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Roman Limestone Funerary Busts at Bonhams: Withdrawn



The three Roman funerary busts that were due to be auctioned at Bonhams next week have been withdrawn: lots 399-401 ("This lot has been withdrawn"). All three had the same collecting history:
"Acquired on the London art market in 1998. Accompanied by a French export licence."
The three had been identified by Cambridge researcher, Christos Tsirogiannis, who drew them to my attention in May 2009; they had failed to sell last year and were back on the market.

It can now be revealed that the three pieces featured in the Robin Symes archive seized on Schinoussa. The images clearly show traces of dirt indicating that they were fresh out of the ground.

This latest news brings into question the value (if any) of "a French export licence". The indication of such a licence was perhaps meant to reassure potential buyers. What is more interesting is who purchased the other three pieces last summer?

Had the staff at Bonhams conducted a due diligence search on the three busts? Were they aware of the Symes connection?

And if so, the staff at Bonhams were hardly unaware of the implications of handling Symes material given the events of October 2008.

The presence of Medici and Symes material at a London auction in 2010 is a matter of serious concern.

Image
Composite images of three Roman limestone funerary busts from the Robin Symes "archive".

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Comments

Mark said…
One really sees how the 2003 the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act has fallen so short of its original aspirations. Had it been reworded so as to include a requiremnt for due diligence and was retrospective to 1970 perhaps these tainted objects would not have been handled by Bonhams.

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