Skip to main content

James Ede responds to Christos Tsirogiannis

London-based antiquities dealer James Ede has responded to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in Apollo ("In Defence of the Antiquities Trade", April 11, 2014). Ede is right to suggest that the scandal  --- is there another word that could be used? --- relating to recently surfaced antiquities has been "embarrassing" for those involved in the market. And it is surely appropriate for Tsirogiannis (and others) to draw attention to the need for the application of a rigorous due diligence process to be applied to objects offered for sale.

There is a suggestion by Ede that the photographic dossiers from Medici, Becchina and Symes are not available to authorities and to the Art Loss Register. I am aware of a case (in London) where the ALR was aware of the appearance of an object in the Medici Dossier and had informed the auction house who had still proceeded with the sale.

Ede cannot be unaware of the huge damage that was sustained to the reputation of Sotheby's in London following the detailed investigative book by Peter Watson that revealed the way that antiquities moved from Italy, India and elsewhere to the London market. The research undertaken by Tsirogiannis (and others) has been able to reveal the networks that allow the material to cross international frontiers.

Ede asks for the evidence that the objects were "stolen". Why do so many of the objects in the Polaroid photographs still show the objects in a broken and uncleaned state? These do not appear to be items that had been residing in some private collection. Rather there is the suggestion that they were fresh out of the ground when the photographs were taken. "Stolen" is an interesting word to use, and one used by the press officer of Christie's to describe objects identified from the polaroid photographs.

Ede concedes that some ("many") of the objects handled by Medici and Becchina entered the market "illicitly". It is therefore important for dealers and auction-houses to identify objects handled by Medici, Becchina, Symes (and others) in the collecting histories.

Have the changes in the market in the last twenty years --- 25 years takes us to the period before the Medici scandal broke --- been the result of enlightened dealers, or the concern that photographic evidence would emerge? Ede draws attention to the IADAA's Code of Ethics and to the removal of membership from some dealers. (He does not give their names, but see here.)

Ede suggests that documentation is hard to find. Yet the Medici Conspiracy places the emphasis on the need to demonstrate the authenticated collecting history for an object before it is offered on the market. The Conspiracy has shown us the way that "oral histories" have been supplied to mislead buyers.

Ede reminds us of Syria. The full collecting histories of a pair of statues now on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art are not without interest. And material from Egypt is not without significance.

Ede wants the "legitimate trade" in antiquities to flourish. To do so, those handling recently surfaced antiquities need to work co-operatively with authorities seeking to return items to archaeological collections in the countries where they were discovered. I am aware of a number of cases where auction-houses and dealers (including a member of IADAA) have ignored photographic evidence linking items to the networks that handled recently surfaced antiquities.

The article in The Times is a reminder that we cannot be complacent about how objects have moved from archaeological contexts to the market.

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 …

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…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…