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

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 Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

The Getty kouros: a modern creation?

The refurbished galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum no longer include the Getty kouros, a sculpture purchased in 1985 (Christopher Knight, "Something's missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa", LA Times April 19, 2018). Knight explains:
Unexpectedly, the Getty kouros, a controversial sculpture even before the museum acquired it more than 30 years ago, has been removed from public view. The work is now in museum storage.   For decades, the life-size carving of a standing nude youth carried one of the most distinctive labels of any work of art in an American museum: “Greece (?) about 530 B.C. or modern forgery.” The label encapsulated puzzling issues about the work, whose questionable status as dating from the archaic dawn of Western civilization had been the focus of scholarly and scientific research, debate and international symposiums for years. It is ten years since I provided an overview of the kouros here on LM. And over 20 year…