Tuesday, 16 January 2018

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.

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