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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