Skip to main content

The "open wound" of surfacing antiquities

One of the major (and unresolved) stories of 2010 related to antiquities in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid. One of the photographs that appeared in The Art Newspaper showed a Gnathian krater in the Zurich workshop (a bathroom?) of Fritz and Harry Bürki.

Fabio Isman has now revealed that the Apulian pyxis shown at the front of the same photograph has been spotted in a New York gallery (Fabio Isman, "Tutto iniziò negli anni Settanta, quando il Met...", Il Giornale dell'Arte gennaio 2011). Isman comments:
Una pisside apula a figure rosse del 340 a.C., una scatola di forma tonda che apparteneva a una misteriosa «collezione inglese» ed è stata acquistata a Londra nel 1990, è apparentemente ritratta invece nel laboratorio di Fritz e Harri Bürki, padre e figlio di Zurigo (Fritz era bidello nell’università dove ha studiato Hecht), perquisiti dalla giustizia italiana che ha loro sequestrato anche altri oggetti: hanno restaurato tra l’altro il cratere di Eufronio con la Morte di Sarpedonte. La pisside apula, la cui foto era tra quelle di Medici, è immortalata proprio accanto a uno degli oggetti finiti al Museo di Madrid.
The pxyis was attributed to the Baltimore painter by A.D. Trendall.

Isman's article is informed by the meticulous work of Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis. Some 16 objects were linked to the photographic archives obtained through raids in Geneva, Basel and on the island of Schinousa. Isman makes clear that how it had been possible to consult the images:
Il portfolio di Medici è stato pubblicato, e per qualche tempo era possibile consultarlo, sul sito del Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del patrimonio culturale; anche quello di Becchina è pubblico: già da tre anni allegato al processo di Roma contro Marion True (nel frattempo prosciolta) e Robert Hecht.
Isman reviews how these images have been used in recent years to identify items resurfacing on the market in London and New York.

Nine of the items, all Attic, Etruscan or South Italian pots, had formed part of the Patricia Kluge collection. One piece, an Campanian oinochoe, had also resided in the John Kluge collection. Back in 2007 Lee Rosenbaum (Culturegrrl) reported on some bronzes that were returned to Italy:
[The dealer] told me that he had sold the bronzes in the 1980s to collector John Kluge, who put them up for auction at Christie's on June 8, 2004. [The dealer] repurchased them there (for $6,573 and $9,560, respectively). He said that he had also voluntarity returned other pieces, when he learned that they had been illegally taken from Italy.
It appears that the bronzes had been removed from Italian collections in the 1970s.

Isman also comments on the Clarence Day sale at Sotheby's New York in December 2010.
Lo stesso vale per i tre bronzetti ex Symes andati all’asta da Sotheby’s a inizio dicembre: un cinghiale valutato 50mila dollari, un giovane danzatore etrusco (60mila) e due applique anch’esse etrusche (90mila). Provengono dalla favolosa collezione del filantropo Clarence Day, morto a 82 anni nel 2009, ed erano riemersi circa 30 anni fa da Mathias Komor, mercante newyorkese deceduto nel 1984. Day, infatti, s’innamora dell’archeologia negli anni ’70, come dimostrano le fotografie dell’isola greca, in cui la polizia ellenica ha sequestrato nel 2006 il portfolio d’infinite opere di provenienza illegittima passate per le mani di Symes e di Christos Michaelides, allora suo socio, come ha ricostruito sempre Gill. Nella fotografia il giovane danzatore etrusco è ancora sporco della terra di scavo.
It looks as if the collecting histories of that collection deserved a little more scrutiny.

Isman concludes his pieces with some comments from Paolo Ferri, the former state prosecutor.
È difficile capire, 15 anni dopo, come antichità di cui alcuni tra i maggiori mercanti possedevano le immagini prima del restauro, possano essere ancora in circolazione nel mercato.
No wonder Ferri considers the appearance of such antiquities on the market an "open wound".

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

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 …

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.

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…