Skip to main content

Save the Anglo-Saxon Stone! "So what is it doing in a saleroom?"

I have been following the forthcoming sale of antiquities at Bonhams with more than a passing interest. I drew attention to the way that Bonhams had reminded us that some of the archaeological objects would have "interesting" collecting histories.

I see that Mike Pitts of the Guardian has an important report ("Antiquities: an ancient cross to bear" / "Save our Anglo-Saxon Stone!", April 26, 2010) on lot 286, "late Anglo-Saxon stone section of a cross-shaft". It comes from "St Pega's Hermitage in Peakirk, Northamptonshire".

Pitts writes:
Professor Rosemary Cramp, from Durham University, is leading a project to catalogue all surviving Anglo-Saxon stone sculpture. As it happens, she and Joanna Story, a lecturer at the University of Leicester, are in the process of recording Northamptonshire - hence a visit the Evereds recently received from a geologist in Cramp's team. St Pega's cross, says Story, is a typical piece from the important Peterborough school of Anglo-Saxon art, and one of very few sculptures that can be linked to a place whose significance in Anglo-Saxon times is known.
Graham Jones, an Oxford University researcher and student of early Christian saints, says the stone is "part of the core historical heritage of the country".
So what is it doing in a saleroom - from where it could in theory end up anywhere in the world, and, as academics most fear, disappear from public view?

The events of last week have demonstrated that Bonhams is happy to handle controversial pieces.

Bonhams established it [sc. the cross] was not part of the listed building, which would have prevented the sale: the church had simply sold it with the house without restrictions, and it's not physically attached. ...
But there is a more important issue here.

Has the cross been "removed from a building or structure of historical, architectural or archaeological interest where the object has at any time formed part of the building or structure"? Would the cross be protected under the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003? (Just to remind readers, anybody convicted of handling such material can be imprisoned for a maximum of seven years.)

The present owner now realises the issues and wants to withdraw the cross from the sale - but is reported to be faced with a £9000 plus "consignment fee" if the sale does not proceed. Bonhams needs to seek some goodwill from the archaeological community.

So how about waiving the consignment fee so that the present owner can present this historically important cross to the Peterborough Museum?

Image
From The Guardian.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

David Gill said…
See further comments by Paul Barford.

Popular posts from this blog

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

Symes and a Roman medical set

Pierre Bergé & Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". The catalogue entry helpfully informs us that the set probably came from a burial ("Cette trousse de chirurgien a probablement été découverte dans une sépulture ...").

The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes.

Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.

What due diligence was conducted on the medical set prior to offering it for sale? Did Symes sell the set to Hishiguro? How did Symes obtain the set? Who sold it to him?

I understand that the appropriate authorities in France are being informed about the …

The Minoan Larnax and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

I was recently asked to comment on the acquisition of recently surfaced antiquities in Greece as part of an interview. One of the examples I gave was the Minoan larnax that was acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Although this piece has been discussed in the Greek press, the museum has not yet responded to the apparent identification in the Becchina archive.

Is the time now right for the Michael C. Carlos Museum or the wider authorities at Emory University to negotiate the return of this impressive piece so that it can be placed on display in a museum in Greece?