At the beginning of 2013 I made a number of predictions. I drew attention to Cambodian antiquities and we have seen items returned. Sotheby's has also agreed to return a piece that had been due to be auctioned.
The two December sales at Sotheby's and Christie's in New York are now complete. This allows me to review the sale of antiquities for 2013. Overall the two auction-houses have sold $32.6 million worth of antiquities in NYC this year, down from $35.6 million last year. Indeed this is the third consecutive fall from $133.8 million in 2010, and $62.4 million in 2011. Indeed 2013 is comparable with 2004 ($32.5 million).
This means that over half a billion dollars worth of antiquities have been sold at the two auction-houses in NYC since 1999, with Sotheby's well ahead of Christie's by some $142 million.
Fabio Isman has a piece on the Medici and Symes pieces surfacing on the New York market ("Pezzi di Medici e Symes all’asta: fino a quando?", Artemagazine December 2013). This draws on the identifications made by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. It also has the images of one of the objects in the Swiss Gallery.
The piece is a reminder that auction-houses need to undertake a more rigorous due diligence process to prevent these toxic antiquities from appearing at the sales.
I have been looking at the median value of Egyptian lots sold at Sotheby's New York from 1998 to 2013. The December median value has had a steady increase from $3,737 to $27,500. The contrast is with the June sales that have risen from $2,875 to $13,750.
Over a year ago LM discussed the Khmer statue that was being offered by Sotheby's. It appears that the collecting history for the piece was not as straightforward as it first seemed. My view was Sotheby's would wish to distance the auction-house from any notion of wrong-doing given the damaging impact of the Medici Conspiracy. It has now been announced that Sotheby's will be returning the disputed statue to Cambodia (Tom Mashbery and Ralph Blumenthal, "Disputed Statue to Be Returned to Cambodia", New York Times December 12, 2013).
The accord ends a long bare-knuckled court battle over the Khmer treasure, a 10th-century statue valued at more than $2 million. The Belgian woman who had consigned it for sale in 2011 will receive no compensation for the statue from Cambodia, and Sotheby’s has expressed a willingness to pick up the cost of shipping the 500-pound sandstone antiquity to that country within the next 90 days.
At the same time, lawyers from the United Stat…
I have been plotting the sale of antiquities on the New York market for some years. Today's sale at Sotheby's New York shows that the two June and December auctions this year netted over $20 million, of which $6.8 million was represented by Egyptian material (34%).
Since 1998 some $77 million worth of Egyptian antiquities have been sold by Sotheby's New York, representing 20% of the value of the sales. Just over 61% of the lots in this period appear to have surfaced since 1973, a downward trend suggesting that Sotheby's is more cautious of objects that do not have a documented collecting history that can be traced back.
Following the identification of a Pan in the Medici Dossier, Sotheby's New York withdrew the lot from the sale. Such responsible behaviour reflects the seriousness that the auction-house takes over the due diligence process.
The Hermes-Thoth that had once been handled by Robin Symes sold for $4,645,000 (estimate: $2.5 - $3.5 million).
Last week Dr Christos Tsirogiannis identified the Medici Pan that is due to be auctioned in New York later this week. Tsirogiannis has now identified a terracotta Pan from the Schinousa archive that is due to be auctioned at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza (December 13, 2013, lot 114, estimate $8000 - $12000).
Christie's have offered the following collecting history:
with Edward H. Merrin Gallery, New York, 1968. Private Collection, New York, 1968-2011.
So when was the Pan in the possession of Robin Symes? What is the identity of the private collection? Is the collecting history presented by Christie's robust? What authenticated documentation was supplied to Christie's?
The Edward H. Merrin Gallery has been linked to the bronze Zeus returned to Italy, material in the collection of Dr Elie Borowski, as well as the marble Castor and Pollux on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
DCMS and English Heritage have published the consultation document, 'English Heritage New Model', today, December 76, 2013. Only yesterday the Heritage Alliance AGM was discussing the not-yet-published consultation document.
I am sure that readers of LM will be interested in the document and no doubt will wish to respond to the DCMS.
Sotheby's New York are due to auction a giallo antico marble bust of Pan next week (December 12, 2013, lot 51). The estimate is $10,000-$15,000. Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has pointed out to me that a polaroid image of the sculpture was found on the Geneva Freeport premises of Giacomo Medici. The image is stapled to a form for the Hydra Galerie, an outlet linked to Medici (and see also here).
Sotheby's provide the Pan with the following collecting history: "French private collection, Fontainebleau, acquired circa 1975".
What is the identity of the anonymous French collection? What does the association with Hydra Galerie imply?
I am grateful to my Cambridge colleague Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for pointing out that the head of Hermes-Thoth due to be auctioned at Sotheby's New York next week had once passed through the hands of Robin Symes (December 12, 2013, lot 39). The estimate is $2.5-3.5 million.
Sotheby's note the association with Symes and suggest that it had once been in the possession of Douglas H. Fisher in London during the 1950s and 1960s. The basis for this information is not indicated.
The head ("The Hermes of Hermoupolis") was on offer from Albrecht Neuhaus, Würzburg, in 1970 (see Burlington Magazine 112 [May 1970] p. lxxv [JSTOR]).
Robert Steven Bianchi notes the head in an unnamed collection in 2007 (Robert Steven Bianchi, “The Nahman Alexander,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 43, 2007, 29 n. 6 [academia.edu]).
Colour images of the head feature in the Schinousa archive where they were identified by Tsirogiannis.
Cambridge University researcher, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, has identified another ancient object from the Medici dossier. He has identified a Gnathian askos acquired by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1980 from images seized in the Geneva Freeport. The item was derived from Fritz Bürki whose name is associated with many of the returns from North American collections to Italy.
According to AAMD Guidelines the curatorial staff at VMFA will need to contact the Italian authorities.
Tsirogiannis, C. 2013. "Nekyia. From Apulia to Virginia: an Apulian Gnathia askos at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts." Journal of Art Crime 10: 81-86.
The latest number of the Journal of Art Crime has appeared. This contains my essay on the so-called Cleveland Apollo.
"The exhibition of the Cleveland Apollo and the thinking behind the publication of Bennett’s book reveal what Roger Bland of the British Museum once described (in a review of James Cuno’s work) as “an example of US cultural imperialism at its worst”. Bennett has reignited the debate and prepared the way for a full and balanced discussion of the so-called Cleveland Apollo at some future managed event at the Cleveland Museum of Art."Gill, D. W. J. 2013. "Context matters: The Cleveland Apollo goes public." Journal of Art Crime 10: 69-75.
I was lecturing at the Institute of Philosophy yesterday on "The Intention of the Artist". One of my examples---and we noticed that the archaeologists speaking at the conference tended to use examples---was the helmet allegedly found at Crosby Garrett. I was suggesting that the aesthetic for what would have been a commonplace parade helmet in the Roman world had changed when it was presented at auction in London or placed in an exhibition at the Royal Academy. We had a useful debate about the "showiness" of such helmets and the parallel with its presentation as a "masterpiece".
There is much interest in the museums that have received donations from Jonathan Rosen (see here) in the wake of the returns to Iraq. Rosen's donation of 1200 silver coins to the Israel Museum has been shortlisted for the Apollo 2013 Acquisition of the Year. It will be interesting to read their full collecting histories. | |
Byron Davies, AM has reignited the repatriation debate about the "Red Lady of Paviland" (see my earlier comments with link back to the 2004 "call"). The bones, found at Paviland on Gower in 1823, are now in Oxford.
Mr Davies is quoted on the BBC ("Red Lady of Paviland bones 'should come home' to Wales", November 25, 2013):
"As a child I used to go down to the cave where it was discovered, and have always believed it's something intrinsically Welsh which needs to be back home.
"With the City of Culture bid focusing everyone's minds in and around Swansea for the last year or so, it didn't seem the right time to champion it.
"But last week I met [UK culture secretary) Maria Miller, who said that if I was prepared to put together a proposal, then she thought it would be a good idea for all sorts of reasons."
The bones were placed on temporary display in Cardiff in 2008.
I have been looking at the catalogue for Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome (Los Angeles, 2013). It includes, as I have noted elsewhere, the ex-Steinhardt gold phiale. The catalogue gives little away: 'From near Caltavuturo' and 'the phiale of Caltavuturo'. There is no mention of the fact that the phiale was seized in November 1995 and returned to Italy in 2000.
The catalogue apparently seems unaware of Michael Vickers and David Gill, Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994). The authors of the catalogue would have found a discussion of the weights of gold phialai (p. 43) that would have been relevant to the inscription. A comparable piece is the gold phiale in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art apparently purchased from Robert Hecht.
Also missing in the catalogue entry are the references to the publication of the phiale in SEG 39 (1989) 1034 and by Giacomo Manganaro.
Dot Boughton, FLO for Lancashire and Cumbria, notes in the new booklet on the Crosby Garrett helmet that this piece of armour 'was discovered by two metal detectorists in May 2010 in Cumbria' (p. 17). This is the view taken by the Independent who identified the finders as a father and son team from Peterlee, a viewed shared by Boughton: 'The finders, a young man and his father from County Durham, had enjoyed detecting in Cumbria for quite some time ...'
Yet Bettany Hughes has claimed that there was a single finder. This seems to be the view also taken by Christie's at the time of the sale.
Professor David Ekserdjian in his introduction to the newly published study of the Crosby Garrett helmet draws attention to the newly surfaced Resurrection of Christ by Titian [see BBC]. Imagine if the Titian was sent for a quick clean and touch-up in a workshop under the railway arches in London. I would hope that Ekserdjian would be in the vanguard of those raising their voices in protest.
Yet when "a hauntingly unforgettable work of art", to use Ekserdjian's description of the Crosby Garrett helmet, was sent for a hurried restoration before its sale at auction, the silence appears to have been almost overwhelming. Indeed in the autumn of 2010 I was told that the restoration was conducted against the request from officers of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and a curator at the British Museum.
The new booklet on the helmet has a short note on its 'Restoration' by Darren Bradbury. This major archaeological find was not conserved but rather restored 'to …
I am grateful to Paul Barford for drawing my attention to the publication of D.J. Breeze and M.C. Bishop (eds.) The Crosby Garrett Helmet (The Armatura Press, 2013).
The contents include: Roger Cooke, 'Foreword'David J. Breeze and M.C. Bishop, 'Preface'David Ekserdjian, 'Introduction'M.C. Bishop, 'Description'Dot Boughton, 'Discovery'Darren Bradbury, 'Restoration'Mark Graham and Patricia Shaw, 'Geophysical and Landscape Survey'Chris Healey, 'Archaeological Evaluation'M.C. Bishop and J.C.N. Coulston, 'International Context'
I note that the bibliography does not include a reference to Sally Worrell, 'The Crosby Garrett Helmet', Papers of the Institute of Archaeology 20 (2010) 30-32 (a paper published the same year as the helmet's reported discovery) or my comments in 'The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales?', Papers of the Institute of…
I notice that Vasek Polak (a name associated with material now returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum to Italy) donated an Attic red-figured cup fragment attributed to the Kleomelos painter (inv. 81.AE.114.17). What is the previous collecting history of this fragment?
The Cornell return of cuneiform tablets means that there is a general reassessment of material acquired through or from Jonathan Rosen (see here). Take, for example, the steatite bust of Helios now in Boston. It was first put on loan in 1983, and then presented to the MFA in 2004.
The Turkish press is reporting that a Roman marble sarcophagus decorated with scenes showing Hercules is likely to be returned to Turkey ("Stolen sarcophagus might return to Turkey", Hurriyet November 9, 2013). It appears that it was found at Perge. The sarcophagus had then passed into the hands of Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva.
After the examination in Perge, the Swiss prosecutor met with A.Ç., who is imprisoned in Elmalı prison on a separate smuggling charge and is suspected of smuggling the artifact out of Perge. In discussions with the Swiss prosecutor, A.Ç allegedly confirmed that the artifact had been smuggled.
International legal proceedings began with the aim of repatriating the sarcophagus to Antalya. The case is being closely followed by the Antalya Public Prosecution Office as well as the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry and Foreign Ministry.
According to Turkish officials, legal action against the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery will be completed by the end of…
Last month I raised a question about Michael Bennett's claim (in 2008) that he had a long-standing link with the Aboutaams.
The Cleveland Museum of Art does not appear to publish full collecting histories for its objects either on the web or via its print catalogues. Will CMA now issue a list of all the objects that have been acquired from Phoenix Ancient Art along with their complete collecting histories?
This will demonstrate two things: rigorous due diligence and transparency.
One of the points that was made at the ARCA symposium at the V&A yesterday related to the fabrication of collecting histories, sometimes by forging supporting documentation. Richard Ellis suggested that the due diligence process should leave no stone unturned.
As I sat in the audience I kept thinking about the reported collecting history for the Leutwitz Apollo acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art. How much of it can be authenticated? How far has the museum explored discrepancies?
It is a good story as it is presented. Garden sculpture. Communist attack. Burial in the rubble of the house. Sale to a Dutch dealer.