Skip to main content

The Medici Dossier: Unresolved Issues

Later today at 10 am Christie's will be holding a sale of antiquities in the Rockefeller Plaza, New York. Readers will be aware that concerns have been raised about three lots (104, 112, 139) that appear to be close to objects that feature in the Medici Dossier seized in the Geneva Freeport. Are they the same? What due diligence searches have been undertaken by the staff at Christie's to ensure that they are not selling ex-Medici material? What reassurances can be given to potential buyers? Why did Christie's fail to mention the Sotheby's London collecting history for one of the pieces when the catalogue first appeared?

Christie's has made it clear that the sale of the objects would "proceed" in spite of a call for the three lots to be "repatriated" by an Italian prosecutor closely linked to the return of some 130 objects from North American collections. It was added, "Christie's has undertaken its own research into this matter and has found no evidence to support the need to withdraw these lots". What is the nature of this research? Who has been contacted?

What is the full "provenance" (or more accurately collecting history) for these three pieces? At the end of May 2010 Max Bernheimer of Christie's reminded us that provenance was "paramount". If that is the case, what is the full "provenance" for these three pieces? Has it been established how the three pieces entered the market?

The last word must rest with the spokesperson for Christie's commenting on the issue in May 2010: "we do not sell works that we have reason to believe are stolen".

Image
Three objects from the Medici Dossier (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis).

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.



Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …