Skip to main content

The Swing painter and the Becchina archive

Attic black-figured amphora
Attributed to the Swing painter
Becchina Archive
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
In December 2002 Christie's Rockefeller Plaza sold an Attic black-figured amphora attributed to the Swing painter for $53,775 (December 12, 2002, lot 16). It was stated as 'The property of a private collection". The amphora is listed in the Beazley Archive (no. 26090) although no other information is provided other than the sale at Christie's.

However this same amphora has resurfaced on the London market and is due to be auctioned at Christies on 15 April 2015 (lot 83). The estimate is £50,000-£70,000. The collecting history is now provided as:

  • Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1980s. 
  • Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 12 December 2002, lot 16. 
  • Private collection, New York, acquired at the above sale. 
  • with Charles Ede Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2006. 

It is now the property of 'a gentleman'.

Were the staff at Christie's in New York unaware that the amphora had resided in a Japanese collection in the 1980s?  Why were they unable to provide that information?

This amphora is important as Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted the piece in the Becchina archive. Indeed the annotations on the record card show that images of the amphora were sent to three European academics.

Becchina had links with a Japanese dealer so the private collection in Japan is not without interest.

And (part of) the stock of Becchina's Basel operation has been the subject of considerable interest since it was revealed earlier in 2015.

Will 'the gentleman' withdraw the amphora from the auction? Or will Christie's withdraw the lot?

And what does it say about the 'due diligence' search conducted by Christie's prior to the sale?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Anonymous said…
I'll point out again - the auction houses seem not to have access to the archives that Dr Tsirogiannis has been using.

Do you feel that their due diligence would have been more rigorous if they had the same level of access as he does?

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 …

George Ortiz collection to be displayed in London

Christie's is due to display part of the former collection of the late George Ortiz in London in a non-selling show to mark the 25th anniversary of the exhibition at the Royal Academy. There is a statement on the Christie's website ("The Ortiz Collection — ‘proof that the past is in all of us’"). Max Bernheimer is quoted: ‘Ortiz was one of the pre-eminent collectors of his day’.

We recall the associations with Ortiz such as the Horiuchi sarcophagus, the Hestiaios stele fragment, the marble funerary lekythos, and the Castor and Pollux.

Bernheimer will, no doubt, wish to reflect on the Royal Academy exhibition by reading Christopher Chippindale and David W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." American Journal of Archaeology 104: 463-511 [JSTOR].

Bernheimer will probably want to re-read the two pieces by Peter Watson that appeared in The Times: , "Ancient art without a history" and "Fakes - the artifice b…

Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

The post-excavation histories of objects are important as we map the that cultural property passes through collections and the markets. This is clear for an Attic black-figured amphora, attributed to Group E, that is due to be auctioned at Christie's New York on October 31, 2018 (lot 31). It shows Herakles and the Nemean lion, and Theseus and the Minotaur.

The auction catalogue claims that it surfaced in the hands of John Hewett in London in 1970 (or earlier), then to a private collection in Europe, followed by a series of auctions:
A European private collection; Antiquities  Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 130thence to a private collection, New YorkAntiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, 4 June 1998, lot 102 The amphora appears in the Beazley Archive (BAPD 350425). This provides the history sequence as follows (though in the list of auction catalogues s…