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.

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A Sardinian boat-shaped lamp from an "old Austrian collection"

Sardinian boat-shaped lamp.  Left: Bonhams. Right: Becchina archive (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis) The sale of antiquities at Bonhams (...