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Pots seized in NYC: comment from Christie's

Last week I commented on the seizure of two pots—an Apulian situla and an Attic pelike—in New York City (as reported by Art Daily). The circulated picture of the situla seems to link it with the situla sold at auction in NYC in June this year for $40,000. The reports suggest that the two pots together are worth $120,000.

So we are looking for an Attic red-figured pelike that sold for around $80,000. I see from the Christie's press release for the Antiquities sale of Wednesday June 3, 2009 that they sold "An Attic red-figured Pelike, attributed to the Aegisthus painter, circa 480-460 B.C." (lot 120) for $80,500. The buyer was in the category of "European trade". Is this the same pelike?

Lot 120 ("a large Attic red-figured pelike attributed to the Aegisthus Painter, circa 480-460 B.C. (estimate: $80,000-120,000)") featured in the advance publicity for the sale: "Superb examples of Roman and Greek Art highlight Christie's spring sale of antiquities" (May 4, 2009).

The situla, if the speculation is correction, came from the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. Four of the top ten pieces in the June 2009 sale came from this same source ("Classical works of art from the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, including Roman sculpture and Greek vases, accounted for four of the top ten prices"). Two can be identified from the sold lots:

Lot 170: A Roman marble portrait head of the Emperor Nero, circa 59-64 A.D. $80,500
  • with Galerie Mythes et Legends, Paris, 1984.
  • with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1984.
  • with Summa Galleries, Beverly Hills, mid 1980s.

Lot 111: An Attic black-figured pseudo-panathenaic Amphora, circa late 6th century B.C. $60,000
  • with Nabille Asfar, Brussels, 1983.
  • with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1984.
  • with Summa Galleries, Beverly Hills, mid 1980s.

Of the remaining eight in the "top ten" list, six appear in the list of sold lots and can be eliminated. This leaves two pieces which do not appear in the list of sold lots:
  • Lot 120: An Attic red-figured pelike, attributed to the Aegisthus painter. $80,500.
  • Lot 187: A Roman marble herm bust of Menander. $188,500
This raises a further interesting question over how two lots that were not sold could appear in a press release saying that they were sold. (No doubt the dealer or gallery ["European Trade"] offered money immediately after the sale. Perhaps a reader of LM could enlighten me.)

I contacted the Public Relations section of Christie's, Rockefeller Plaza, and asked about "the reported seizure of an Apulian situla that appears to have passed through Christie's in June". Sung-Hee Park confirmed that "the transparency of the public auction system combined with the efforts from the U.S. ICE and foreign governments, in this matter, led to the identification of two stolen artifacts".

If the seized Apulian situla and the Attic pelike are indeed the ones appearing at Christie's in June 2009 then it makes the quote from G. Max Bernheimer, International Department Head of Antiquities, all the more significant: “Today’s [sc. June 3, 2009] strong results show that wonderful objects with clear provenance continue to perform exceedingly well at auction.”

What is the "clear provenance" for the situla and pelike?

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Thornton Kay said…
It is quite normal for lots that do not sell at auction to be sold subsequently by private treaty after the sale.

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