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French Export Licence for Antiquities

What does it mean when an archaeological object is offered at auction with the statement "Accompanied by a French export licence"? Does it guarantee that the object has not been removed from its archaeological context by illicit means? Does it indicate how the object surfaced on the market? Does it mean that the object will not be claimed by the government of the country where it was found?

The left hand of this Roman limestone statue is still covered with traces of encrusted earth. The statue was clearly fresh out of the ground at the time that the photograph was taken. This statue had not come from an "old European collection".

But the statue is clutching one thing: "a French export licence".

Image
Detail from a limestone statue that passed through the stock of a European dealer.

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