Skip to main content

A Mosaic from an Anonymous Collector



In September 2013 the Michael C. Carlos Museum installed a mosaic showing Achilles and Penthesilea before Troy in the galleries. A little more information appeared in the Fall 2013 / Winter 2014 number of the journal of the Michael C. Carlos Museum [online]. The Director, Bonnie Speed, was full of praise for the "monumental third- to fourth-century Roman mosaic, offered to the Museum on long-term loan by a very generous donor".

Who is this anonymous donor? There was a time when the museum at Emory University was leading the way in ethical loans of archaeological material (see here). 

We are told the panels "once decorated the floor of a sumptuous Roman villa". Where was that villa?

What is the history of the panels? When did they surface?

The answers to these questions are not provided in the publications of the Michael C. Carlos museum. If they were known, the information would have been stated.

Speed is a member of the AAMD. In 2013 the AAMD revised the Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art (2013) [online]. (Note the loan was post-2008 mentioned in the Guidelines.) The 2008 Guidelines [online] and 2006 Guidelines are also important [online], notably, "Long-term loans should be assessed according to criteria comparable to those for acquisitions" (2006). It continues, "Potential long-term loans (i.e. loans not part of visiting exhibitions) with incomplete relevant provenance histories should be evaluated under criteria comparable to those for acquisitions (see 2004 Report, Section II, E)" [2004 Report].

If this is indeed an ancient mosaic, what is its history? What due diligence has been undertaken, and shown to have been undertaken?

These are important issues especially in the light of the three disputed objects that were acquired by the museum.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

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 …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.