Skip to main content

Homecomings: Lucanian Pottery

Two pieces of Lucanian pottery have appeared in the "Nostoi" exhibitions. Both pieces are of the same shape, a nestoris (or trozzella). They have been attributed to the Amykos painter and were probably made in the vicinity of Metaponto in southern Italy. Both had been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston: 1971.49 and 1998.588.

The first was purchased from Dr Leo Mildenberg of Bank Leu AG, Zurich. (It appears to have been supplied with a fabricated history suggesting that the nestoris had passed through a Madrid private collection.) The MFA catalogue (no. 4) notes, "This nestoris may be the earliest known red-figure example".

The second piece had surfaced at Sotheby's in London in December 1982 (lot 298). The nestoris was subsequently placed on loan at the Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, Melbourne from 1988 to 1994; Ian McPhee of La Trobe University informed me in October 2006 that Mr G. Geddes made the loan though he may not have been "the actual owner at the time". The nestoris was then sold at Sotheby's in London (December 1996), purchased by Widgie and Peter Aldrich, and acquired by the MFA in 1998.

Graham Geddes appears to have acquired at least three other items that passed through the December 1982 Sotheby's (London) auction:
  • lot 201: Etruscan black-figured amphora, attributed to the Micali painter. On loan to the Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, March 1995 - April 2008. Due to be auctioned at Bonham's (London) October 15, 2008, lot 11.
  • lot 255: Attic back-figured neck-amphora, attributed to the painter of Vatican 365. Subsequently Sotheby's December 8, 1986, lot 327. [Beazley Archive 7462]
  • lot 291: Apulian red-figured calyx-krater, attributed to the Darius painter. This apparently passed into a private collection (1982-1994) before forming part of the Geddes collection in 1994; it was sold at Christie's New York in 2001.
This December 1982 sale at Sotheby's also included an Attic red-figured amphora attributed to the Berlin painter that has been returned to Italy from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (and also featured in "Nostoi") (lot 220).

Geddes is reported to have formed one of the largest private collections of South Italian pottery in the world. He bought in good faith at auction, and was guided by Professor A.D. Trendall (see earlier comments). In 1996 Geddes himself said "I prefer to buy items with provenance".

What are the histories ("provenance") of these pieces prior to their surfacing at Sotheby's? Who consigned them?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.