Skip to main content

Publishing recently surfaced Mayan pots

Mike Smith has drawn my attention to a recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine (Chip Brown, "El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya", May 2011). Smith notes:
The article includes photographs of several spectacular Maya polychrome vessels (p. 45) that apparently are not from the site. In fact, we have no idea where these vessels are from; they lack provenience. In a post on the Aztlan listserv today, Karen Bruhns identifies these vessels as unprovenienced, looted, objects.
One of the pieces has been identified as coming from the so-called November Collection. The point is made:
One might expect that magazines by and for wealthy art dealers might publish looted objects without a second thought. But Smithsonian Magazine is supposedly a legitimate source of news about natural history and related topics, associated with the premier museum in the U.S. Their inclusion of photos of looted objects is deplorable, a real ethical lapse.
Smith draws attention to an article in the New York Times (Susan Diesenhouse, "Arts in America; Looted or Legal? Objects Scrutinized at Boston Museum", July 30, 1998). The discussion seems to be familiar:
Museum officials curtly rejected a request from Guatemala to eventually return a 138-piece collection of Mayan art that is the jewel of its pre-Columbian display. In a two-paragraph letter written a month ago to a Guatemalan official, Malcolm Rogers, director of the museum, said that its board of trustees ''found no basis'' for Guatemala's ownership claim because the country could not produce legal title to the pieces.
It looks as the Smithsonian needs to revisit its publication policy.

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 …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.