Saturday, 29 December 2018

The scale of returns to Italy from North American collections

My analysis of the archaeological objects returned to Italy has appeared in the latest number of the International Journal of Cultural Property. The article includes a catalogue of the returned material. There is reference to the 3,500 fragments derived from Francavilla Marittima and returned to Italy.

Museums considered:

  • Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
  • Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Fordham University
  • Malibu, The J. Paul Getty Museum
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Princeton University Art Museum
  • Toledo Museum of Art
  • University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville
Objects from private collections, galleries and auction houses are also discussed.


'Returning archaeological objects to Italy’, International Journal of Cultural Property 25, 3 (2018), 283–321. [DOI]

Abstract
It has been more than 20 years since the raids on the premises at the Geneva Freeport were linked to Giacomo Medici. The seizure of photographic records led to a major investigation of acquisitions by museums and private collectors. This was expanded following the confiscation of archives from Robin Symes and Gianfranco Becchina. Over 350 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections as well as auction houses and galleries. This article reviews the returns and identifies some of the major themes. It also notes some of the unresolved cases both in North America and in Europe and Japan.

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Saturday, 22 December 2018

Thefts from Archaeological Stores and Museums

One observable phenomenon in recent years has been that some recovered material was derived, not from an unexcavated archaeological site, but from archaeological museums and stores. This is explored in my latest column, 'Context Matters', for The Journal of Art Crime 20 (Fall 2018), entitled 'Thefts from museums and archaeological stores'. While many of the pieces come from collections in Italy, others are recorded from Greece, Egypt, and Libya. 

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Friday, 21 December 2018

Cleveland Museum of Art: new curator of Greek and Roman Art

Seth Pevnick will be moving from Tampa to the Cleveland Museum of Art where he will be the curator of Greek and Roman Art (Steve Litt, "Cleveland Museum of Art hires Seth Pevnick as ‘profoundly ethical’ curator of ancient Greek and Roman art", cleveland.com 20 December 2018).

One of the acquisitions that will need to be addressed is the "Leutwitz Apollo". The modern history of the monumental bronze does not seem as secure as it has been presented by the museum (see here). It is time for some of the analyses to be made public and open to debate.

The case of the acquisition of the portrait of Drusus Minor is, perhaps, illustrative of the museum's policy towards acquisitions in recent years (see here).

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Tuesday, 18 December 2018

VFMA and the display of the horse in Greek art

The VFMA exhibition catalogue for 'The Horse in Ancient Greek Art' has been reviewed by Carl Shaw in BMCR. The review does not consider the wider issues of the histories of the objects, with previous handlers including Nicolas Koutoulakis, Walter M. Banko in Montreal, Edoardo Almagià, and Fritz Bürki.

These issues have been discussed in some detail in the Journal of Art Crime earlier this year [see previous post].

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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Becchina and a hydria attributed to the Pan painter

Attic red-figured hydria attributed to the Pan painter
Source: Becchina archive.
Courtesy: Dr Christos Tsirogannis.
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that a hydria due to be auctioned at Christie's in London on 5 December 2018 (lot 126) also features in the Becchina archive. The estimate for the pot is £20,000-£30,000. 

The auction catalogue provides the following history for the piece:
  • with Holger Termer, Hamburg. Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1986. 
The scene was interpreted by Erika Simon as Theseus and Hekale in a contribution to the Festschrift R. Berlinger ('Theseus und Hekale', in  Perspektiven der Philosophie 13, 1987, pp. 409-416, pl. 1.2). Simon appeared to know the piece from the Hamburg private collection.

The Beazley Archive (BAPD 29055) is a little more cautious: 'Old woman (Hekale) with phiale at kalathos, youth with chlamys, spears and pilos (Theseus ?)'. It also provides the information that the attribution was by Martin Robertson.

The invoice in the Becchina archive is dated to the 26 January 1987, though a proforma of 12 December 1986 is also recorded. The invoice suggests that the scene possibly represents Oedipus and Teiresias.

Who is the present owner of the hydria? Is it the person or gallery who acquired it from Termer in 1986 (sic.)? Or did Palladion sell it on to a further party? Were Christie's unaware of the Becchina link? What had the due diligence search found?

It should be noted that the same sale at Christie's has other Termer pieces. What are their full histories?

It would be helpful if the full history of the hydria was to be disclosed. In any case, when did the hydria first surface? Is there any evidence that it was known prior to 1970?

Where were hydriai attributed to the Pan painter found?

  • Athens: 1
  • Padula: 1
  • Vulci: 1
  • Vulci (presumably, said to be): 1
  • Capua (presumably, said to be): 1
  • Nola (presumably, said to be): 1
  • Metapontum: 1

Italy is a likely find-spot.

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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Adding to the history of an Attic black-figured amphora

Attic black-figured amphora
Source: Schinousa archive, courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis

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 130
  • thence to a private collection, New York
  • Antiquities Christie's, New York, 15 December 1992, lot 81
  • Antiquities Sotheby's, New York, 17 December 1996, lot 50
  • Antiquities, 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 seems to confuse Sotheby's and Christie's). Note that the sequence does not quite match the one provided by Christie's.

  • 1: London, market 
  • 2: London, market, Sotheby's 
  • 3: New York (NY), market, Sotheby's 
  • 4: London, private 
  • 5: New York (NY), market, Sotheby's
Cambridge-based researcher, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, has spotted that the amphora appears in the Schinousa archive. He also observes that the photographs of the amphora in BAPD show salt deposits, perhaps indicating that the amphora had only recently emerged from its context. These also contrast with the photographs in the Schinousa archive that appear to have been taken after conservation / restoration.

When did the amphora reside with Robin Symes? Was this the European private collection? Or was this the London private collection between December 1996 and June 1998? Or are these private collections different again?

The amphora was known to Sir John Beazley and was listed by him in 1971. It is, however, surprising that the auction catalogue entry and the BAPD record do not coincide more closely. And the amphora's presence in the hands of Robin Symes adds to our knowledge of how the amphora passed through the market. 


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Saturday, 6 October 2018

Metal-detecting at Corbridge

Corbridge © David Gill
The scheduled Roman site of Corbridge in Northumberland has been the target of illegal metal-detecting. Historic England has noted that English Heritage, the organisation that is responsible for part of the excavated site, has had to mount a security operation to protect the site. 

It is known that parts of Hadrian's Wall (just to the north of Corbridge), itself designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been targeted by such illegal activity.

Roman archaeological sites are found across this frontier zone. What actions are being taken to protect the finite archaeological record across the region? What information is being lost through illegal metal-detecting? What are the intellectual implications for Roman frontier studies? Where are the responses from the archaeological community?

This would be described as looting if this was taking place at a classical site in the Mediterranean. Does the language of describing such illegal activity in England need to change?

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Saturday, 8 September 2018

Stele returns to Greece

Images: 
L, Sotheby's; R, Becchina archive 
(courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis)
The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.



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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

The scale of the returns to Italy

Source: Carabinieri
I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

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Monday, 20 August 2018

"Beating sites to death"

Policy decisions for protecting archaeological sites need to be informed by carefully argued positions based on data. Dr Sam Hardy has produced an important study, “Metal detecting for cultural objects until ‘there is nothing left’: The potential and limits of digital data, netnographic data and market data for analysis”. Arts 7, 3 (2018) [online]. This builds on Hardy's earlier research.

Readers should note Hardy's conclusion about his findings: "they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’".

Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. 

Abstract
This methodological study assesses the potential for automatically generated data, netnographic data and market data on metal-detecting to advance cultural property criminology. The method comprises the analysis of open sources that have been identified through multilingual searches of Google Scholar, Google Web and Facebook. Results show significant differences between digital data and market data. These demonstrate the limits of restricted quantitative analysis of online forums and the limits of extrapolation of market data with “culture-bound” measures. Regarding the validity of potential quantitative methods, social networks as well as online forums are used differently in different territories. Restricted quantitative analysis, and its foundational assumption of a constant relationship between the size of the largest online forum and the size of the metal-detecting population, are unsound. It is necessary to conduct extensive quantitative analysis, then to make tentative “least worst” estimates. As demonstrated in the sample territories, extensive analyses may provide empirical data, which revise established estimates. In this sample, they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’.

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Beierwaltes take legal action

The Beierwaltes are taking legal action after Swiss authorities seized objects during a raid on a warehouse in Switzerland (Amanda Pampuro, "Colorado Couple Seek to Reclaim Artifacts From Swiss", Court House News 8 August 2018).  The Beierwaltes had consigned their pieces for sale by Phoenix Ancient Art in Geneva. 

The Beierwaltes are seeking $24 million in damages for the seizure of the 18 objects valued at $8 million.

It appears that the Beierwaltes were purchasing objects from Robin Symes. Do any of the 18 objects consigned to Geneva appear in the Schinousa archive? Will the Beierwaltes release the full histories of the objects?

The story mentions that the Beierwaltes
assert they vetted all of their items and “purchased each object in reliance on express or implied representations from reputable dealers and auction houses in the absence of any thefts reported to publicly available databases of stolen art, such as the Art Loss Register.”
This statement fails to note that objects removed from archaeological contexts would not necessarily be reported to the ALR or other similar registers.

See also the material from Eshmun.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Schinousa outcome and reaction to expert witness

In November 2006 four members of a shipping family were charged. It was reported at the time in the Greek press that '152 artifacts were found at the villa on Schinoussa and at the family's Athenian home in Psychico, northern Athens' ("Four charged over artifact stash", 23 November 2006).

The verdict on the Schinousa case was reached on Thursday 26 July 2018. A translation of the verdict has been circulated by the State lawyer: ‘The Court by majority found guilty Despina and Dimitri Papadimitriou for the act of misappropriation of monuments and convicted each one of them to suspended imprisonment of 4 years. It also ratified the seizure and ordered the confiscation of the seized items’.

The day after the verdict, 27 July 2018, Dr Christos Tsirogannis, who had served as an expert witness in the case, received a letter from the London law firm acting for their Greek clients.

Dr Sam Hardy has written extended comments on this latest development, and ARCA provides an overview of the case.

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Monday, 30 July 2018

Michael Lewis on Metal Detecting



Michael Lewis has been talking about metal-detecting as part of the V&A Culture in Crisis Programme. He has stressed the benefit about searching ploughsoil. But what about the findspot of the Lenborough Hoard?

Lewis moves to discuss why the metal-detecting community has not signed up to the revised Code of Practice.

He touches on the issue of possible "criminal" elements who are out to loot archaeological site, and give the "hobby" a tarnished reputation.

The interviewer, Laura Jones, asked about the loss of context as a result of metal-detecting. Lewis talks about finds from below the ploughsoil, and suggests that there needs to be immediate archaeological help. He mentions the Watlington Hoard and the wait needed before the excavation could take place.

Lewis discusses the Staffordshire Hoard (but see here) as one of his favourite finds.

It would have been interesting to hear Lewis talk about the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet and the accuracy of its reported find-spot.

Lewis and Jones fail to engage with concerns about the damage being sustained to the archaeological record in England and Wales. Jones even suggests that people at home will be "wanting to be part of this", and that the Scheme actively protects the archaeological heritage of England and Wales, an issue directly addressed by the forum piece in the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology.


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Friday, 27 July 2018

Debating the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Back in 2010 I was invited to write a forum piece, "The Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act: Protecting the Archaeology of England and Wales?", for Papers from the Institute of Archaeology.

In the light of the discussion around Sam Hardy's analysis of open-source data on metal-detecting for cultural property, I thought that it would be interesting to see how the forum piece has been cited by using data from the publisher's website, Research Gate, and Google Scholar.

Excluding self-citations, articles are as follows:
  • Campbell, Peter B. (2013) The Illicit Antiquities Trade as a Transnational Criminal Network: Characterizing and Anticipating Trafficking of Cultural Heritage, International Journal of Cultural Property 20(02), pp. 113-153 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1017/S0940739113000015 
  • Daubney, A. (2017) Floating culture: the unrecorded antiquities of England and Wales. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 23(9), pp. 785-799.
  • Efrat, A. (2012) Getting Governments to Cooperate against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience. Journal of Art Crime, 8, p. 31 [reproduced in Noah Charney (ed.), Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
  • Frieman, C.J. and Wilkin, N. (2016) “The Changing of the Guards”?: British Prehistoric Collections and Archaeology in the Museums of the Future. Museum Worlds, 4(1), pp. 33-50.
  • Grove, Louise (2013) Heritocide? Defining and Exploring Heritage Crime, Public Archaeology, 12:4, 242-254, DOI: 10.1179/1465518714Z.00000000046
  • Grove Louise, Thomas S. (2014) What’s the Future for Heritage Crime Research?. In: Grove Louise, Thomas S. (eds) Heritage Crime. Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • Grove, Louise, Adam Daubney, and Alasdair Booth (2018) Identifying sites at risk from illicit metal detecting: from CRAVED to HOPPER, International Journal of Heritage Studies 2018 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2018.1475408
  • Hardy, S.A. (2017) Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods, Cogent Social Sciences 3(1), 2017 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397 
  • Rovet, G., Compagnon, G., Minvielle-Larousse, N., Champeyrol, S. and Rué, M. (2016) Chasse au trésor et pillage du patrimoine archéologique: un enjeu de médiation. In Daniel Jacobi, Fabrice Denis (eds.), Les médiations de l’archéologie. Editions universitaires de Dijon 
  • Stevenson, Alice (2016) Conflict antiquities and conflicted antiquities: addressing commercial sales of legally excavated artefacts, Antiquity 90(349), pp. 229-236 DOI: http://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2015.188 
  • Temiño, I.R. (2016) Rational Grounds for Dialogue Between Archaeologists and Metal Detectorists in Spain. Open Archaeology, 2(1).
  • Thomas, S. (2013) Multiple-role actors in the movement of cultural property: Metal-detector users. In Current Trends in Archaeological Heritage Preservation: National and international Perspectives. Proceedings of the international conference, Iasi, Romania (pp. 117-124).
  • Thomas, S.E. (2014) The Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales. SKAS.
My response to the other forum contributions is cited in a slightly different way (though Daubney, Grove and Hardy were clearly aware of both contributions to the forum piece):
  • Daubney, A. (2017) Floating culture: the unrecorded antiquities of England and Wales. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 23(9), pp. 785-799.
  • Grove, Louise (2013) Heritocide? Defining and Exploring Heritage Crime, Public Archaeology, 12:4, 242-254, DOI: 10.1179/1465518714Z.00000000046
  • Hardy, S.A. (2017) Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods, Cogent Social Sciences 3(1), 2017 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397 
  • Rasmussen, Josephine Munch  (2014) Reply to Comments from Suzie Thomas, Martin Mesicek, Raimund Karl, Mads Ravn, Maria Lingström, Norwegian Archaeological Review, 47:2, pp. 212-217, DOI: 10.1080/00293652.2014.957236
  • Wilson, P. and M. Harrison (2013) Three years on from 'The Nighthawking Survey': innovations in heritage protection, Internet Archaeology 33. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.33.7
The responses to the forum paper are cited as follows:

Trevor Austin
  • Hardy, S.A. (2017) Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods, Cogent Social Sciences 3(1), 2017 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397
Paul Barford
  • Deckers, Pieterjan, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas (2018) The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice: A Response to Samuel Hardy, ‘Quantitative Analysis of Open-Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property’ (Cogent Social Sciences 3, 2017), Open Archaeology 4, 1.
  • Hardy, S.A. (2017) Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods, Cogent Social Sciences 3(1), 2017 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397
Gabe Moshenska
  • Grove, Louise, Adam Daubney, and Alasdair Booth (2018) Identifying sites at risk from illicit metal detecting: from CRAVED to HOPPER, International Journal of Heritage Studies 2018 DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2018.1475408
Colin Renfrew

  • No citations
Sally Worrell
  • Capper, Morn  & Marc Scully (2016) Ancient objects with modern meanings: museums, volunteers, and the Anglo-Saxon ‘Staffordshire Hoard’ as a marker of twenty-first century regional identity, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39:2, pp. 181-203, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2016.1105996
  • Gill, David W. J. Gill (2014) Context matters: The So-called Crosby Garrett Helmet, Journal of Art Crime 11, pp. 53-59  
  • Sim, David N.  & Jaime Kaminski (2017) The Production and Deposition of the Guisborough Helmet, Arms & Armour, 14:1, pp. 1-33, DOI: 10.1080/17416124.2017.1307596



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Thursday, 26 July 2018

Alexander the Great from the Roman Forum

Source: Sotheby's
A marble head of Alexander the Great has been seized in New York (reported in "Judge Orders Return of Ancient Limestone Relief to Iran", New York Times 23 July 2018). It has been reported to have been purchased "in good faith" by the Safani Gallery in Manhattan. The head had passed through Sotheby's in December 2011 (lot 9) when its history was recorded as:

  • Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962), New York, most likely acquired prior to World War II 
  • The Hagop Kevorkian Fund (Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, November 22nd, 1974, no. 317, illus.) 
  •  A.N. Oikonomides, Chicago

The head was recognised from archival photographs from the finds from excavations in the Roman Forum. The head appears to have been found in 1910. It was then placed in the archaeological store of Museo Forense. The head appears to have been removed from the museum by 1959.




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Metal-detecting in context and open-source analysis

In 2017 Sam Hardy wrote 'Quantitative analysis of open-source data on metal detecting for cultural property: Estimation of the scale and intensity of metal detecting and the quantity of metal-detected cultural goods', Cogent Social Sciences, 3:1 (2017) [DOI: 10.1080/23311886.2017.1298397].

More recently there has been a response: Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas , 'The Complexities of Metal Detecting Policy and Practice: A Response to Samuel Hardy, ‘Quantitative Analysis of Open-Source Data on Metal Detecting for Cultural Property’ (Cogent Social Sciences 3, 2017)', Open Archaeology 4, 1 [Online]. Their unconvincing paper made an attempt to dismiss Hardy's careful research. 

Sam Hardy has now written an extended response, 'a response to a response on metal-detecting and open-source analysis', Conflict Archaeology (26 July 2018). Deckers et al. will need to revise their confrontational response.

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Friday, 13 July 2018

Operazione Demetra

Operazione Demetra
Source: Carabinieri
Earlier this month the Italian authorities issued a statement about Operazione Demetra with its focus on Sicily [press release, 4 July 2018; Carabinieri]. One of the key elements is that arrest warrants were served on individuals in London, Barcelona and Ehningen. They are listed as:
  • VERES William Thomas 64 anni, residente a Londra;  
  • PALMA Andrea 36 anni, originario di Campobasso, residente a Barcellona; 
  • MONDELLO Rocco, 61 anni, originario di Gela, residente a Ehningen.
Veres appears to be the same individual who handled the Steinhardt gold phiale when it passed through Switzerland ('Caveat emptor', The Economist 16 September 1999). He also appears to have sold ancient coins, largely minted in Turkey, to the British Museum. (A British individual with the initials W.T.V. was arrested in an antiquities related incident near Seville in August 2017.)

It appears that two auction houses in Munich are under investigation (John Phillips and Justin Huggler, 'Italian police smash £30m international ancient artefact smuggling ring', The Daily Telegraph 4 July 2018).

This investigation appears to be shining fresh light on the network of handlers moving archaeological material from Italy.

The British Museum will no doubt be reviewing the material acquired from this source.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Potential Kress-funded project on cultural property

Liz Marlowe is looking for professors who teach courses on issues of cultural property/heritage/looting/archaeological ethics/art market, etc., who are based at a U.S. college or university with a campus museum.

She is looking for participants in what she hopes will be a large, important, Kress-funded project.

If you are interested and/or would like more details, please contact her at emarlowe@colgate.edu.



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Thursday, 21 June 2018

Fano Athlete Decision: Getty Responds

The Fano Athlete
The J. Paul Getty Museum has issued a statement in response to the Italian court ruling over the Fano Athlete ("Statement from Ron Hartwig, spokesperson for the J. Paul Getty Trust, regarding the ruling in Pesaro on the Victorious Youth",  June 8, 2018). 

We have just received the judge’s decision and are reviewing it. We are disappointed in the ruling, but we will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The facts in this case do not warrant restitution of the object to Italy. The statue was found in international waters in 1964, and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977, years after Italian courts concluded there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.
Moreover, the statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object. Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the Bronze has only a fleeting and incidental connection with Italy. 
We very much value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and our museum colleagues in Italy. Resolution of this matter must rest on the facts and applicable law, under which we expect our ownership of the Victorious Youth to be upheld.

There is no reflection on the effectiveness of the due diligence process that was conducted by the Getty prior to the acquisition. Nor is there consideration of the process that allowed the athlete to move from a fishing port in Italy to the Getty.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

UNESCO World Heritage Site damaged



Brunton Turret on Hadrian's Wall © David Gill
A UNESCO World Heritage site in Northumberland has been damaged by metal-detectorists ("'Nighthawk' metal detectorists damage Hadrian's Wall", BBC News 20 June 2018).

Some 50 holes have been noted in the vicinity of Brunton Turret (T26b), on Hadrian's Wall.

Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime and policing advice for Historic England, was quoted:
"We may never see or fully understand the objects taken or damaged because they have been removed from their original sites with no care or record as to their history or context.
"Historic England will continue to work with Northumbria Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the metal detecting community to identify the small criminal minority who are intent on causing loss and damage to our shared cultural heritage and to bring them to justice."


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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Symes Athlete

Athlete from the Schinoussa Archive.
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a Roman marble athlete from the Schinoussa photographic archive. The sculpture, "A Roman Marble Figure of an Athlete, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D.", is acknowledged as "perhaps acquired from Robin Symes". The photographic evidence can now confirm this part in the statue's history. 

The sculpture is due to be auctioned at Sotheby's, London on 3 July 2018 (lot 23). The estimate is £30,000–£50,000. The stated history is as follows:

  • John Hewett (1919-1994), London, perhaps acquired from Robin Symes 
  • James Freeman, Kyoto, probably acquired from the above in the early 1970s 
  • acquired from the above by Willard and Elizabeth Clark on December 21st, 1980
Tsirogiannis has observed that the statue in the Schinoussa archive is "uncleaned and unrestored, since soil encrustations are obvious on its surface".  Note also the damage to the right thigh.

Did Symes sell the statue to Hewett? Or did Hewett sell it to Symes? Or did Symes sell the statue to Freeman? Or did Hewett sell to Freeman? When did these transactions take place?

What is the authenticated documentation that can confirm the statue's history? When did it surface?

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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Horse Trading and Virginia

The latest number of the Journal of Art Crime (19, Spring 2018) has appeared. It contains my 'Context Matters' column, ‘Horse trading: museum exhibitions and cultural property’, The Journal of Art Crime 19 (Spring 2018), 63-70. 

Back in February I write about some of the sources behind the objects in the collection. There is a consideration of material associated with Walter M. Banko of Montreal. More important is the identification of material derived from Fritz Burki that now resides in Virginia.

The paper also considers Apulian pots attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter (some of which have been sold for the benefit of Columbia University). 

I had written to the curatorial staff in Virginia to clarify some of the detail in the paper but, as I stated in the paper, I have yet to receive a reply.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Ortiz Bronze Sphinx

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art inv. 2000.600.
Image Public Domain.
In 2000 New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a bronze foot in the form of a sphinx as a "gift from the family of Howard J. Barnet, in his memory, 2000" (inv. 2000.600).

The modern history of the piece is given as follows:
Collection of George Ortiz, Geneva, Switzerland; with Robin Symes, London, England; by 1989 and until 2000, collection of Howard J. and Saretta Barnet, New York; acquired in 2000, gift of the family of Howard J. Barnet.
It is not clear when the sphinx was acquired by George Ortiz. Was it before or after 1970? And why did Ortiz dispose of part of his "collection" to Robin Symes? How long was the sphinx held by Symes?

The Barnets also acquired a Geometric bronze horse from Symes. What other items were purchased from Symes? The Barnets are also associated with a cup fragment derived from Palladion Antike Kunst.

What is the history of the sphinx prior to Symes? When and where did it surface?


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Thursday, 7 June 2018

A Barnet Gift and Palladion Antike Kunst

Attention has turned onto the collection formed by Mr. and Mrs. Howard J. Barnet due to the Geometric horse that was handled by Robin Symes (after it had surfaced). Questions perhaps need to be asked about how the Barnet collection was formed.

I note that a fragment of an Attic red-figured cup attributed to the Antiphon painter (by? that information is not provided) was presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1980 (inv. 1980.11.4). This piece had apparently been purchased from Palladion Antike Kunst in Basel, Switzerland in that same year.

Had this fragment passed through the Barnet collection, if only for a short length of time? Or had the Barnets provided the money to purchase the fragment? Who had proposed and recommended the purchase? Had the Barnets realised the associations with this gallery? Had they purchased any other objects from this particular dealer?



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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A Geometric Horse, Robin Symes and further owners

Source: Schinousa archive
courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
It has been reported today that the disputed Geometric horse that once passed through the hands of Robin Symes had been handled by previous owners (Laura Chesters, "Auction house Sotheby’s takes on Greece in landmark antiquities court case", Antiques Trade Gazette June 6, 2018). It is stated: "Sotheby’s argues that the horse was also owned by two other art and antiquities dealers before being acquired by Symes and had been sold at an “established and reputable European auction house” - Swiss auction firm Münzen und Medaillen in 1967."

I want to put to one side the question about when the Geometric horse left Greece: I can only presume that there is authenticated documentation that will be produced.

What is more puzzling is that there are now "two other art and antiques dealers" who owned the piece before Symes, and yet that part of the horse's history does not appear to have been divulged in the catalogue entry. Why was this information omitted? Given the horse had reared its head in Switzerland in 1967, such information would have filled out the history of the piece. And the disclosure of such information would naturally form part of a rigorous due diligence process. It also appears to undermine the catalogue entry: "very probably acquired at the above auction" [sc. 1967]. Indeed it now appears to be suggested that Symes did not appear to acquire the horse in 1967. When did the Sotheby's cataloguer (or cataloguers) become aware of this additional part of the history of the horse?

We should remember that the "established and reputable European auction house" was apparently the source for two other pieces that have been returned to Italy: one from Boston (acquired in 1977), and the other from the Getty (acquired in 1988). (The pieces are discussed in two separate articles in IJCP [here] [here]). I have, as yet, been unable to trace the history of these two pieces prior to their surfacing in Switzerland.

And that brings us back to the question: who consigned the horse to Münzen und Medaillen in 1967?

The Barnet collection is not without interest. ARCA has reminded us that a Laconian cup attributed to the Hunt painter that had been loaned periodically to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1981 (and acquired in 1999) has been returned to Italy (and listed here). This fact makes the histories of objects in the former Barnet collection of especial and legitimate interest.



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Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Minoan Larnax and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Minoan larnax from the Becchina archive and in the Michael C. Carlos Museum
I was recently asked to comment on the acquisition of recently surfaced antiquities in Greece as part of an interview. One of the examples I gave was the Minoan larnax that was acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Although this piece has been discussed in the Greek press, the museum has not yet responded to the apparent identification in the Becchina archive.

Is the time now right for the Michael C. Carlos Museum or the wider authorities at Emory University to negotiate the return of this impressive piece so that it can be placed on display in a museum in Greece?

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Stela from Saittai (Lydia)

A Roman period stele from the sanctuary of Apollo at Saittai in Lydia, modern Turkey, has been recovered in Italy (" 1,800-year-old art...