Skip to main content

Robin Symes Assets: the UK Government in "an absurd situation"

Robin Symes has been closely linked to the trade in recently surfaced antiquities (see overview). Symes' name has been linked directly to a number of antiquities that have been returned from North American collections.

In April 2008 I was informed by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about the arrangements for the dispersal of the Symes' assets (see here). It was reported to have included the Italian authorities.  However, instead of returning material to Italy the Home Office is reported to have initiated the sale of the first 1000 objects for the benefit of the UK taxpayer (Dalya Alberge, "UK accused over sale of 'looted' Italian treasures to pay tax bill", The Observer Sunday April 11, 2010). The Home Office appears to be unaware of the detailed evidence demonstrating Symes' links with antiquities from Italy.

One of the most telling evidence comes in the form of a fragment from a Greek pot; the rest of the piece has been returned to Italy by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The fragment should be reunited with the rest of the pot in Italy; there can be no justification for selling this piece.

There needs to be an urgent rethink before the sale goes ahead.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Mark said…
David, could you please clarify for me which international law as stated in the Guardian article requires the UK to return Symes's former collection. Likely, there is no evidence of its import into the UK, but the burden of proof rests on the Italian authorities at which point the UK would certainly bar the sale, correct? Thanks.
David Gill said…
Mark
The fragment that fits the rest of the pot returned from the Getty is itself telling. Was it the 'intention' of the pot-painter for his (or her) work to be smashed and distributed to different museums?
The UK Government should have allowed Italy to demonstrate which pieces appear to have been looted from Italy.
Best wishes
David

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 …

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…