Wednesday 30 December 2020

Fragments attributed to the Berlin painter

What questions should we be considering when we study the fragments of Athenian red-figured pottery that are dispersed between different collections and museums? This short study takes the example of some five pieces attributed to the Berlin painter (BN3, BN9, BN12, BN29, BN38); two have been returned to Italy. When were these fragments moved to different collections? Who was involved? In the case of two of the pieces, the initial fragments were presented to the museum only to be followed by purchases from a different source. Such a pattern of acquisition is not confined to the Berlin painter.

This paper questions the position taken by James Cuno that scholars should not seek the clarify the "provenance" (I prefer "history") of such fragments. 

The fragments are a reminder of the information that has been lost by the unscientific removal of Athenian pottery from funerary and other archaeological contexts.

Gill, D. W. J. 2020. "Fragmented Athenian Pots and the Berlin Painter: Recent Breaks?" Academia Letters, Letter 40: 1–5. [DOI]

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Monday 21 December 2020

Portable Finds and Roman Britain

My review of 50 Roman Finds from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (2020) has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Art Crime. Several issues are explored including the accuracy of the find-spots.

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Donations and purchases at the J. Paul Getty Museum

My latest essay for the Journal of Art Crime looks at the pattern of donations of figure-decorated pot fragments to the J. Paul Getty Museum by Werner Nussberger. Some 6000 pieces were donated to the Getty in 1981. The study identifies how additional pieces from the same pots were purchased from Galerie Nefer in 1985 and 1986. Other handlers of pot fragments are identified. 

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Thursday 10 December 2020

Funerary reliefs from Ostia

Funerary reliefs of the Caltilii.
Source: Tampa Museum of Art (L), The J. Paul Getty Museum (R).

The Italian Senator, Margherita Corrado, has raised the issue of funerary reliefs from the tomb of the Caltilii in Ostia ("Italian Senator Margherita Corrado commenting on two suspect Roman altars at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Tampa Museum of Art", ARCA blog, December 8, 2020).  She has identified two Roman funerary reliefs that appear to come from a family burial area on the Via dei Sepolchri. One is in the J. Paul Getty Museum (inv. 83.AA.209), donated by Achille Moretti, and the other in the Tampa Museum of Art (inv. 1991.001), purchased by The Collectors. 

The Tampa relief is the monument of L. Caltilius Diadumenus (with a mention of L. Caltilius Euhodus) (AE 2001 [2004], no. 621, 'fouilles clandestines'), and the Getty shows the funerary altar of L. Caltilius Stephanus and Caltilia Moschis. Caltilia Moschis also appears in a second relief now in the Palazzo Mattei in Rome (and discussed in Roman Funerary Sculptures no. 27). The Getty relief surfaced in an exhibition, partly arranged with J. Frel, at Geneva's Musée d'histoire et d'art in 1982. Corrado's press release claims that documentation in the seized Becchina archive shows that Palladion Antike Kunst tried to sell the altar to a US museum on behalf of a Swiss-based collector. 

Did the curatorial team at Tampa investigate the history of the relief when concerns were raised about it in 2004? Who handled the relief before it was sold to Tampa?

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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...