, introductory texts, a timeline and a map of Cyprus.

Lost Archaeological Contexts
If the 3300 or so objects in these three private collections do not have recorded contexts, the archaeological information has been lost. However the Republic of Cyprus has provided a mechanism for these objects to be retained on Cyprus (or to be displayed in Athens). The size of these collections remind us of the general damage to archaeological sites on Cyprus. Thus there is all the more reason to protect the finite archaeological resource by legislation - and that includes the memorandum of understanding with the USA.

Further comments
Finally, an Eftis has helpfully commented on this topic on UNIDROIT-L, picking up on the thread that had been circulated by David Welsh:
I know the status quo with antiquities very well with regard to Cyprus; I was born there and my father was a respectable collector on the island. Wherever you scratch the earth, Cyprus is full of antiquities from a diversity of periods, and it is no surprise that many pieces over the years have found themselves in private hands.

The situation was brought under control some 10 years ago by the government of Cyprus when they took the brave decision to declare a universal amnesty on the island (something which I wish the UK would also do): all citizens were invited to declare antiquities in their possession with Nicosia Museum. In return, the government promised that no confiscations would be made of any artefacts, but after that date it would be illegal to possess an unregistered Cypriot antiquity. This effectively would be the ideal opportunity to bring the black market in antiquities on the island to an end...I certainly availed myself of the opportunity and officially registered my collection on the island. As a legally registered owner I am entitled
to buy or sell to other similarly registered owners antiquities that are registered. No Cypriot antiquity can be exported out of Cyprus, other than for temporary exhibition abroad. I think this is very fair legislation. No reputable collector on the island would dream of dealing with illegally excavated material. However, such illegally excavated material is frequently taken out of Cyprus even today via the Turkish occupied north and sold in the North American and European black markets..a point of great concern to us all..
There needs to be a study of the material and intellectual consequences of collecting Cypriot antiquities.

Friday 22 August 2008

Orphans and the Berlin painter

Among the antiquities returned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York to Italy was an Attic red-figured amphora attributed to the Berlin painter (inv. 1985.11.5) (see earlier posting). The amphora, showing a man playing a kithara, surfaced at Sotheby's (London) 13-14 December 1982, lot 220. (Two further pots attributed to the Berlin painter have been returned to Italy. A calyx-krater was returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum: inv. 77.AE.5, with other fragments given or purchased in 1982, 1984 and 1987. A hydria was returned from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: inv. 1978.45).

I had overlooked one significant detail about the New York pot. The amphora was published by Dietrich von Bothmer, "Greek and Roman Art", Recent Acquisitions (Metropolitan Museum of Art), (1985 - 1986), p. 9 [JSTOR]. It was purchased by the Rogers Fund, the Classical Purchase Fund, and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift. The published photographs show that the amphora had at some point been broken and then reconstructed.

Images of the amphora were seized from the premises of Giacomo Medici in the Geneva Freeport. Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini (The Medici Conspiracy, p. 107) commented:
Then there were the photographs of a red-figure Attic amphora by the Berlin Painter. Among the photographs seized was one showing this in the early stages of restoration, with the fragments crudely assembled but with many gaps. A second photograph shows the amphora after complete restoration, "in near perfect conservative condition thanks to expert restoration which completely eliminated the traces of breakage."
Who was the conservator?

Bothmer notes:
When the vase was acquired it lacked only a handful of small fragments. Shortly after it was placed on exhibition, Dr. J. Robert Guy recognized that nineteen of the fragments had been in his collection for some time. He has graciously donated these fragments (1985.315) to the Museum in "Commemoration of the Centenary of Sir John Beazley's Birth."

The Beazley Archive database does not appear to include the information about the additional fragments. When did Guy acquire the pieces? What was their source?

Such questions are also relevant to the issue of the acquisition of pot fragments (formerly owned by J. Robert Guy) by the Harvard University Art Museums in 1995.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Cyprus Discussion: Etiquette?

Earlier today Marc Fehlmann of the Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta in Northern Cyprus made comments about my posting on looting on Cyprus. He had used the methodology that I had developed with Dr Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge) to study private collections of Cypriot antiquities. Some 98% of the pieces in some of the collections had no recorded find-spots.

Now I find that David Welsh, an officer of the ACCG, has posted (or should that be pasted?) Fehlman's comments (under the title "Hypocrisy") to the Museum Security Network and to the UNIDROIT list (which Welsh founded). While Welsh mentions Fehlman's name in the header, there is no mention that this posting was made to Looting Matters. (There is an attempt to give a link - that is broken - but not to the original posting with comments.)

Only last week Welsh was awarded the Exceptionally Meritorious Service Award by the ACCG. The citation stated:
As founder and moderator of the Unidroit-L discussion list, Dave [Welsh] has dedicated countless hours to providing a balanced forum for discussion online of cultural property issues. He also represents the collector fraternity very effectively on numismatic discussion groups that reach a broad range of interested parties. The ACCG is proud to count Dave Welsh as a member of the guild and a tireless defender of ancient coin collecting.
Nathan Elkins has already made some observations about the award.

James Cuno on wbur

James Cuno was interviewed for the "Here & Now" show on (Wednesday, August 20, 2008). The main themes were:
Cuno noted that the Euphronios krater was made in Greece (or more precisely Athens) and transported to Etruria (in Italy) hinting that the movement of objects happened in the ancient world. However he failed to address (or more precisely the interviewer did not ask the question) the issue of objects being looted from archaeological sites and then sold to North American museums.

The closing question asked about the replacement for Philippe de Montebello. "I remain committed to the Art Institute of Chicago".

"Elvis" and the Graham Geddes Collection

The news that the Roman "Elvis" sarcophagus fragment was to be sold at Bonhams in London this coming October has generated quite a bit of publicity. But who is the present proprietor?

The press release quotes Chantelle Waddingham (Rountree), Head of Antiquities at Bonhams, who describes Graham Geddes as an Australian "collector and dealer".

A profile of Geddes appeared in 1996 (Zinta Jurjans Heard, "Making history", The Age [Melbourne] April 15, 1996). At that time he was described as having "the largest private antiquities collection in the world". Heard expanded, "he is one of the world's premier antique dealers and one of the world's leading authorities on antiquities, the passion of his life". His main "speciality" was described as "Southern Italian and Greek vases and Greek and Roman sculptures".

His antiquities collection contained "reputedly the largest collection of Southern Italian vases in the world put together by Mr Geddes with Professor A.D. Trendall, an internationally regarded specialist" (Susan McCulloch, "Out with the old for antiquities collector", The Weekend Australian August 10, 1996). (For Trendall see the obituary from the Society of Antiquaries.)

Geddes had dispersed part of his collection before. At the time it was reported (Antonia Williams, "Simply the best; Lots & Lots", Sydney Morning Herald September 19, 1996):
Twenty years ago, Geddes began assembling antiquities with friend and mentor Professor A.D. Trendall and, no hint of tomb robbery here, these objects come wreathed in academic approbation and provenance. Some of the proceeds, seller's and auctioneer's, will be donated to the A.D. Trendall Research Centre for Ancient Mediterranean Studies at La Trobe. Christie's expert Christine Insley Jones believes all the heavy collectors will be on the alert, particularly for the Attic red-figure Column Krater c 610 BC [sic.] estimated at $175,000 and climbing.
Geddes has been a benefactor; pieces from his collection have been on loan with university museums and other institutions. Rita Erlich ("For sale, the Geddes collection", The Age October 12, 1996) stressed this point when quoting Geddes:
"I prefer to buy items with provenance," he says. "Most of my vases and pieces of sculpture that I currently have have been in situ in various universities and collections."
It will be interesting to see the catalogue of the 2008 sale in due course.

Cyprus: Further Looting

Is it a "coincidence" that as the officers of the ACCG (Wayne Sayles, Executive Director, August 6, 2008; Peter Tompa, President, August 9; August 16, 2008; see also David Welsh, member of the ACCG Board, and Chairman of the International Affairs Committee, July 11, August 10, August 20, 2008; and see earlier reactions) launch what appear to be co-ordinated attacks on those connected with the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) and archaeologists commenting on the ethics of collecting, there are reports of looting in the Kourris Valley near Limassol? (See Anna Hassapi, "Tomb raiders plundering Kourris Valley antiquities", Cyprus Mail August 19, 2008).

Dr Pavlos Flourentzos, the Director of the Antiquities Department, is quoted:
The illegal antiquities trade is a problem in Cyprus, even in the non-occupied part ... However, there are antiquities buried in the ground almost everywhere in Cyprus. Therefore, tomb raiding and illegal antiquities trading is a problem in many other areas, not just in the Kourris Valley. When citizens break the law and steal, it is a matter for the police and I think they have been doing a good job.
Such reports remind us of the need for import restrictions on archaeological material from Cyprus.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Respect for Colleagues

The ACCG seems to have been emboldened in its battle against what it terms (incorrectly) as "the radical archaeologists" (see postings by Nathan Elkins and Paul Barford). But officers of the ACCG are crossing lines in their personal attacks on colleagues, e.g. Wayne Sayles (Executive Director of ACCG) described two of his opponents in less than flattering terms (see response by Paul Barford).

Now Peter Tompa (President of ACCG) has attacked Professor Patty Gerstenblith of De Paul University. Gerstenblith is an authority on issues surrounding looting antiquities.
  • Director of De Paul's College of Law’s Program in Cultural Heritage Law
  • Founding president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
  • Senior advisor to the International Arts and Cultural Property Committee of the ABA Section on International Law
  • Editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Cultural Property (1995-2002)
  • Member of the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee (2000-2003) in the U.S. Department of State.
Tompa is no doubt feeling sore after he was criticised for constructing conspiracy theories. But as Gerstenblith is an authority on Cultural Heritage Law, why should Tompa be concerned about her serving on the Obama National Arts Policy Committee? Could he be backing the other side ... ?

Monday 18 August 2008

The American Association of Museums: New Standards for Collecting Archaeological Material

The American Association of Museums (AAM) announced last week (August 13, 2008) that it had established "New Standards on Collecting of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art" (Press Release; document). The AAM advocates the use of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

There is also a section on "Existing Collections" (section 3):
In order to advance further research, public trust, and accountability museums should make available the known ownership history of archaeological material and ancient art in their collections, and make serious efforts to allocate time and funding to conduct research on objects where provenance is incomplete or uncertain. Museums may continue to respect requests for anonymity by donors.

Like the AAMD's Guidelines the issue of long-term loans is not discussed.

It is apparent that despite the return of antiquities to Italy from several North American museums, other institutions are likely to be in the spotlight in the near future. Will they be providing collecting histories of antiquities acquired since 1970?

Lobbying and Archaeological Material

Peter Tompa has commented on the use of Washington lobbyists by the Republic of Cyprus ("Clay Constantinou of Patton Boggs-- CAARI's Chief Lobbyist?"). Is it unreasonable or unusual for countries to retain the services of such companies?

For Tompa there is something more sinister:
High powered lobbying all to beat up on the small businesses of the numismatic trade and collectors who just want to help preserve, study and display coins of Cypriot type (like their fellow collectors in Cyprus itself) does little to advance Cyprus' greater interests in ensuring a just reunification of the Island. If anything, it just "turns off" a segment of the US population with a real interest in Cyprus and its glorious past to anything at all to do with the modern nation state and its government.
I am sure that that the lobbyists retained by the Republic of Cyprus have more to address than the question of archaeological remains.

As a result of Tompa's posting I thought that it would be interesting to explore the organisations behind the FOIA request relating to ancient coins from Cyprus.

In 2007 the Europe-based International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN) appears to have paid $15,546 for lobbying ( The Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) last seem to have paid for lobbying services in 2003 (

The declared lobbyist for both organisations was Dillingham & Murphy until 2007; the PNG retained McDermott, Will & Emery in 2003. For 2008 the declared lobbyist for IAPN and PNG was Bailey & Ehrenberg.

Peter K. Tompa (Bailey & Ehrenberg) is listed as a lobbyist for two organisations in 2008: the International Association of Professional Numismatists, and the Professional Numismatists Guild ( Among Tompa's Practice Areas is "Cultural Property Lobbying and Advice".

Tompa is the president of the ACCG. His profile (last updated in February 2007) states, "He is currently a partner at Dillingham & Murphy, LLP." However he no longer appears on the Dillingham & Murphy website. Back in May The Hill ran a story about Tompa:
Peter Tompa, a lawyer at Bailey & Ehrenberg, wants an exemption allowing imports of ancient Iraqi coins. The trade was restricted by the State Department late last month.

Tompa is representing the Professional Numismatists Guild and the International Association of Professional Numismatists, two nonprofit groups that represent the world’s coin and paper money experts.
Is Tompa commenting on the issue of cultural property on the Museum Security Network in his capacity as lobbyist, collector of archaeological objects, private individual, or as president of the ACCG?

Saturday 16 August 2008

Iraq: John Curtis on Looted Sites

The British Museum survey of archaeological sites in southern Iraq during June 2008 has been widely discussed. Martin Bailey writing for The Art Newspaper misleadingly suggested that there was no evidence for looting. Although the eight sites surveyed were not necessarily representative of Iraq as a whole, some pro-collecting lobby groups latched onto the story (see earlier comments).

John Curtis has now written a summary of the survey: 'Iraq Now', British Museum Magazine 61 (Autumn 2008), 24-25. He discusses the problem of looting as well as damage from military activity. He concludes, 'it does not appear that there has been significant looting at any of the eight sites [in southern Iraq] since 2003'. But Curtis continues:
We were not able to visit sites further north that are known to have been badly looted following the coalition invasion, and the situation at these sites might well be much worse. Further assessments are urgently needed.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Archaeologists and Collectors

Are archaeologists "anti-collecting" per se? No.
Do I maintain an "anti-collecting" position? No.
Do I appreciate the cultural benefit of historic collections of antiquities? Yes.
Are archaeologists in favour of protecting the integrity of the archaeological record? Yes.
Should concerns be raised when collectors acquire recently surfaced antiquities?
... What do you think?

Monday 11 August 2008

Interview with 'Il Bulldog': Expect Further Returns to Italy

Alastair Smart has published a detailed interview with Maurizio Fiorilli, the Italian state prosecutor ("Maurizio Fiorilli: scourge of the tomb raiders", Sunday Telegraph August 10, 2008). Fiorilli reflects on the recent returns of antiquities from North American collections and their display in the two Nostoi exhibitions in Rome.

He makes a distinction between historic "cultural property" (such as the Parthenon marbles) and the more recent looting of archaeological sites.
"Since 1970, whole new rules of behaviour have been in force for art-purchasing internationally, and pieces illegally trafficked after that date must return to Italy not as a concession, but as a matter of course."

Fiorilli reminds us that false "histories" had been created for some of the objects so that they would appear to have been "known" prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Even more scandalous is the suggestion that complete pots were fragmented so that they could be sold piece by piece to institutions.

The interview reminds us that the objects that have been returned are only the tip of the iceberg.
the repatriated artefacts are arguably just the finest 100 of the thousands that he [Fiorilli] could, with Polaroid evidence, have pressed claims for.

Although some have suggested that the "antiquities wars" are over, this does not appear to be the end.
although [Fiorilli] stresses that his investigations 'are now turning to Europe and Japan', he's far from finished in America, where the Cleveland Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and a host of private collectors are on his hit-list, and where the Getty is still refusing to budge over its showpiece bronze statue 'Victorious Youth', attributed to Alexander the Great's court sculptor, Lysippos. The statue was hauled up by Italian fishermen off the Adriatic coast and eventually sold to the museum in 1997, the Getty maintaining that because the statue was found in international waters, Italy has no rightful claims on it.
It looks as if the Cleveland Museum of Art (see the report that there appeared to be progress in May 2008), the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (see the link between one piece there and Robin Symes) and the Miho Museum (see the story about the Roman oscilla) are now firmly on the Italian agenda. Renewed claims for the "Fano Athlete" were made in January 2008 (as the Euphronios krater was arriving back in Rome).

The interview also addresses the issue of the "universal museum" (and indirectly one of its key advocates, James Cuno).
Disgruntled American curators aside, Fiorilli's fiercest critics tend to be the many advocates worldwide of a 'universal museum', who - notwithstanding Unesco's declaration on lootings after 1970 - wonder: 'Why repatriate to Italy, when we're all children of the Graeco-Romans ?' and 'Aren't treasures best cared for, and most widely viewed, in a world-class museum?'. But the case of the Italian antiquities is too clear-cut for such questions. They must be repatriated, if only to put the brakes on future looting. As beautiful as an artefact may look in a museum display, once stolen away from its archaeological context, we'll never know the time, place or society it came from: we'll never gain insight into the culture that created it.
Smart has revised the debate about the return of antiquities to Italy and suggested some insights on how the story is likely to develop over the next few months and years.

Ivory face recovered from Robin Symes, exhibited in Nostoi. (From the Sunday Telegraph)

Saturday 9 August 2008

Burns: "I wear this title of Philhellene rather proudly"

Some members of the coin-collecting community have been speaking out about the restrictions on archaeological material from Cyprus. Part of their lack of concern for cultural heritage has led to a FOIA request relating to the decision to restrict the import of archaeological material from Cyprus.

What are the real motives of the coin-collecting and coin-selling organisations behind this FOIA request?

Peter Tompa has now turned his attention to US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns (a former US Ambassador to Greece). Tompa asks the question:
Did then Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns order the controversial decision to impose import restrictions on coins of Cypriot type as a "thank you" to a coalition of Greek and Greek Cypriot lobbying groups called "the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes" or "CEH" which had given him an award?

Burns has pleased to receive the award (quoted in States News Service, May 16, 2007):

I wear this title of Philhellene rather proudly. You don't spend four years in Greece, as my wife and three daughters and I did, and not come back feeling committed to Greek thought, to the Greek way of life, to Greece itself in my case. My wife and I have lived in West Africa, we've lived in Egypt, we've lived in Israel, we've lived in France, we've lived in Belgium, we've lived in Greece. We have double the number of friends in Greece than all the other countries combined. [Laughter]. On my name day, December 6th, Nicholas, I still get 10 to 15 phone calls, e-mails from friends in Athens, in Salonika, in Crete, and elsewhere. So we love Greece in our family. We're personally committed to the country, to the relationship. My daughters always are pestering me, when are we going back to Greece?

Tompa appears to be questioning the integrity of Burns. He continues:

Hopefully, a pending FOIA lawsuit will shed further light on the issue whether our own State Department sold out American coin collectors and its own CPAC-- and all because an award given to Undersecretary Burns. If so, the price for betrayal of the interests of American coin collectors and likely the State Department's own CPAC was quite low indeed.

This is emotive talk ("sold out", "price of betrayal") from Tompa. Is he suggesting that organisations that "honour" individuals have ulterior motives? What about organisations that reward congressmen for supporting "collector rights" or intervening "in issues of importance to ancient coin collectors"? Or is that different?

Friday 8 August 2008

Collecting Coins: "a fundamental aspect of ... citizenship"

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) has issued a press release, "Sale of Old Coins Irks Archaeologists" (August 6, 2008), through PR Newswire. Wayne Sayles, the executive director of ACCG, is quoted:
Some archaeologists are piqued that genuine ancient coins are being sold in a benefit auction to preserve collectors rights.
The release notes:
In a recent post online, one archaeologist likened the private collecting of ancient coins to the slaughter of African elephants.
I presume that this is a reference to Nathan Elkins, "Why coins matter: Trafficking in undocumented and illegally exported ancient coins in the North American marketplace", on SAFE. Elkins writes:
Although ancient coin collecting has a long historical precedent, not all practices accepted in humanity’s past are still considered ‘ethical’ today. For example, the ivory trade, which also had millennia of precedence, once flourished until the African elephant became increasingly endangered; only after laws were passed to protect the elephants did it become widely accepted that the ivory trade was unethical. Like the African elephant, our common cultural heritage is an endangered species.
Such an idea has also been floated in the British press (see "Saving antiquities: the 'elephant ivory' model" , September 22, 2007). And we need to remember that third millennium BCE marble sculptures from the "Keros haul" in the Greek Cyclades were once auctioned in London for the benefit of the Save the Elephant Campaign ("Animal rights and archaeologists: a strange comparison?").

The ACCG is holding an auction to try to raise funds to maintain its "legal challenge of recent U.S. State Department (DOS) sanctions that they say were applied contrary to law and threaten their hobby." The issue relates to coins from Cyprus.

The ACCG release makes this closing statement:
American coin collectors, who view personal property rights as a fundamental aspect of their citizenship, seek to affirm their rights legally in the face of what they see as overreaching regulation on the part of the U.S. government.
Cosmopolitan archaeologists believe that stewardship of the finite archaeological record is appropriate in a civilised society.

And I am sure that rational and responsible coin collectors will agree.

The Graham Geddes Collection at Bonhams

The website at Bonhams now carries a little more about the Geddes collection that is due to be auctioned this October. The sale will consist of just under 200 lots of antiquities with "over fifty individual Greek vases":
  • Apulian: including a volute-krater attributed to the "Geddes painter" (Trendall), presumably the piece once on loan to the Classical and Archaeology collection of the University of Melbourne (until July 1993); and a hydria attributed to the "painter of the Berlin Dancing Girl"
  • Paestan
  • Campanian
  • Gnathian
  • Attic: including a black-figured column-krater attributed to the "Swing painter". (An Attic column-krater, attributed to the "Swing painter" and showing a departing chariot, passed through Sotheby's (London) 13-14 July 1987, lot 440; is it the same one?)

Wednesday 6 August 2008

"Owned by a Duke in Northern Ireland"

I having been working on a study of South Italian pottery. One of the pieces under consideration passed through the Athena Fund II auction of 1990 and into a named New York gallery in 1992. I was going through my notes and found that the same gallery had supplied a first century BCE marble head of a Greek goddess to a North American collection in the same year.

The head had apparently once been
owned by a duke in Northern Ireland who, as a condition of sale, insisted that he "be not in any way approached or contacted" by anyone wanting to know more about the piece.
Before you ask, the piece had not been reported as stolen on the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) database.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Shelby White and Greece: is there an update?

The press release of July 11, 2008, announcing that Shelby White would be returning a bronze calyx-krater and a fragmentary marble funerary stele to Greece stated:
Both antiquities are very important, rare, and their repatriation will take place within July 2008.
Although the impending return has been noted in the Greek press, there does not seem to be an announcement that the handover has actually taken place.

It is all so reminiscent of how the statements relating to the Icklingham bronzes and the returns to Italy were handled (and see the final list issued in March 2008).

Cuno: "an anguished manifesto"

Christian Tyler has reviewed James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? (2008) for the Financial Times (August 4, 2008). I presume it is aimed at those who have been buying antiquities as an investment and need a little reassurance in these days of the "credit crunch".

Tyler starts with this statement: "The provenance of antiquities has always been murky". Really? Always? So, according to Tyler, all the excavated objects from, say, Amarna, the Kerameikos cemetery at Athens, or Herculaneum have "murky" provenances. I start to wonder if Tyler understands the issues. (I have commented on the use of the term "provenance" elsewhere.)

The core of the review contains discussions of partage, the licit market and cosmopolitanism (though Tyler does not always use those terms); readers of Looting Matters are already aware of my views on these subjects.

What I find a little unbelievable is that Tyler's closing paragraph tells us:
"The author’s [sc. Cuno's] message is that stewardship, not ownership, is what matters".
I wonder if Tyler had forgotten to note the title of the book he was reviewing. Stewardship is key: but it is the stewardship of the archaeological record that matters.

Other reviews of Cuno are collected here.

Saturday 2 August 2008

Returns and Loans

In the aftermath of some of the returns to Italy (and remember that the Polaroids seized in Geneva show 1000s more items), some museum directors in North America have been calling for the creation of a "licit market"; for them "ownership" seems to be a key issue. (See also related observations from Paul Barford dealing with comments from some dealers.)

I prefer a move towards the loan of archaeological material along the lines of Maxwell L. Anderson's EUMILOP project back in the 1980s.

Loan material has of course started to move from Italy to North America. The February 2006 agreement over the Sarpedon (Euphronios) krater allowed for :
... long-term future loans—of up to four years each, as Italian law allows—of works of art of equivalent beauty and importance to the objects being returned. The loans will be chosen from a list of objects submitted by the Metropolitan or by others, with joint approval.
A Laconian cup from the Museo Nazionale, Cerveteri was placed on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2006 (Randy Kennedy, "Italy Lends Antiquities to 2 Museums", New York Times November 29, 2006), and in January 2008 "Three Spectacular Vases" from Italy joined it (see further comments and images from Culturegrrl). Philippe de Montebello described the three as "extraordinary new loans" that would "illuminate the superb achievements of [Euphronios'] contemporaries". Indeed, "these masterpieces will expand significantly our visitors' experience of classical art".

The three further loans were:
  1. An Attic head oinochoe (jug) with the "signature" of Charinos on loan from the Museo Nazionale, Tarquinia.
  2. An Attic red-figured cup "signed" by Euxitheos as potter (see the Sarpedon krater) and Oltos as painter on loan from the Museo Nazionale, Tarquinia.
  3. A Paestan bell-krater attributed to Python on loan from the Museo Archeologico, Naples.

Friday 1 August 2008

Iraq: The Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Eleanor Robson has reviewed Peter G. Stone and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly (eds.), The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2008) [WorldCat].

"... this book is an extraordinary achievement that will stand as the definitive account of the desperate, avoidable cultural tragedy of Iraq for many years to come."

Recovery of Italian Antiquities

Earlier this week the Italian Carabinieri announced the results of four successful operations. Some 33 antiquities were recovered; these had been either stolen from museums or looted from archaeological sites.

The four operations are:
  1. "Operazione on line" was launched in mid-July and employs some 20 staff who monitor internet sites for looted material. A member of the team spotted an Apulian red-figured plate that had been stolen from the Museo Bardini in Florence in December 1976. The piece had been offered by a dealer, Antonina in Rome.
  2. Herm of Silenus. This first century CE sculpture had been stolen from the Antiquarium at Santa Maria Capua Vetere in the late 1960s. It had apparently surfaced on the antiquities market in North America in 1987 when it was acquired by a now deceased private collector. The piece had been returned voluntarily by Sotheby's, New York in July 2007.
  3. Tivoli. A fourth century CE child's sarcophagus had been stolen from the store of the Tribunale of Tivoli in May 2004; it was in temporary storage due to the refurbishment of the building. It was then sold on the antiquities market.
  4. Parioli. The remaining thirty pieces were recovered from a tailor in Parioli, Rome. These appear to have been looted from archaeological sites in Campania and Puglia. Among them were two Subgeometric jars, and black-glossed cups. Some of the pieces had been used as window dressings. It brings a new meaning to the question, "would you like a classic cut to your suit, sir?"

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...