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Fano Athlete Decision: Getty Responds

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 co…

UNESCO World Heritage Site damaged

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."

The Symes Athlete

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 Sy…

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.

The Ortiz Bronze Sphinx

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?


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?



A Geometric Horse, Robin Symes and further owners

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 Minoan Larnax and 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?

Antiquities seized in Lazio

A group of archaeological material worth approximately 900,000 Euros has been seized in Lazio ("Sequestrati reperti archeologici per 900 mila euro", ansa.it 11 May 2018; press release). The finds include an Attic black-figured horse head amphora, an Attic red-figured column-krater, a fragment of a tufa column, and other terracotta sculptures from the 4th to 2nd centuries AD. 

Symes and a Roman medical set

Pierre Bergé & Associés of Paris are offering a rare Roman bronze medical set (16 May 2018, lot 236). Its recorded history is: "Ancienne collection Hishiguro, Tokyo, 1992". The catalogue entry helpfully informs us that the set probably came from a burial ("Cette trousse de chirurgien a probablement été découverte dans une sépulture ...").

The set appears to be the one that has been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogannis from an image in the Schinousa archive thus linking it to Robin Symes.

Given that the catalogue entry suggests that this piece came from a funerary context and that the history of the piece can only be traced back to 1992 (and not to 1970), questions are being raised about the set's origins.

What due diligence was conducted on the medical set prior to offering it for sale? Did Symes sell the set to Hishiguro? How did Symes obtain the set? Who sold it to him?

I understand that the appropriate authorities in France are being informed about the …

Symes and a Geometric horse

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a geometric horse from the Symes archive. The horse is due to be auctioned at 'The Shape of Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet' at Sotheby's New York on 14 May 2018 (lot 4). 

Sotheby's provide a history of the horse and do acknowledge the link with Symes:

Münzen und Medaillen AG, Basel, May 6, 1967, lot 2 Robin Symes, London, very probably acquired at the above auction Howard and Saretta Barnet, New York, acquired from the above on November 16, 1973
When did the horse leave Greece? Who consigned it to the sale in Basel? Did the Barnets acquire other material from Symes?


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…

Heritage and Cultural Property Crime

The Heritage and Cultural Property Crime: National Strategic Assessment 2017 is now available online

The key threats to heritage in England and Wales are perceived as:

Architectural theft – in particular metal and stone Criminal damage – in particular damage caused by fire (‘arson’) Unlawful metal detecting (‘nighthawking’) Unlawful disturbance and salvage of maritime sites Anti-social behaviour – in particular fly-tipping and off-road drivingUnauthorised works to heritage assetsIllicit trade in cultural objects
Some of these issues (e.g. lead theft from churches, so-called nighthawking, metal-detecting and the code of practice, off-road driving, and the illicit trade in cultural objects) have been covered by LM (and its sister blog, Heritage Futures) over a long period of time.


Pontic amphora withdrawn from sale in New York

Christie's (New York, 18 April 2018, lot 26) has withdrawn a Pontic amphora, attributed to the Paris painter, after the pot was identified from the Becchina archive by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. 

Christie's state that the history of the piece is as follows:

with Galerie Günter Puhze, Freiburg;Acquired by the current owner from the above, 1993;Manhattan private collection. Tsirogiannis has drawn attention to the notes from the Becchina archive that shows that the amphora was dated 22 June 1993 (along with the price paid and sold, in Swiss Francs, viz. 30,000 / 47,000 SF). 
If the amphora was purchased from the Freiburg gallery in 1993, and that the piece was still with Becchina in late June of the same year, was Puhze buying directly from Becchina? What other Puhze material came from this same source?
Who restored the amphora? When did this happen?
An Attic black-figured amphora that had passed through Puhze (after surfacing through Sotheby's) was returned to Italy. 

Symposium: The Horse in Ancient Greek Art

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will be hosting a symposium in April 2018. It will explore some of the themes emerging from the exhibition, 'The Horse in Ancient Greek Art'.

It would have been interesting for one of the papers to have explored the histories of some of the objects appearing in the show. Items include pots reported to have been handled by individuals such as Edoardo Almagià and Fritz Bürki.

Reported archaeological finds in Essex

I have been working through the data included in the RSA Heritage Index for Essex. The section on 'Museums, Archives, and Artefacts' includes an element 'Archaeological finds reported' derived from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. This presents just over 16,000 finds for the different parts of the county. (This is dwarfed by more than 60,000 finds reported for Suffolk.)

These finds contribute to the overall heritage score for each of these administrative districts in Essex (and other parts of the UK).

Conflict antiquities, myth, realities and evidence

The next Heritage Futures seminar will be given by Paul Barford. His title is: Collection-driven exploitation of the Middle Eastern archaeological record: Conflict antiquities, myth, realities and evidence.

This will take place at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront Building in Ipswich, on Wednesday 11 April 2018 at 4.30 pm.

Please reserve a place by following the Eventbrite link from here.

Abstract
Over the past five years or so, the press has been full of stories about the destruction of the heritage as a result of the ongoing conflict and rise of militant Islamism groups in places like Syria, Iraq and Libya. What we see is an echo of what happened two decades earlier in the aftermath of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, the Gulf War and invasion of Iraq, when museums and sites were looted and many antiquities were stolen to feed a voracious and expanding international antiquities market. During the social instability caused by external events, we can observe that whole site…

Surfacing Apulian tomb-group in 1981

I have been reflecting on a group of Apulian pots that are said, by A.D. Trendall, to have been derived from the same tomb. All surfaced on the New York market in 1981 and then passed to the same private collection.

Some initial questions. Who provided the information to Trendall? Was it the New York dealer? If so, who provided the information to the dealer? Or was Trendall aware of the source in, say, Switzerland? If this group does not appear to have been known prior to 1970, will the present proprietors seek to contact the Italian authorities?

Ex Almagià Apulian krater at Fordham University

Among the returns from the Cleveland Museum of Art was a pair of Etruscan silver bracelets that were derived from Edoardo Almagià. Then there was a major return from the Princeton University Art Museum that contained numerous pieces derived from Almagià (discussion here). The Dallas Museum of Art decided to investigate its collections and returned ex Almagià to Italy (discussion here). And other museums have ex Almagià material: Boston Museum of Fine Art, Indiana University Art Museum, Tampa Museum of Art. Chasing Aphrodite has added material in the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Among the items in the Walsh collection at Fordham University is an Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter (inv. 8.001). The catalogue entry does not appear to provide a statement about the kraters' history. However, the krater is currently on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), and the catalogue entry helpfully states: "Ex. coll. Edouardo [sic.] Almagiá [sic.]; …

Making sense of pottery fragments

This seminar will consider the issue of how pot fragments have been acquired by museums. It will focus on the pots that have been returned to Italy where fragments have been supplied by a range of different donors. Do the patterns apply to other pots that have yet to be investigated? Why were museum curators unaware of the patterns of donation that allowed complete pots to be created? The more disturbing question relates to the possibility that pots were deliberately fragmented in order to allow them to move across international frontiers.

Entry is free but please reserve a place.

The Leutwitz Apollo: unanswered scientific questions

Michael Bennett's departure from the Cleveland Museum of Art reminds us that he appeared to fail to provide the scientific analysis of the bronze Leutwitz Apollo.

Paul Barford wrote some particularly reflective pieces on the issues here.

My own thoughts on the bronze can be found here.

Perhaps the new curator will release the undisclosed studies.

History of objects in Virginia exhibition

Colleagues have suggested that I had a look at the exhibition catalogue of The Horse in Ancient Greek Art that will be opening at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in a week's time. Among the interesting sources for the objects are:

Edoardo Almagià: no. 43, Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter, Fordham University Collection 8.001 [Fordham cat. no. 32]Fritz Bürki: no. 19, Apulian lekythos attributed to the Underworld painter, Virginia MFA 81.55; no. 20, Apulian lekythos attributed to the Underworld painter, Virginia MFA 80.162; no. 26, Corinthian skyphos showing a boar hunt, Virginia MFA 80.27; no. 41, Apulian calyx-krater attributed to the Dublin Situlae group, Virginia MFA 81.81; no. 53.1, Apulian Xenon oinochoe, Virginia MFA 81.82; no. 53.2, Apulian Xenon oinochoe, Virginia MFA 81.83Sotheby's, London (12–13 December 1983): no. 42, Apulian patera attributed to the Baltimore painter, Fordham University Collection 11.003 [Fordham cat. no. 25…

ALR: the need to differentiate between looted and stolen

I have been reading the comments made by James Ratcliffe over the return of archaeological material recovered in Europe after being removed from archaeological storage facilities in the Lebanon (Laura Chesters, "Art Loss Register, New York’s district attorney and antiquities dealers team up to safeguard Lebanese sculptures", Antiques Trade Gazette 6 February 2018). The comments relate to material that was derived from the archaeological excavation at Eshmun (see also here). 

The two Roman sculptures are given a little history:
"One sculpture was recovered when an antiquities dealer in Freiburg, Germany, was acquiring it from an Austrian dealer.""The second sculpture was identified when a dealer in London contacted the ALR before its potential acquisition. The sculpture was owned by a private collector and ALR contacted US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New York. The New York County District Attorney’s Office then seized the piece to ensure its ret…

Ownership of Paestan krater handed back to Italy

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky has agreed to transfer ownership of a Paestan calyx-krater to the Italian authorities ("The Speed Art Museum and Italian Ministry reach loan agreement on ancient calyx-krater", Art Daily 2018). It will, however, remain on loan in the museum. The krater, showing Dionysos playing the sympotic game of kottabos, was acquired in 1990 from Robin Symes (inv. 90.7).
It appears that the krater was identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in 2015 from images in both the Medici Dossier and the Schinousa archive. Symes had claimed that the krater had come from a private collector in Paris.

This is one of a series of Paestan objects that have been returned to Italy. They include the Asteas krater from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Paestan krater from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Paestan squat lekythos from the Fleischman collection, a Paestan squat lekythos from a Manhattan gallery, and the Paestan funerary painting.

The fact th…

Hobby Lobby and the Cylinder Seals

In a letter of 17 January 2018, an attorney for the US Department of Justice has indicated that "Hobby Lobby" has handed over additional cuneiform tablets.
As stated in the enclosed Stipulation, and pursuant to the July 20, 2017 Stipulation of Settlement, Hobby Lobby has delivered to the United States an additional 245 cylinder seals which comprise part of the December 2010 order and consents to their forfeiture. Upon the Court so-ordering the Stipulation, the United States will commence publication of notice of forfeiture on the grounds that the 245 cylinder seals constitute merchandise that was introduced or attempted to be introduced into the United States contrary to law, and are therefore subject to seizure and forfeiture to the United States, in accordance with 19 U.S.C. § 1595a(c)(1)(A), as alleged in the Verified Complaint in Rem. Accordingly, the United States respectfully requests that the Court so-order the enclosed Stipulation. This case is in addition to the mat…

The Becchina archive, a Minoan larnax, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

More than 10 years ago, back in 2007, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis identified two pieces in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, a Minoan larnax and a pithos, with photographs from the Becchina archive. There is a case number with the General Secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture: prot. no. 61/1-6-2007.

In 2015 the Italian authorities revealed a major collection of antiquities, worth some 50 million Euros, seized from Becchina in Switzerland. The Becchina archive itself contains some 10,000 photographs and 200 bundles of receipts. These images have led to the identification, largely by Tsirogiannis, of a substantial number of items in public and private collections as well as from auction houses and galleries.

A museum director who was faced with the identification of objects, i.e. more than one object, in their collection from this contentious source would no doubt wish to resolve the issue, not least because there is an obligation under the AAMD guidelines (2013). These state:
If a member…