Skip to main content

From Atlanta to Athens: The Start of the Trail

The recent public announcement that the Hellenic Ministry of Culture has requested the return of three antiquities from the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University can be traced back to June 2007: Nikolas Zirganos, "Ποιο είναι το CARLOS MUSEUM", June 3, 2007.

Details of the request were carried in Ta Nea (September 4, 2008) alongside a discussion of the returns from the Shelby White collection. The items at Emory were reported to be:

● Ένα φυσικού μεγέθους μαρμάρινο άγαλμα της Τερψιχόρης (4ος-2ος π.Χ.)
που φυλασσόταν σε στάνη στα Γιάννινα προτού φύγει στο εξωτερικό- αξίας τουλάχιστον 10 εκατ. δολαρίων.

● Έναν μνημειακού μεγέθους πίθο πιθανόν από τη Ρόδο (650-600 π.Χ.).

● Μία ακέραια μινωική πήλινη λάρνακα (14ος αιώνα π.Χ.) με πλούσια γραπτή διακόσμηση (κυρίως θαλάσσια όντα) από την Κρήτη.

These appear to be:
  1. A marble statue of Terpsichore (inv. 2002.31.1).
  2. A Rhodian pithos (inv. 2004.2.1).
  3. A Late Minoan III larnax (inv. 2002.34.1).
What are their histories? Where were they acquired? Do they have recorded find-spots? Did any pass through a named collection? I emailed the press office at Emory University for this information but have had no reply.

Two of the pieces featured in Catherine Fox, "New digs for ancient treasures; revamped Greek and Roman galleries at Carlos Museum to hold expanded collection of antiquities", The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 19, 2004. Among the "star acquisitions" is listed:
Pithos. 600 B.C. The terra-cotta storage jar, decorated with rows of spirals, is one of only two on display in the United States.
Images include:
The Muse (Terpsichore), which bears some of its original paint, is an excellent example of Hellenistic Greek sculpture.

I also note that this newspaper report was illustrated with a further image:
This bronze Greek calyx krater from the fourth century B.C. is one of the pieces on loan from the White-Levy collection.
The calyx-krater featured on the cover of the 2005 Michael C. Carlos exhibition catalogue (authored by Jennifer Chi [then curator of the Shelby White / Leon Levy collection] and Jasper Gaunt [curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum]), Greek Bronze Vessels from the Collection of Shelby White & Leon Levy. This is the krater that has just been returned to Greece.

The Atlanta report concluded with this comment:

The curator, who makes it a practice to cultivate collectors and dealers, says he's already working on future gifts. Given his energy and the collection's momentum, it's a good bet that the museum's star will continue to rise.

How is the museum going to respond to the Greek authorities if the issue was first raised some 15 months ago? Did the museum staff hope that the issue would evaporate?

It appears that the Greek authorities have been very patient and restrained in their negotiations.
Yet the opening of the "Nostoi" exhibition in Athens this week shows the resolve of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture to address the issue of looted antiquities.

What will be the next move? Perhaps a statement about the previous histories of the three pieces would help.


Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

George Ortiz collection to be displayed in London

Christie's is due to display part of the former collection of the late George Ortiz in London in a non-selling show to mark the 25th anniversary of the exhibition at the Royal Academy. There is a statement on the Christie's website ("The Ortiz Collection — ‘proof that the past is in all of us’"). Max Bernheimer is quoted: ‘Ortiz was one of the pre-eminent collectors of his day’.

We recall the associations with Ortiz such as the Horiuchi sarcophagus, the Hestiaios stele fragment, the marble funerary lekythos, and the Castor and Pollux.

Bernheimer will, no doubt, wish to reflect on the Royal Academy exhibition by reading Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463-511 [JSTOR].

Bernheimer will probably want to re-read the two pieces by Peter Watson that appeared in The Times: , "Ancient art without a history" and "Fakes - the artifice b…

Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

The post-excavation histories of objects are important as we map the that cultural property passes through collections and the markets. This is clear for an Attic black-figured amphora, attributed to Group E, that is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on October 31, 2018 (lot 31). It shows Herakles and the Nemean lion, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

The auction catalogue claims that it surfaced in the hands of John Hewett in London in 1970 (or earlier), then to a private collection in Europe, followed by a series of auctions:
A European private collection; Antiquities  Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 130thence to a private collection, New YorkAntiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1998, lot 102 The amphora appears in the Beazley Archive (BAPD 350425). This provides the history sequence as follows (though in the list of auction catalogues s…