Skip to main content

Dallas and the Orpheus mosaic

Orpheus mosaic
source: DMA
The decision by the Dallas Museum of Art to return the Orpheus mosaic, purchased at Christie's in 1999 (December 9, 1999, lot 388), raises some important issues. It appears that the mosaic was photographed in situ by those removing it from a site near Urfa in Turkey. This recalls an ancient art consultant telling me, c. 1990, of mosaics from exactly this region being documented exactly in this way prior to being shipped to the US where they could be inspected. The photographs in the case of Orpheus were printed in Sanliurfa (Urfa).

John Healey, who published the inscriptions on the mosaic in 2006, was convinced that the Orpheus mosaic came from the series known from Edessa (Urfa). He noted that the inscription provides a date of April 194 BC.

It should be noted that the frieze of the mosaic was not retained with the mosaic and was presumably detached by the looters. This again reminds us of the deliberate damaging and defacing of ancient art in the cause of supplying new material for the market.

Orpheus mosaic photographed in situ
The decision to return the mosaic as part of a collaborative programme with Turkey is likely to set a precedent for that country's claims on cultural property in North American museums. It will undoubtedly put pressure on the Cleveland Museum of Art and Shelby White to return their bronzes apparently removed from Bubon, as well as holders of Byzantine silver plate.

Reference
Healey, J. F. 2006. "A new Syriac mosaic inscription." Journal of Semitic Studies 51: 313-27 [DOI].

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…