Skip to main content

St Louis Art Museum Mask: implications for Swiss dealer

I have noted earlier this week that the collecting history ("provenance") for the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum was seemingly flawed. It cannot have been given to the excavator (who died in 1959). It cannot have been in Brussels in 1952. It cannot have been in the "Kaloterna collection" in 1962. The reason for this is the apparently undisputed statement that the mask was known to be in Egypt in 1966 and recorded in Cairo.

The collecting history for the mask was allegedly supplied by the vendor, Phoenix Ancient Art. One of the owners of the gallery apparently supports the repatriation of antiquities to the country of origin. What was the basis for the mask's collecting history as supplied by Phoenix Ancient Art? Who created the collecting history?

It now appears that SLAM's due diligence process prior to the acquisition was flawed. The collecting history, as it was understood at the time of acquisition, no longer appears to be secure.

Will the director of SLAM, who is a member of the AAMD, make the appropriate professional and ethical response by opening up negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Paul Barford said…
Has anyone answered the question, what would happen if SLAM turned to the person who sold it to this piece of disputed art which has embroiled them in so many additional legal costs saying that they want their money back?

Have the Aboutaams at any time indicated that they are willing to have the Ka Nefer Nefer mask back if their client is unwilling to display it any more? I see nothing on their website about this.

Presumably they stand by the collecting history they supplied to SLAM and therefore the piece at the very least retains its value, so why have they apparently not offered to take back this piece of disputed art?

Perhaps somebody could contact the Aboutaams to ask a simple yes-no question, whether they would accept the piece back.

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.