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Looting Matters: looking back on 2017

Detail of Paestan krater
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
My predictions for 2017 make a good introduction: further seizures as a result of the photographic archives, heritage crime at archaeological sites in the UK, and moves in Westminster to address the protection of cultural property in time of war. I have not covered the latter on LM as some of the discussions are sensitive.

Seizures
The year started with the news of several thousand seizures in a Europe wide Operation Pandora. A major set of seizures were made on the collection formed by the Hobby Lobby.

Smaller seizures included sculptures from Eshmun in the Lebanon, and a fragment of a Persepolis relief.

A head of Drusus Minor was returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art after it was realised that it had come from a known excavation and had been removed from the archaeological store.

A series of objects were seized from an unnamed Manhattan gallery (Sardinian warrior, Paestan lekythos, Apulian kantharos from the 'J.M.E. collection'). Another seizure included an Attic red-figured lenythos that had formed part of the Kluge collection. An Attic red-figured amphora was seized from a Manhattan gallery after it was recognised from the Becchina archive. A sarcophagus was seized from a Manhattan gallery.

Fragments of a Roman sarcophagus from outside Rome were seized on Sardinia.

Hungary has purchased further part of the Sevso Treasure.

Surfacings
There have been several sightings of objects identified from the photographic archives. They include:

A Paestan krater was returned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a marble Zeus sold by the Fleischmans to the J. Paul Getty Museum was handed over.

Metal-detecting
The police are acknowledging that there is an issue relating to illegal metal-detecting in East Anglia. An example of such activity was noted for Weeting Castle. The number of Treasure Finds in the UK has increased. The revised code of practice for metal-detecting has been issued.

Reviewing old cases
Although looting continues to be a problem, it is important to look back at historic cases that have yet to be resolved. They include the series of Roman imperial portraits looted from Bubon in Turkey and now in North American and European collections.

The process of how looted antiquities were acquired by museums and private collectors continues to be researched.  One of the key figures in the acquisition of objects by the J. Paul Getty Museum was was Fritz Bürki. Until the full histories of the objects are disclosed a question mark must remain over the objects.

The Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University has yet to resolve the case of three disputed items that have been identified in the Greek press.

Forgeries
Forgeries continue to corrupt the market and provide false information about 'ancient art'. The problem of forging Anatolian sculptures has been discussed.

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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…