Thursday 31 October 2013

Dallas and Spina loan

Two Etruscan bronze shields
Formerly Dallas Museum of Art
The Italian Ministry of Culture has issued a press release about the return of objects from the Dallas Museum of Art. The positive and constructive attitude adopted by director Maxwell Anderson has now led to the loan of a tomb group (T512 A) from Spina (and housed in Ferrara).

Anderson is quoted:
“Siamo onorati ed entusiasti di continuare la nostra collaborazione ... con i nostri colleghi italiani. E’una rara opportunità poter ammirare questi oggetti tutti insieme, ed evidenziare il loro ruolo combinato nelle pratiche funerarie antiche”.
The loan material includes Attic pottery (krater, cup, oinochoe) and other items.

Bell-krater from Spina.
Source MiBAC

Spina T512 A during excavation
Source MiBAC

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Bubon: Fire of Hephaistos

The Fire of Hephaistos exhibition included "seven bronzes ... that have been linked to the Bubon cache of imperial statues" (p. 177). These appear to be:

  1. Lucius Verus. Shelby White collection. [no. 50]
  2. Head of Lucius Verus. Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum inv. 73.AB.100. Purchased from Spink & Son, London. [no. 51]
  3. Marcus Aurelius. Cleveland Museum of Art inv. 86.5. [under no. 54] [For the base.]
  4. Heroic male torso (Commodus?). Private collection. [no. 55]. Perhaps linked to right leg of a man. Boston MFA inv. 68.732. Gift of Jerome M. Eisenberg and Alan Ravenal. [no. 16]
  5. Front of a left foot/. Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum inv. 72.AB.103. Acquired from Nicolas Koutoulakis. [no. 19]
  6. Mid-Antonine head of a woman. Worcester Art Museum inv. 1966.67. [no. 38]
  7. Portrait head of a young man with a short beard. Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum inv. 71.AB.458. Acquired from Nicolas Koutoulakis. [no. 44]

No doubt the publication of the Leutwitz Apollo by the Cleveland Museum of Art will draw attention to this material removed from Turkey.

For further details of the Sebasteion see here.

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Wednesday 30 October 2013

The Leutwitz Apollo: Henry Lie's observations

Paul Barford has commented on Henry Lie's apparently visual examination of the Leutwitz Apollo on 17-18 October 2003. Lie is the director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at Harvard University.

Lie and Carol C. Mattusch wrote an essay, "Introduction to the catalogue entries and technical observations" for the Fire of Hephaistos catalogue. (See also my comments on this exhibition on JSTOR.)

They note "the emphasis is likely to be analysis of the metal and the corrosion products" (p. 162) not just visual observation. Did Lie use "a small diameter probe with video capability" (p. 165) on the Leutwitz Apollo? Lie even notes the "in-house" radiography facility at Cleveland (p. 166). There is also a section on "Lead joins" (p. 168), and another on "Ancient Bases" (p. 176).

All this makes the absence of x-rays, detailed images, and detailed scientific reports all the more surprising in Bennett's publication.

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The Leutwitz Apollo: the not-so-scientific studies

Paul Barford has written a series of thought-provoking posts on the sketchy accounts of the so-called scientific analyses of the Leutwitz Apollo acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

I was particularly struck by the observations on the lead isotopes.

Barford suggests that the scientific studies could point to a different account of the discovery of the statue.

Of course, Barford puts forward a hypothesis based on the skimpy "evidence" presented by Bennett. A responsible museum such as the CMA will no doubt want to publish pdf versions of the scientific studies on its website to allow readers to make up their own mind. Or if the museum fails to do so it will suggest that there are details that are best kept out of sight.

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Monday 28 October 2013

The Leutwitz Apollo discrepancy

In "1993-94 [Ernst-Ulrich Walter] recovered the statue's remaining fragments" from the Leutwitz estate (p. 54).

Yet Lucia Marinescu claims, in a 2004 publication, that she saw the statue in 1992.

Why did Michael Bennett fail to address this significant discrepancy? Why did Marinescu claim in a letter (September 2003) that she saw the statue in 1994? Or did Bennett misquote Marinescu's letter?

What is the evidence for due diligence?

Perhaps the Cleveland Museum of Art could release the letter and place it on its website for public scrutiny.

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Saturday 26 October 2013

The Leutwitz Apollo: the missing x-rays?

One of the significant omissions in Michael Bennett's Praxiteles is an x-ray (or set of x-rays) of the bronze 'Leutwitz Apollo' acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Bruce Christman, one of the people to make a 'scientific' study of the Apollo, had also undertaken a technical analysis of the Marcus Aurelius, apparently from Bubon in Turkey. The Bubon x-rays demonstrate the way that the statue was put together.

So why not include the x-rays of the Apollo in this book? Christman clearly took x-rays (p. 60). Do they show something about the statue that Christman does not wish to reveal?

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Cleveland: "I think we had a rigorous process"

The tragic story relating to the resignation of David Franklin, the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, has been revealed by Steven Litt ("Cleveland Museum of Art confirms that an extramarital affair led to David Franklin's resignation as director", Plain Dealer, October 24, 2013). Meanwhile interim director Fred Bidwell has to find another $97 million for the museum's capital campaign (Steven Litt, "Interim Director Fred Bidwell seeks to calm the Cleveland Museum of Art after David Franklin's sudden resignation", Plain Dealer, October 22, 2013).

Readers should also take a look at Lee Rosenbaum's discussion and her comments on what she describes as a debacle at the CMA.

And Bidwell will soon have to start fielding some serious questions about Michael Bennett's acquisition of the Leutwitz Apollo.

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The Leutwitz Apollo

I recently finished an academic article on the "Cleveland" Apollo that is now in press. I was able to reflect on the information that is supplied by Michael Bennett's Praxiteles.

Paul Barford has issued a series of important posts discussing what he argues should be more appropriately called the Leutwitz Apollo:

There are clearly important issues that will need to be addressed by Cleveland.

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Wednesday 23 October 2013

Elamite beaker withdrawn from London sale

It appears that a silver Elamite beaker has been withdrawn from the London sale at Christie's ("Goblet removed from sale after illegal export fears", The Times October 22, 2013). There is a suggestion that it could have been removed from Iran.

This decision raises issues about Christie's due diligence process prior to the sale.

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Tuesday 22 October 2013

Cleveland Director Resigns

The Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, David Franklin, has resigned according to a report by Steven Litt in The Plain Dealer.

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Monday 21 October 2013

Cleveland and Switzerland

In 2008 Michael Bennett of the Cleveland Museum of Art claimed that he had been "dealing with the [Aboutaam] brothers for years".

Will Cleveland reveal, in the spirit of transparency, which, if any, objects were acquired from this source in the previous ten years?

Or is Bennett alluding to the earlier stages of his career?

Or was this claim incorrect?

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Saturday 19 October 2013

Looting Matters and Wordle

I thought that it would be interesting to see how Wordle visualises Looting Matters.

Wordle: Looting Matters

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Cleveland Victoria

In 1984 the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired a bronze Victory with Cornucopia (CMA 1984.25). The figure featured in the 1988-89 exhibition, The God's Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, organized by Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten (no. 66). As I have noted elsewhere the Victory "traveled through the art market and conceivably found with" three other bronzes: a relief with two togate magistrates (no. 63; Getty 85.AB.109, "European Art Market, private collection, United States"), a Roma (no. 64; Getty 84.AB.671, "European Art Market"), and a Goddess, perhaps Venus (no. 65; Getty 84.AB.670, "European Art Market").

The magistrates came from the collection of Maurice Tempelsman who appears to have acquired pieces from the London (Europe) based Robin Symes.

In 2008 it was reported that the Victory was on a list under discussion with the Italian authorities. In November 2008 it was stated that a Cleveland committee would report on an investigation into the collecting history. As far as I know these findings have not been made public.

In the spirit of transparency, will the Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art be making the full collecting history of the Victory public? Did Cleveland purchase directly or indirectly from Symes? Which other pieces also passed through this source?

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Thursday 17 October 2013

The Symes Torso

Torso from the Schinousa Archive
Back in 2009 I noted the Roman marble torso in the Yves Saint Laurent et Lieree Bergé sale in Paris. Cambridge University researcher, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, reminds me that this torso features in the Schinousa archive and is therefore linked to Robin Symes.

The same torso is now on offer again at Christie's in London (24 October 2013, lot 77) with an estimate of $1,277,600-$1,916,400. The collecting history is provided as follows:

  • with Galerie Marc Lagrand, Paris. 
  • Yves Saint Laurent (1936-2008), acquired prior to 1974. 
  • Collection Yves Saint Laurent et Pierre Bergé; Christie's, Paris, 25 February 2009, lot 680
  • Private collection, Switzerland.

So when was it in the hands of Robin Symes? What was the source for Symes?

It is likely that the Italian authorities will be interested in this.

But were Christie's aware that this piece of sculpture comes from such a controversial source?

Note: the torso sold for $1,671,995 in 2009. 

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Wednesday 16 October 2013

A sceptical view of the Cleveland Apollo

It appears that others are beginning to think about the contents of Cleveland's new volume on the Apollo (see Paul Barford here). The collecting history needs probing in key places.

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Tuesday 15 October 2013

The Iranian silver griffin

Suzan Mazur has added some further information about the silver griffin returned to Iran ("ICE "Incompetence" In Iranian Griffin Debacle", October 15, 2013). She also quotes from an email by Peter Northover relating to the analysis of the griffin. [Northover also analysed the Cleveland Apollo.]

Oscar Muscarella responds and suggests that Northover's report "hangs in the air" and has "no scientific value".

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Wednesday 9 October 2013

Cultural Diplomacy: have US - Iran relations been compromised?

Suzan Mazur has published an important piece on the silver griffin returned to Iran ("A Fake? America's souvenir to the Iranian people", scoop October 9, 2013). She reports that Oscar White Muscarella, who has published one of the major studies of forged Near Eastern antiquities [see review in AJA: JSTOR], has identified the griffin as "a modern forgery". Muscarella identified the griffin as "a modern Iranian artifact" in a contribution to a series of studies in honour of Massoud Azarnoush (and published in 2012).

Mazur reminds us that the griffin was purchased from the Aboutaams in 2002 for $950,000. It apparently surfaced in Geneva in 1999. The purchaser asked for confirmation of the authentification.

The story has an interesting parallel with the Cleveland Apollo: readers of Mazur's article with recognise that the dealer and the scientific studies overlap to some degree. Does this undermine their authority?

What will the Iranian Government make of this offering?

I am grateful to Suzan Mazur for drawing my attention to her article.

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Tuesday 8 October 2013

Cleveland and the Art Loss Register

Michael Bennett stresses that the bronze Apollo now in Cleveland does not appear in the database of the Art Loss Register, "one of the world's largest databases of works registered as stolen or missing" (p. 67).

But what does this demonstrate?

First that the statue was not stolen from a recorded and documented collection (and had been reported to the ALR).

And second that images of the statue were not taken when the statue was buried in antiquity.

Perhaps Bennett could have explained the problematic use of the ALR for identifying recently surfaced archaeological material.

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PR Newswire and Swiss-based dealers

I note that Michael Bennett draws attention to the PR Newswire Press Release about the honour received by the Swiss-based dealer who supplied the Cleveland Apollo. He fails to direct his readers to another PR Newswire statement.

What does this omission tell us about the balance in Bennett's narrative?

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Monday 7 October 2013

Houghton in Context

I enjoyed visiting the Houghton Revisited exhibition. This is showing the dispersed Walpole collection of paintings in their original setting. Many are on loan from the Hermitage.
The magnificent art collection of Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, sold to Catherine the Great to adorn the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, is reassembled in its spectacular original setting of Houghton Hall for the first time in over 200 years this summer.
I was very struck how these paintings could be viewed together rather than as individual works of art. There was a sense of Walpole's composition and taste.

And in the back of my mind was the dispersal of objects from unique archaeological contexts --- contexts that are lost, never to be "revisited", if looting takes place.

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Cleveland's view on austerity cuts

I am continuing to read Michael Bennett's view of the so-called Cleveland Apollo. It is rather ironic that as I write the US is suffering from an economic shutdown. And Bennett criticises the Hellenic and Italian governments about their economic situation.

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Friday 4 October 2013

Cleveland on Turkey's culture war

Michael Bennett has decided to provoke the Republic of Turkey's attempts to claim material in Cleveland. Perhaps he could have had a full discussion of the looting of the temple linked to the Roman imperial cult at Bubon in Turkey. What would Bennett says about Cleveland's Marcus Aurelius?

Perhaps Bennett's less than gracious attack on Turkey will encourage the Turkish authorities to renew their interest. Steven Litt, in an article that does not appear in Bennett's bibliography, reminds us of the range of material that appears to have been derived from Turkey.

More discussion can be found at Chasing Aphrodite.

Bennett's Praxiteles is certainly reopening lines of enquiry that had lain dormant. We should be grateful to him.

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Thursday 3 October 2013

"Why art museums must continue to collect"

David Franklin, Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, has written the foreword to Michael Bennett's provocative Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo (Cleveland Museum of Art, 2013). Franklin, whose expertise does not lie in archaeology or "ancient art", claims that the book "makes an important contribution to the current debate over collecting antiquities by presenting a much-need curatorial viewpoint". Franklin, who does not appear to understand the intellectual consequences of collecting (and Bennett overlooks such studies in his bibliography), suggests that the acquisition of recently-surfaced antiquities leads to "the preservation of knowledge".

Bennett would have done well to have read my study of the material and intellectual consequences of collecting the Sarpedon krater [see here] before trotting out a stale and lightweight assessment of the Euphronios krater returned to Italy by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art [pp. 32-33, fig. 36]. His treatment of the "hot pot" (as it was known) betrays his thinking about how to approach objects that have been removed from their archaeological context.

Bennett fails to take the opportunity in his essay to explain why the Cleveland Museum of Art returned so many classical antiquities to Italy. Indeed there could have been a helpful discussion of why the museum acquired them in the first place. More telling would have been the unwillingness of the museum to disclose the collecting histories of the items. Which dealers were involved?

I am looking forward to reflecting on the book over the next few weeks and to explore the "German" collecting history in more detail, especially in the light of another (apparently flawed) collecting history from the same Swiss dealer.

Bennett may have opened a Pandora's Box of issues that Franklin may wish, with hindsight, had remained firmly closed.

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Responsible Friends?

Many on this side of the Atlantic have watched the US shut-down with astonishment and disbelief. The BBC has had some helpful coverage. The New York Times ("U.S. Shutdown Nears as House Votes to Delay Health Law", September 28, 2013) had an interesting paragraph:
Representative John Culberson of Texas said that as he and his colleagues were clamoring for a vote, he shouted out his own encouragement. “I said, like 9/11, ‘Let’s roll!' ” That the Senate would almost certainly reject the health care delay, he added, was not a concern. “Ulysses S. Grant used to say, ‘Boys, quit worrying about what Bobby Lee is doing. I want to know what we are doing.’ And that’s what the House is doing today, thank God.”
Culberson is a name that will be familiar to some for his interest in numismatics.

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Wednesday 2 October 2013

Men from the Ministry

I have just finished reading Simon Thurley's Men from the Ministry: How Britain saved its heritage (Yale University Press, 2013) [Amazon]. Thurley, the Head of English Heritage, is passionate about his subject. This is like reading a biography of buildings, monuments and locations that I have known for decades: from the Neolithic flint mines at Grime's Graves in Norfolk, to east Anglian windmills; from medieval castles to Victorian coastal defences. Although the subtitle includes 'Britain' the focus of the study is England. However Tintern Abbey and Beaumaris Castle (both in Wales) get honourable mentions, as does Edinburgh Castle. The book explains how specific monuments came to be protected and the rationale for including (or excluding) areas around them. It is striking how the impact of earlier recessions had an impact on what was saved (and lost).

The book explains the changing bodies such as the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW), the Department of the Environment, and then English Heritage. There is a discussion of the distinctive 'guardian' huts, the introduction of the lawnmower, as well as the creation of that distinctive signage. Thurley explains guardianship responsibilities of other bodies such as the National Trust. There are chapters dedicated to Stonehenge and to the saving of Hadrian's Wall.

The final chapter is provocative, not least in the present economic climate. Thurley compares spending on heritage per head of population in 2011: Scotland (£10), Wales (£5.50) and England (£2). He notes the money spent on 'saving' three pictures - £34.88 million, and £95 million - and wonders if such a strategy is sustainable.

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Art Historians misunderstanding provenance?

Readers of LM will know that I am trying to discourage the term provenance for archaeological material. One of the reasons is that we need to focus on collecting histories. Histories need to be mapped and documented. The debate about the Cleveland Apollo will bring this debate into sharp focus. There will be a discussion of the reliability of information. Art Historians may feel satisfied by hearsay, but those who have studied the art market tend to be more critical in their acceptance of information.

For earlier discussion of the term see here.

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Tuesday 1 October 2013

Honours for Influence?

I note that the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) legal case rumbles on. Rick St Hilaire has a useful commentary.

I was particularly interested in the Seventh Affirmative Defense which criticises the then Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. It is alleged that he received an award from Greek and Greek Cypriot lobbying groups, and that in return he ordered import restrictions on coins.

Does the ACCG make awards in the hope of receiving something in return?

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Another Bubon bronze head likely to be repatriated

It appears that a bronze head acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis has been removed from display and appears to be...