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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?


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