Wednesday 27 November 2019

An inscription from Kos

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty received the anonymous donation of a Greek inscription from Antimachia on Kos (J. Walsh, "Acquisitions/1983." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), 239, no. 37). This notice pointed to the previous publication of the stone when it had been observed built into the walls of the church of Ayia Marina where it had been observed first by Marcel Dubois ("Inscriptions des Sporades." Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 7 (1883) 481–82, no. 4) and then by William R. Paton (W.R. Paton and E. L. Hicks, The inscriptions of Cos (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1891) 271–72, no. 383) who made some corrections to Dubois' text.

The anonymous donor of the inscription was Stefan Hornak who had acquired it in 1983 from Galleria Serodine SA in Ascona, Switzerland. Hornak was one of the people identified as a major donor to the Getty with objects worth $869,800 (Geraldine Norman and Thomas Hoving, "Spectrum: The fine art of tax avoidance", The Times 13 February 1987).

When did the inscription move from the church of Ayia Marina on Kos to the Galleria Serodine SA in Switzerland? What is the supporting documentation?

Walsh noted that the inscription would be published by Dirk Obbink.

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Tuesday 26 November 2019

Eros and Robin Symes

Christie's (London) are due to auction a Roman statue of Eros unstringing a bow on 4 December 2019 (lot 483). The piece, 'The property of a gentleman', is provided with the following history:
Roger Peyrefitte (1907-2000) collection, Paris, said to have been acquired from Nicolas Landau in the late 1960s. French private collection, purchased from the above in 1986.
Yet Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified images from the Schinoussa archive suggesting that the Eros had passed through the hands of Robin Symes at some point (Dalya Alberge, "Christie's urged to pull sale of Roman statue 'linked to illicit dealers'", The Guardian 24 November 2019).

When in the sequence did Symes handle the Eros? Why does this information not appear in the stated history? Is the stated history supported by authenticated documentation? Did Christie's check the piece with the relevant authorities in Greece or Italy?

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Tuesday 19 November 2019

Buying and Selling Papyri

The statement by the EES that some 120 papyri fragments from its collection are missing is raising concerns in the academic community. 19 of the fragments have been identified in a public museum and a private collection in North America, and these will apparently be returned to the EES.

There are questions that need to be answered. What authenticated documentation was supplied with the sale of the papyri? What due diligence was undertaken? Who had access to the EES collection?

why has the acquisition of papyri fragments been seen as different from that of antiquities? Are they not seen as part of the archaeological record?

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Monday 18 November 2019

Looting in Calabria

It has been announced that a cross-European investigation has closed a network of looting in southern Italy [press release]. It has involved law enforcement agencies in France, Germany, Serbia and the United Kingdom. It is reported that thousands of objects have been seized as well as tools used in looting activities.

Does the presence of UK enforcement agencies suggest that some of the material was due to be sold in London?

Again, the scale of the operation is a reminder that looting is not an issue that has disappeared and it continues to threaten the finite archaeological record.

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Another Bubon bronze head likely to be repatriated

It appears that a bronze head acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis has been removed from display and appears to be...