Skip to main content

The head from Morgantina: intellectual consequences

Source: J. Paul Getty Museum
The terracotta head from Sicily that the J. Paul Getty Museum is not without interest. The catalogue entry for the head indicate the problems of trying to interpret an object without archaeological context.

The blue beard had suggested that the head represented Zeus. However the context, the sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, where fragments of hair were located suggest that the correct representation is more likely to be Hades. Cited parallels suggested associations with South Italy, and specifically Capua, rather than Sicily (although Sicily is mentioned as a possible place of creation).

The entry suggests "probably broken off from a statue", though we do not know when this took place.

The collecting history suggests that it appeared on the "European art market" (for which we know equals Robin Symes) and then passed to a "private collection, United States" (i.e. Maurice Tempelsman).

The head was acquired in 1985. The previous year it had been published by Cornelius C. Vermeule III in Catalogue of a collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities formed by a private collector in New York City during the past few decades (Cambridge, Mass., 1984), no. 11. This privately published catalogue also contained:

  • the statue of Apollo returned to Italy (no. 8; "European art market; private collection, United States"); 
  • the marble lekanis returned to Italy (no. 10; "European art market; private collection, United States");
  • a bronze Etruscan statue of a youth (no. 14A; "European art market; private collection, United States"; = The Gods Delight [1988]no. 37, "Private collection, New York" and stated as unpublished);
  • two bronze magistrates (no. 21; "European art market; private collection, United States"; = The Gods Delight [1988], no. 63; "Traveled through the art market and conceivably found with [64-66]"; 64 and 65 are also in the Getty, "European art market", "part of the same monument"; see here for link with Cleveland Museum of Art);
  • a Roman bronze bust of a man (no. 22, "European art market; private collection, United States");
  • the bust of L. Licinius Nepos (no. 23; "European art market; private collection, United States"); 
  • the head of a balding man (no. 25; "European art market; private collection, United States");
  • a head of a priest of saint (no. 26; "European art market; private collection, United States").

Will the Getty be publishing the complete collecting histories for all the items acquired from Maurice Tempelsman? Will the Cleveland Museum of Art be providing the full collecting history of the bronze Victoria?

It looks as if the returning head has opened yet another window on the world of collecting and museum acquisitions.

Bibliography
Walsh, J. 1986. "Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14: 173-286.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.