Thursday 25 June 2020

Selinous at the Getty

Lex Sacra from Selinous
My next column for 'Context Matters' has appeared in the Journal of Art Crime vol. 23 (Spring 2020). It reviews the range of material from Selinous on Sicily that was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum. One text, acquired from Dr Max Gerchik, has been returned to Italy. Previous publications accepted that some of the objects were derived from "clandestine operations most probably at Selinous".

Other pieces include stelai, architectural elements, as well as other hexametric texts.

Gerchik's other donations to the Getty are considered including material from Italy that appears to have passed through Switzerland.

At least one of the Selinous pieces, a lionhead spout, passed through the Summa Galleries.

For some of the texts:
Faraone, C. A., and D. Obbink. Editors. 2013. The Getty hexameters: poetry, magic, and mystery in ancient Selinous. (Oxford).

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Monday 15 June 2020

Christie's withdraws four lots

Pelike attributed to the Washing painter
Image from the Becchina archive
Courtesy of Christos Tsirogannis
Christie's has withdrawn for lots from its June 2020 auction after the objects had been identified by Professor Christos Tsirogiannis (Dalya Alberge, "Christie's withdraws 'looted' Greek and Roman treasures", The Guardian 14 June 2020). The four pieces are as follows:

  • lot 25 a bronze Roman eagle identified from the Becchina archive
  • lot 49 a Roman marble hare identified from the Becchina archive; acquired from "Tullio" in 1987.
  • lot 113 an Attic black-figured Band cup identified from the Becchina archive. Reported to be in a private collection, Basel, and consigned to Galerie Günter Puhze, Freiburg; J.L. Theodor collection, Brussels; Sotheby's (New York) 17 December 1998, lot 77.
  • lot 121 an Attic red-figured pelike attributed to the Washing painter identified from the Becchina archive. Surfaced: Sotheby's (London) 14–15 December 1981, lot 236. Then Dechter collection of Greek vases.
It would suggest that Christie's needs to tighten its due diligence process. Did the auction-house authenticate the histories of the lots before they were placed in the auction? Did it check with the Italian and Greek authorities before the sale?

I am grateful to Professor Tsiorgiannis for sharing this information with me.

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Friday 12 June 2020

Geometric horse due to return to Greece

From the Schinousa archive
courtesy of Christos Tsiorgiannis
A Geometric horse, identified by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis in May 2018, is due to be returned to Greece ("Greece to reclaim ancient horse from US after court ruling", 11 June 2020). The date that the horse left Greece does not appear to have been made public. Were the present owners unable to provide the authenticated documentation?

One of the major concerns for auction houses, galleries, museums and collectors is that the horse is known to have passed through the Basel market in 1967, well before the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Does this mean that countries such as Egypt, Greece, Italy and Turkey will step up their claims?

A spokesperson for Sotheby's responded:
While we are disappointed with yesterday's decision, it does not impact what is at the heart of this matter – there is, and remains, no evidence to support Greece's claim to ownership of the bronze sculpture.
Sotheby's can be expected to demonstrate conclusively that either the horse was found outside the present state of Greece, or the horse was exported from Greece with the relevant paperwork.

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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...