Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2017

Seizures and a New York Gallery

A New York Gallery seems to have been linked to a number of seized or returning objects:

Attic red-figured Nolan amphora (Feb 2017)Roman sarcophagus fragment (Jan 2017)Attic red-figured krater (handled in 1980 and 2005) The two pieces seized in 2017 were identified from the Becchina archive. 
The Rimini Venus was also reported to have been seized at the same gallery (Jan 2012). Other material from this source featured in an exhibition of returned antiquities in Rome (and see the earlier Nostoi). 
The unresolved case of identified pieces in Madrid includes material from the same source

Attic amphora from 'old Swiss collection' seized in New York

I understand that an Attic red-figured Nolan amphora attributed to the Harrow painter was seized from a New York Gallery on Friday. It shows a satyr with thyrsos.

The amphora features in Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World xxvii (2016) no. 100.

The collecting history is as follows:

Swiss private collectionRoyal-Athena Galleries 2000, sold in 2002; Art of the Ancient World xi (2000) no. 90.C. H. collection, Ann Arbor, Michigan2003-2015: exhibited, Yale University Art Museum
The Becchina archive suggests that it was acquired on 15 March 1993.

I am grateful to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for the information about the seizure.

Beazley archive: 23408

More surfacings from Symes and Medici in London

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis spotted three items that were auctioned in Westminster, London today.

It is a good reminder of the apparently poor due diligence process conducted by some sectors of the antiquities market.

a. Lot 49 Scythian rhyton. Sold: £3100. Collecting history: 'Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000.' As this seems to appear in the Schinousa archive it should be associated with the London dealer Robin Symes.

b. Lot 79 Silver Sycthian moose.
Sold: £2790. Collecting history: 'Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000.' This also seems to appear in the Schinousa archive indicating an association with Symes.

c. Lot 183. Roman head of a youth. Opening bid: £900. Collecting history: 'Property of a London gentleman; acquired from a major Mayfair gallery; acquired on the London art market before 2000.'  T…

Is PAS transforming our knowledge of the past in England and Wales?

There is a new online book, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, edited by Gabriel Moshenska (UCL Press, 2017) [Introduction]. Among the essays (and not all have been published on the site: I am told that there will be second batch) is one by Roger Bland, Michael Lewis, Daniel Pett, Ian Richardson, Katherine Robbins and Rob Webley on "The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales". It includes a section on the Staffordshire Hoard (though the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet and the Lenborough Hoard do not feature). The authors note that the hoard "appeals to a wide and diverse audience".

There is a discussion of the recording of finds, though no indication of the percentage of finds that are left unrecorded. The report touches on heritage crime:
It has sometimes been said as a criticism of PAS that it has not stopped illegal metal detecting in England and Wales, but this is for the simple fact that it was not intended to. This is an enduring p…

The value of looting in Syria

Rick Noack has written a piece on the funding of IS ("The Islamic State’s ‘business model’ is failing, study says", Washington Post 17 February 2017) based on a report by London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London and Ernst & Young.

The report states that the amount of money derived from IS from Antiquities is 'unknown' though it suggests that some $110-190 million was derived from looting, confiscations and fines (in 2016).

For my work in this area: "Context Matters: From Palmyra to Mayfair: the Movement of Antiquities from Syria and Northern Iraq", Journal of Art Crime 13 (2015) 73-80.

Sarcophagus fragment: Greece, Basel, and New York

One month ago I was informed that a sarcophagus fragment had been seized from a New York gallery. The identification of the piece with an image in the Becchina archive had been made by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It is worth reviewing the collecting history for the piece:

piece handled by Greek trafficker, Giorgos Ze[ne...]25 May 1988: Gianfranco Becchina paid SF 60,000 to Zene[]Object placed in the Basel FreeportAndre Lorenceau cleaned and then drilled the fragment to create holes for mountApril 1991: Swiss art marketAttributed by Dr Guntram Koch [date of attribution not provided]1992: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World vii, no. 572000: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World xi, no. 30April 2000: Dr H collection, Germany2016: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World xxviii, no. 6 [online] Price on Request2017, 14 January: fragment seized2017, 10 February: sarcophagus returned to Greece The identity of the vendor on the Swiss art market in April 1991 is no…

Weeting Castle and metal-detecting

It has been reported that metal-detectorists have been investigating the area around the English Heritage property of Weeting Castle in Norfolk (Rebecca Murphy, "Reports of illegal metal detecting near the historic Weeting Castle", Watton & Swaffham Times 13 February 2017).
The incident is believed to have involved seven men and to have taken place around Weeting Castle area over three consecutive nights towards the end of January and beginning of February. I presume that we will be hearing a strong condemnation from Historic England.

New York dealer returns sarcophagus to Greece

Back in January I reported that a sarcophagus identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis from the Becchina archive had been seized from a gallery in New York.

Today there has been a ceremony in New York with the Hellenic Consul General. The sarcophagus was spotted in the Royal-Athena Galleries.

Further details in the Greek press.

Revisiting Cycladic figures

Looking forward to seminar on Cycladic figures in Cambridge tomorrow: value, forgeries, Keros, returns — David Gill (@davidwjgill) February 8, 2017

I will be presenting a seminar on Cycladic figures to the Aegean Archaeology Seminar in Cambridge on Thursday 9 February. I am taking as my themes:

Responses to Gill and Chippindale on Cycladic figures (published in the American Journal of Archaeology)The value of Cycladic figures sold on the antiquities market in London and New York since 2000The Keros Haul (and why it is not a hoard)The return of the Karlsruhe figure and the 'inadequate sculptors'Forgeries of Cycladic figuresThe wider implications for and the application to classical archaeology