Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Questions about the source of a dealer's fragments

I am working on the sources of Attic figure-decorated pottery fragments at the moment. I was interested to see that two fragments of a cup attributed to Euphronios by J.R. Guy (Euphronios no. 50) that had been on loan to Princeton University Art Museum (L.1990.134a–b) are now in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (2005.026.004A [and B?]). (I presume that the other fragment was acquired as the kalos inscription naming Lea]gr[os is on the second fragment. (Does the date for Leagros kalos need to be adjusted?)

The history of the fragment is provided as follows:
Ex coll. Peter Sharrer, New Jersey, acquired European art market, 1982-1983. Purchased by MCCM from Sotheby's New York, June 7, 2005, lot 26.
Sotheby's note the following:
acquired together on the European art market in 1982/1983 as part of a group of fragments by various painters
What were the other fragments acquired by Sharrer in 1982/83? Where are they now? Who acquired them?

But the more interesting question relates to the identity of the "European art market". Who was involved?

Why the interest in Sharrer? He supplied a fragmentary Roman relief to Princeton University Art Museum in 1985 that was returned to Italy in 2002 after it was realised that it had been found near Tivoli. Moreover, Sharrer was the source of a fragmentary Attic figure-decorated lekythos attributed to the Pan painter that was donated to Princeton in 1998 and again returned to Italy.

Were any of the pot fragments sold by Sharrer to another major North American university museum also derived from the same "European art market"?

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Saturday, 28 March 2020

The anonymous history of a Minoan larnax

Minoan larnax from the Becchina archive (l), and in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (r)
The Minoan larnax in the Michael C. Carlos Museum has been provided with a 'history'.

  • Ex private collection, Switzerland, 1980s. 
  • Ex private collection, Japan, 1990s. 
  • Purchased by MCCM from Robert Haber & Associates, Inc., New York, New York.

As the larnax appears in the Becchina photographic archive, it would be logical to identify Becchina (a dealer) as 'private collection, Switzerland'. There is no history prior to Becchina; in other words, there is no history that predates the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The identity of the 'private collection, Japan' is not provided. But we know that Becchina had links with at least one Japanese dealer. And as the Michael C. Carlos Museum seems to describe dealers and private collections, it could be fair to assume the possibility that the 'private collection, Japan' is also a 'dealer, Japan'.

As for Robert Haber & Associates, there is an instance of them handling what appears to be ex-Becchina material. What was their due diligence process to check the history of the larnax?

A responsible university museum would have resolved an issue that was first raised in 2007. Are the museum's curatorial team unaware of the apparent Becchina link with this piece? How do they explain the movement of the larnax from Crete to Switzerland in the '1980s'? Is there any supporting documentation?

I am grateful to Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis who made the first identification of the larnax from the Becchina archive.


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Wednesday, 18 March 2020

TEFAF Update

Following identifications made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis, two antiquities were seized at TEFAF, Masstricht last week (Theo Toebosch, "Twee oudheden in beslag genomen op kunstbeurs Tefaf", nrc.nl 17 March 2020). 

A Roman head of Apollo had formerly passed through the hands of Gianfranco Becchina and Palladion Antike Kunst in 1976. It is reported that it was displayed in the Merrin Gallery in New York from 1978–81, before passing into the hands of a Beverly Hills collector. It was auctioned in New York in 2008. This head had been displayed by the Chenel Gallery in Paris.

An Egyptian alabaster vase had passed through the hands of Robin Symes. This was displayed by the Merrin Gallery.

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The Reinstallation of the Getty Villa

Elizabeth Marlowe has written a review article on 'The Reinstallation of the Getty Villa: Plenty of Beauty but Only Partial Truth',  AJA 124.2 [online]. Sections include: 'Opportunities missed and stories not told', and 'Why context matters'.

Earlier this month I had listened to one of the Getty curators talking at a Cambridge conference on the "provenance" section of the Getty online catalogue. He was using examples that had a history that went back to the period before the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Marlowe's essay is a reminder of some of the histories that need to be told in more detail. Indeed, some of the stories may mean that the Getty will need to return further objects to Italy.

I was pleased to see my review of the Getty's Masterpieces cited:
Gill, D. W. J. 1998. Review of Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities (Los Angeles 1997). Bryn Mawr Classical Review. [BMCR]

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Stela from Saittai (Lydia)

A Roman period stele from the sanctuary of Apollo at Saittai in Lydia, modern Turkey, has been recovered in Italy (" 1,800-year-old art...