© David Gill, 2010
Protests against the sale emerged on social networking sites last week. An online petition was organised by the Nigeria Liberty Forum, which describes itself as a "UK-based Nigerian pro-democracy group".
"They should seek good counsel and refrain from selling the mask," Orobosa Omo-Ojo, an official in the state government of Edo, which contains the modern city of Benin, told the press in Nigeria. "Anything that makes them ignore this call [from] the Edo state government will [make us] use this as a starting point to protect our intellectual properties."
Questions are being raised about whether the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is coming sufficiently clean about an ancient Greek vase in its collection, which has been linked to antiquities dealers involved in tainted acquisitions by the Getty.MIA Director, Kaywin Feldman, is probably regretting writing a letter to the New York Times that drew attention to her thinking on cultural property. And her position is important because she is also President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).
Christie's Antiquities Department made history once again, achieving $34 million, the highest total for an Antiquities sale at Christie’s and selling the exceptional Cycladic marble reclining female figure for an amazing $16.8 million, a world auction record for a Cycladic marble figure and the highest price achieved for an ancient work of art ever sold at Christie’s.The Christie's sale fetched $34,092,875, a little behind Sotheby's at $45 million. But this means some $79 million worth of antiquities were sold at two New York auction-houses this week.
Egypt has rightly been demanding that governments and museums return fundamental parts of its patrimony that have disappeared from ancient troves. It has had no success thus far with a 3,200-year-old burial mask at the Saint Louis Art Museum, a bust of Nefertiti in Germany, or the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.Hawass takes the view that the mask was removed from one of the archaeological stores in Saqqara.
If a member museum, as a result of its continuing research, gains information that establishes another party’s right to ownership of a work, the museum should bring this information to the attention of the party, and if the case warrants, initiate the return of the work to that party, as has been done in the past. In the event that a third party brings to the attention of a member museum information supporting the party’s claim to a work, the museum should respond promptly and responsibly and take whatever steps are necessary to address this claim, including, if warranted, returning the work, as has been done in the past.In other words, Feldman needs to contact the Italian authorities ("the museum should bring this information to the attention of the party") and investigate the claim.
... why should we pay a treasure hunter 1000 times more than an archaeologist to dig up an object? Even to my politician, it seems pretty obvious that new finds like this year’s Crosby Garrett Roman helmet need to be in a museum where people can see them; and equally obvious that the sums of money paid to treasure hunters are as absurd as their public adulation. Two million pounds for the helmet and three for the Staffordshire hoard – these are sums that could keep a small museum going for several years.
Archaeology is in the business of understanding the climate, the soil, society, religion, conflict, commerce, living together: no minor matters. It is as important as every other science, from medicine to space travel, and its findings have a permanent value. Whatever the future brings, let’s hang on to this principle: the true currency of archaeology is knowledge; that’s our gold standard, valid everywhere.
G. Max Bernheimer, International Head of Antiquities showcases a Cycladic marble figure, one of the few sculptures attributed to the Schuster Master. The idol is one of the most iconic sculptural types to have survived from antiquity and is the highlight of Christie's Antiquities sale in New York on 9 December.Bernheimer seems so out of touch with Cycladic scholarship that he still uses the now obsolete nomenclature. I have noted elsewhere:
One change in G-G's approach has been the abandonment of the term 'Master' in favor of 'Sculptor' (though still in upper case). In G-G's earlier work, she explained: 'The term master is used throughout ... to denote a craftsman who was thoroughly competent in his profession although not necessarily highly skilled or capable of producing masterpieces' (SC, p. 62). The use of this term for Cycladic had been challenged: it may be appropriate for the language of 'high art' but not for what is likely to have been a humble craft (GC, pp. 651-52). G-G reports that her methodology and terminology were not borrowed from Morelli or Berenson, or from Beazley -- the obvious close precedent for identifying 'Masters' amongst the makers of ancient Greek artefacts; she reverts to what she now considers to be more art-historically neutral language (pp. xv-xvi).The auction catalogue entry continues to overlook Pat Getz-Gentle's attribution of 16 figures to the Sculptor.
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts for the museum that were the property of the Italian government. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.It should be noted that the New York Times disclosed the Italian papers in June 2010.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that J. Michael Padgett was accused of illegally donating artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum when, in fact, he allegedly assisted in the artifacts' acquisition from an alumnus.This story is about the due diligence process conducted by a curatorial member of staff at the Princeton University Art Museum. And the correction is misleading in that the report that appeared in The New York Times included loans as well as acquisitions.
The New York Times recently reported that Italian authorities are investigating Edoardo Almagià ’73 for illegal trafficking in antiquities. The Times cited a document written by Italian authorities alleging that the former antiquities dealer loaned, donated, and sold ancient artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum through curator Michael Padgett, who also is under investigation.Objects linked to Almagià have been returned from Cleveland to Italy.
We ask a very rigorous set of questions about any work of art that hypothetically might enter our collection either as a gift or a purchase ... We really have a tough standard in that regard, and I would say one of the toughest standards in the country.If such a "rigorous set of questions" have been asked about the twenty or so objects, Princeton University Art Museum has an academic responsibility to make a full disclosure of this information.
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts through fraudulent means and illegally donating them to the museum. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.
“There is still no indictment, and there is no investigation of the museum,” explained James Steward, director of the museum. “Beyond that, we’re in a wait-and-see situation.” Steward is the only member of the museum authorized to discuss its acquisition policies, and he declined to elaborate on the internal investigation.
Lorraine Sciarra, senior University counsel, said in an e-mail that the art museum’s current acquisition procedures have been in place since 2006.But what about the due dilgence process in the 1980s, the 1990s and the early 2000s when the disputed pieces were acquired?
“Princeton University Art Museum has a stringent acquisition policy in keeping with the November 1970 UNESCO agreement regarding the acquisition of ancient works of art or archaeological material,” she explained. “The policy reflects the art museum's commitment to respecting the preservation of every nation's cultural heritage as well as the specific patrimony law of each country of origin.”
On 9th November, we had the terrible news from friends at All Souls. Emma and her Egyptian husband, Sherif, who only got married at All Souls in the summer, were travelling to Cairo to visit members of his family. She was immediately put back on the plane she had come in; Sherif was detained. Over the last couple of weeks, contact has been sporadic, mainly by email but one brief phone call.Meynell has set up a website to encourage support for Sherif Hassan.
On March 19th, 2009, Dr. Josep Cervello from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona sent an e-mail to the Secretary General of the SCA expressing his concern about a limestone block that was then on display in the art gallery of Alexandra Irigoyen in Madrid.This story had been spotted in anonymous form by the same group of students. But now we have further detail:
Dr. Cervello also was able to ascertain that the piece belongs to the Galerias F. Cervera in Barcelona.This is the same Barcelona galerista linked to the Egyptian coffin seized in Miami. Barcelona has also been the location of seizures during Operation Ghelas.
To reduce the current contribution made by the Scheme to PAS in Wales, the total costs of which is £75K pa, from £59K this year to £6K from 2012. This is on the basis that these costs should be borne by the Welsh Assembly Government, through CyMAL or the National Museum WalesWales is facing significant budget cuts. (See draft budget.) Last Friday, the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, announced:
As a result of cuts to the Welsh budget by the UK government, the Heritage portfolio revenue budget will see a reduction of 3.15% over 3 years with the capital budget decreasing by 33.9% over 3 years.The Welsh Assembly Government website does not appear to contain any mention of PAS.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey today confirmed that the future funding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been secured with a reduction of 15% in real terms over four years. From April 2011 it will be managed directly by the British Museum.
Following the Spending Review settlement we will wish to maintain the integrity of the Portable Antiquities Scheme as much as we can. Bringing both the PAS and the administration of the Treasure Act together under the management of the British Museum will ensure an effective and efficient mechanism for dealing with archaeological finds made by the public, which also complements the work of curators, conservators and others at the museum.Image
Il pregevole bronzetto era detenuto da una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan, che l'aveva comprato da una casa d'aste per 537 mila dollari. La donna, messa al corrente della provenienza illecita, l'ha restituito senza chiedere contropartite. In precedenza era transitato per una mostra a Cleveland, nell'Ohio, dove era stato presentato con un'expertise di Marion True processata poi per gli acquisti del Getty Museum di Malibù e mostrato sulla rivista «Gods Delight».The Italian report confirms the Zeus was in the exhibition The Gods Delight at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The bronze statue, which was stolen from the National Roman Museum in 1980, was sold by Sotheby's auction house in New York in 2006 and later put on display at an exhibition in Cleveland in the US state of Ohio.I have been unable to find a bronze Zeus at auction at Sotheby's in 2006. However a bronze figure of a Zeus, some 24 cm tall, with a "missing right hand" (it appears to be missing from the elbow) was auctioned at Sotheby's New York on 9 December 2004, lot 249.
The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten, eds., catalogue of the exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 16th, 1988 - January 8th, 1989, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 9th - April 9th, 1989, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 9th - July 9th, 1989, Cleveland, 1988, no. 29, pp. 168-172, illus.At the time of the Cleveland exhibition this Zeus was the property of Mr and Mrs Lawrence A. Fleischman. The Fleischman statue had appeared in the Search for Alexander exhibition at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1982. It was published by Joyce Geary Volk ("A Lysippan Zeus", California Studies in Classical Antiquity 3, 2  272-83) who reported that in 1984 the Zeus was the property of Edward H. Merrin: "Mr Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".
To Ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" so that major heritage discoveries, such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett and recently sold by public auction, should fall within the scope of the Treasure Act.[HL2515]
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport plans to review the Treasure Act Code of Practice and this will include the definition of Treasure contained in the Treasure Act 1996. This review will take the form of a public consultation and so will provide the opportunity to consider whether it would be appropriate to extend the definition of treasure to include items such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review the definition of “treasure” in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.
It is strange that a national treasure can be sold at public auction by an anonymous vendor to an anonymous buyer.But he then added a question that must cause concern for those dealing in antiquities within the United Kingdom:
will the Government consider reviewing the law on antiquities at sale by auction in favour of some transparency?Transparency would mean auction houses and galleries providing full details of collecting histories and vendors.
My Lords, are moves afoot to look at the practices of the auction houses, given that this helmet was found in many pieces and an enormous amount of archaeological information was lost when conservators put the pieces back together without consulting archaeologists? Is that a practice that auction houses should undertake, given that loss of information on a very rare artefact? Are the Government looking at sales of antiquities through internet sites such as eBay? That is becoming a real source of worry, as much of our heritage is disappearing abroad without any record whatever.The restorer's report on the helmet is indeed enlightening and I am very grateful to Georgiana Aitken of Christie's for sending me a copy. There is indeed real concern that such an unusual object - could we use the term 'national treasure'? - was not put in the hands of an archaeological conservator.
It is in the interests of both auctioneers and dealers to check that the provenance of items is acceptable to reduce any risk of prosecution for handling stolen goods or dealing in tainted or mended goods.This brings us back to Lord Renfrew's point for the need of greater transparnechy in the market and the full disclousre of documented collecting histories when archaeological material is offered for sale on the market.
Photo: Becchina Archive Source: Christos Tsirogiannis An Attic black-figured amphora attributed to the manner of the Princeton painter has b...