Friday, 31 December 2021

Three gorgons from an Etruscan brazier



Among the returns to Italy from the Michael Steinhardt collection are three bronze feet in the form of gorgons with outstretched arms. The three gorgons appear to have featured in the catalogue for the Royal-Athena Galleries (2012). They were presented with the following history:
One ex Leo Mildenberg collection, acquired in the 1960s; two ex private collection, Ticino, Switzerland, acquired in the 1960s.
According to the legal papers relating to the Steinhardt case, Jerome Eisenberg acquired the bronzes for $105,000 from Jurgen Haering Gallery of Freiberg at the Basel Ancient Art Fair (November 2010). 

But what about the earlier history? The bronzes are reported to feature in the Becchina archive. The legal paperwork suggests that Becchina sold them to Vincenzo Zuchetto for SF 100,000 (May 1, 1985). It is unclear when the bronzes moved to Freiberg. The legal papers suggests that Haering claimed that the feet came from the ‘collection Mildenberg, Zurich, Switzerland, since the 1960s’. 

The legal paperwork makes interesting reading. It is stated that while the gorgons were still in the hands of Royal-Athena Galleries, Erdal Dere, owner of Fortuna Fine Arts, contacted Steinhardt claiming that the feet were in the possession of Verena Brunner who would not part with them for $125,000 (September 4, 2014). The very next day the gorgons were sold to Fortuna Fine Art for $130,000 (September 5, 2014) and on the same day Fortuna Fine Arts sold them to Steinhardt for $150,000 (September 5, 2014). The invoice from Fortuna fine Arts is claimed to state:
Ex. Old Private European Collection (Ticino, Switzerland, 1960s). Ex. Dr. Leo Mildenberg Collection, Switzerland 1960s to Verena L. Brunner, Niece of Dr. Leo Mildenberg. Michigan 1980s to Present.

The story then gets more complicated. The Manhattan DA's investigation then discovered that Mildenberg's niece, Verena Brunner, had never apparently spoken to Erdal Dere, and that she had not seen the gorgons until she was shown a photograph as part of the Steinhardt investigation. The Manahttan DA also contacted the executor of the Mildenberg estate who stated that the gorgons had not formed part of the estate. It was also suggested that gorgons would not have been the sort of object that would have been collected by Mildenberg.

How did these gorgons enter the market? What is the evidence that they formed part of the Mildenberg collection? How and when did they pass, or were supposed to pass, from the Mildenberg and two private collections to Becchina? What is the authenticated documentary evidence?

I am grateful to Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis for discussing this with me.

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, 30 December 2021

The Steinhardt objects: the 2018 intervention

Sardinian figure from the Medici Dossier
Source: Christos Tsirogiannis

Readers of LM who would like to know more about the seizure of the Steinhardt collection should read Christos Tsirogiannis's analysis (with initial list and photographs):
  • Tsirogiannis, C. 2019. "Nekyia: a reflection of the antiquities market: selected cases from the antiquities identified in 2018 and 2019." Journal of Art Crime 21: 63–75.
Tsirogiannis's identification for this material include the Sardinian figure withdrawn from sale in December 2014.
| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Steinhardt objects returning to Italy

Togate figure from Perugia
Source: Chasing Aphrodite


It has been announced that 51 antiquities will be returning from the Steinhardt collection to Italy. I estimate that they were purchased for $7.5 million. The objects include Etruscan bronzes, a fresco fragment from Herculaneum, and a mosaic removed from a Roman villa on Sicily. It is striking that so many of the items were identified from the seized photographic and documentary archives of Medici, Becchina, Symes, Hecht, and Almagià.

It is clear that only a fraction of the material in these archives has been returned to the countries where they were found. Museums, private collectors, and galleries need to start studying their lists of donors and former owners.

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Steinhardt material to return to Turkey


A total of 14 antiquities are due to be returned to Turkey from the Michael Steinhardt collection.

These include:
  • Antelope standard and three bird rattles [pp. 58–59] apparently found in eastern Turkey. Purchased by Steinhardt from Robin Symes on April 24, 1991 for $84,000.
  • A female figure with seven gold dress ornaments "found together" [p. 65]. Purchased from Robert Hecht on October 31, 2005 for $499,294.
  • An Anatolian terracotta female figure [pp. 73–74]. Surfaced at Sotheby's (London) in 1975; purchased by the British Rail Pension Fund; purchased by Robert Haber on February 1, 1990; purchased by Steinhardt on August 19, 1990 for $79,610.
  • A small limestone female figure of Kilia type [pp. 83–84]. Purchased from Harry Bürki on April 30, 2002 for $47,500.
  • A silver stag's head rhyton [pp. 68–69]. Reported to be from Milas, Turkey. Purchased by Steinhardt from the Merrin Gallery on November 22, 1991 for $2,600,000; placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 11, 1993.
| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Steinhardt objects returning to Greece

Minoan larnax formerly in the Steinhardt collection
Source: Manhattan DA

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports has announced that 47 objects "surrendered" by Michael Steinhardt will be returning to Greece ("Trove of stolen antiquities coming home from US", ekathimerini.com December 29, 2021).

Highlighted items are:
Items that stand out include a Minoan larnax dated to to 1400-1200 BC and valued at US$1million, a $14 million torso of a Kouros statue dated to 560 BC, as well as a bronze griffin protome, Cycladic vessels, figurines and bronze swords.

The paperwork indicates these include:
  • a marble Cycladic spouted bowl [p. 28] acquired from Medici. First surfaced in 1980 allegedly in the collection of Marie LaForet. Sold by Robin Symes to the Beierwaltes in 1997; assigned to Phoenix Ancient Art in 2006; purchased by Steinhardt on November 9, 2006 for $500,000.
  • a 9th century BCE Geometric oinochoe [p. 34]. Smuggled by Georgios Zenebisis to Switzerland and sold to Becchina; sold by Hecht to Steinhardt on November 17, 2000 for $23,485.
  • Attic white ground lekythos attributed to the Triglyph painter [p. 56]. Identified from the Symes archive. Symes sold it to the Beierwalters for $360,000 (June 22, 1995); consigned to Phoenix Ancient Art (2006); Steinhardt purchased from Phoenix Ancient Art for $380,000 (December 14, 2006).
  • a Minoan larnax [pp. 77–78]. Stylistically placed at Rethymnon. Restored from fragments by Flavio Bertolin in Munich; Ralf Kotalla conducted a TL test in April 2016. Purchased by Steinhardt for $575,000 from FAM Services; 
  • Five objects from Naxos [pp. 78–81] acquired from Eugene Alexander between 2010 and 2014. 
    • They consist of a marble female folded arm figure (ECII), purchased December 15, 2010 for $100,000; 
    • two marble plates, acquired November 6, 2012 for $15,000, and April 9, 2014, for $10,000; 
    • a marble kandila, acquired November 6, 2012 for $75,000; 
    • and a marble cup, acquired February 20, 2013 for $20,000.  
  • Bronze griffin protome [p. 81] acquired from Eugene Alexander on November 6, 2012 for $350,000. Reported to be from the Samian Heraion.
  • Marble kouros [pp. 61–62] acquired from Robert Hecht, November 17, 2000 for $2,348,000. Restored by Fritz Bürki in Zurich.
  • Gold broach from Rhodes [pp. 63–64] acquired from Robert Hecht; purchased from Harry Bürki on September 29, 1999 for $728,000. Said to have been found with an alabastron carrying the cartouche of Nekko II.
  • Minoan hoard of 33 items containing spears, metal objects and stone vessels. [pp.64–65] acquired from Robert Hecht; purchased from Harry Bürki on September 29, 1999 for $92,000.
  • a glass oinochoe [p. 112], probably from Rhodes. Consigned by George Ortiz to Robert Haber April 2, 2002; Steinhardt acquired it on February 22, 2008 for $433,500; loaned to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on August 11, 2015.
  • bronze female figure from Crete [pp. 113–14] acquired from Noriyoshi Horiuchi. Acquired from Phoenix Ancient Art by Horiuchi on May 15, 1991; December 8, 1994 placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art; December 11, 2009, purchased by Steinhardt for $650,000.

These 47 objects were purchased for $6.2 million, though their current value is considerably more (clearly in excess of $15 million).

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Crustumerium and returns to Italy


It appears that some of the objects that have been returned to Italy from Fordham University may have been removed from the cemeteries around Crustumerium in Latium. The city lies 15 km to the east of Veii in Etruria. Richard de Puma has discussed the production of White on Red pottery from Crustumerium, based on the research of Marina Micozzi. He draws specific parallels ("close similarities to some of the pieces excavated at Crustumerium", p. 99) with several pieces once in the Fordham University collection: for example, two lidded pyxides (inv. 70.038; cat. no. 43; 7.040; cat. no. 44). He then turns to the olla with four attached bowls: there are two examples that were once in Fordham, one decorated in the white on red style (inv. 2007.1.3–4 [2.002–003]; cat. nos. 45–46). De Puma notes that "details of fabric, style, and technique ... suggest that the place of manufacture may have been Crustumerium" (under no. 46). All four are reported to have been purchased from Harmer Rooke Numismatics or Harmer Rooke Numismatists. In addition, de Puma notes that the two pieces with the four attached bowls were reported by the vendor to have been found together "at the border of Etruscan, Faliscan and Latin territories"; this locality suggests Crustumerium.

The pyxides and one olla are placed in "northern Latium" by de Puma who wrote the catalogue entries for Fordham. 

The Fordham return is reported to be linked to material associated with Edoardo Almagià [Manhattan DA press release]

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Further returns from the Getty

White on Red Lidded Pithos
Formerly Malibu inv. 96.AE.135.
The Manhattan DA Office mentioned the return of seven items from the J. Paul Getty Museum; they were seized on April 2, 2021, and the press release specifically states that they "were trafficked by ALMAGIÀ". [press release

Only one piece is listed in the Manhattan DA press release: "A Pithos with Ulysses, dating to 7th Century B.C.E. and valued at $200,000".

This is the lidded White on Red pithos decorated with the blinding of Polyphemos.  It was given to the Getty by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (inv. 96.AE.135; cat. no. 86). The pithos no longer appears on the online Getty catalogue. 

I am grateful to the Getty for providing details of the other pieces:

a. A White on Red Lidded Pithos. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. Inv. 96.AE.136; cat. no. 87.
b. A pair of Caeretan sub-geometric plate attributed to the circle of the Crane painter. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. Inv. 96.AE.137.1-2; cat. no. 88–89, A–B. 
c. A pair of Caeretan sub-geometric plates attributed to the Heron class. Gift of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. Inv. 96.AE.138.1-2; cat. no. 88–89, C–D. 
d. An Attic red-figured stemless cup, attributed to the Marlay painter. 'New York art market'. Inv. 86.AE.479; BAPD 41037.

The stemless cup had already been identified by Chasing Aphrodite.




Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, 27 December 2021

Etruscan White on Red Ware Returning to Italy





Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, 24 December 2021

Merrin Gallery returns terracotta to Italy


Among the returns to Italy was an Etruscan terracotta female head that had been acquired by the Merrin Gallery in 1997. The New York Times reports that it had been derived from Giacomo Medici (Tom Mashberg, "Looking for a Stolen Idol? Visit the Museum of the Manhattan D.A.", New York Times November 17, 2021). The head was seized on June 28, 2021 and returned to Italy in December [press release]

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

The Várez Fisa Collection in Madrid


My summary of the sources for the Várez Fisa collection now in Madrid has appeared in the Fall number of the Journal of Art Crime.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

San Antonio Museum of Art and returning antiquities

Olpe formerly in the San Antonio Museum of Art

Back in 2012 Chasing Aphrodite identified material in the San Antonio Museum of Art that was linked to Edoardo Almagià. 

It is now clear that a number of items were deaccessioned in February 2021 and have now formed part of a major return of objects to Italy. The museum has an oblique reference in the Manhattan DA Press Release

The two pieces that were identified by Chasing Aphrodite are indeed here.

a. An Attic red-figured olpe showing Dionysos and a satyr, attributed to the Florence painter by J.R. Guy (inv. 86.30; cat. no. 60; BAPD 19167). Gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. The deaccessioning statement:  "sold by Edoardo Almagià, New York, to the San Antonio Museum of Art, 1986". 

b. An Attic red-figured plate showing the head of a man (inv. 87.1; cat. no. 87.1; BAPD 19168). Museum Purchase: Grace Fortner Rider Fund. The deaccessioning statement: "found at Barbarano Romano, Italy, according to Edoardo Almagià; with Edoardo Almagià, New York, by 1986; sold by Edoardo Almagià to the San Antonio Museum of Art, 1987". Ian McPhee and A.D. Trendall had earlier suggested that it had been found in Cerveteri (1990). Barbarano Romano is to the south of Viterbo.

The third part of the return consists of 192 fragments of cups, also reported to have been found at Barbarano Romano, and stated to have been sold to Gilbert M. Denman, Jr. by Almagià in 1985.

c. An Attic black-figured Little Master cup (inv. 86.134.196a; cat. no. 178; BAPD 20266). Gift of Gilbert M. Denman, Jr.
d-j. Seven fragmentary Attic red-figured cups (inv. 86.134.196).
k. Other assorted fragments of cups, some red-figured some black-glossed (inv. 86.134.196).



Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday, 18 December 2021

The Fordham Antiquities and the New York Galleries

The announcement that "Ninety-six pieces with an estimated value of $1.8 million [were] seized from the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art on May 28, 2021" raises new questions (Press Release, Manhattan DA: "Manhattan D.A.’s Office Returns 200 Antiquities to Italy", December 15, 2021). The statement reports, "All but two of the pieces seized from Fordham were trafficked by [Edoardo] ALMAGIÀ." One of these two pieces is probably the Apulian patera attributed to the Baltimore painter that surfaced through Sotheby's in London in December 1983.

It is clear that some of the Fordham objects have a public and published record that they had surfaced on the New York market through Almagià. What is more surprising is that four New York galleries appear to be associated with the returning material: at least 85 of the seized objects are reported to have passed through these routes. (Around 80 objects come from just two of the galleries.)

Separate legal papers present the way that Almagià's material is said to have moved from Italy to north America. Does this mean the bulk of the Fordham material that had allegedly been "trafficked by ALMAGIÀ" had been passed to specific New York galleries? (This would imply that the donor of the material to Fordham had purchased the items from these four New York galleries rather than directly from Almagià.) 

These four galleries are not ones that have featured in the sorry tale that so far has been told about the selling and collecting of cultural property from Italy. This raises the possibility—and I would stress the possibility—that further revelations are likely given that, as the Manhattan DA press release reminds us, Almagià's "Green Book" contained "entries for almost 1,700 looted antiquities that ALMAGIÀ purchased from tombaroli in Italy and then sold in the United States." 

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Fordham to Return Approximately 100 Items



It will be interesting to see which of the Walsh objects have been handed over.



Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Almagià and the Steinhardt Collection

The papers listed the material from the Steinhardt collection that is due to be 'surrendered' includes objects that had been handled by Edoardo Almagià.  

  • Four Etruscan terracotta panels (p. 48). Apparently surfaced in 1993 (newspaper in photograph); purchased by Steinhardt for $155,000 in August 2001. 
  • An Etruscan terracotta antefix with Maenad, from Cerveteri (pp. 48–49). Purchased from a tombarolo for $2,000; purchased by Steinhardt for $10,000 in August 2001.
  • Etrusco-Corinthian aryballos in the shape of a helmeted head (pp. 49–50). Purchased by Steinhardt for $5,000 in November 1998.
  • Attic black-figured amphora (p. 50). Purchased from a tombarolo for $6,500, and sold for $13,000; purchased by Steinhardt in 1997.
  • Two Archaic Faience Aryballoi (pp. 50–51). Apparently purchased from a tombarolo; purchased by Steinhardt for $12,000 in February 1996.
  • Faience Baboon (p. 51). Invoice from February 1996; purchased by Steinhardt for $9,000 in February 1996.
For further objects associated with Almagià:

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, 9 December 2021

The surrendered Steinhardt collection and the Medici dossier

Left: Medici Dossier, courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis
Right: New York State District Attorney Office 
Research by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has made innumerable identifications of objects from the Medici Dossier. The paperwork for the Steinhardt collection makes it clear how many items had passed before the Polaroid camera of that source.

The items include:
  • Etruscan togate figure, from Perugia (pp. 16–17).
  • Two bronze figures of Pegasus (pp. 17–18).
  • Villanovan helmet (pp. 18–19).
  • Two Etruscan terracotta panels, from Cerveteri (pp. 19).
  • Attic sphinx cup, Tleson (pp. 19–20).
  • Oinochoe attributed to the Berlin painter (pp. 20–21)
  • Attic Leagros hydria (pp. 21–22).
  • Attic Antimenes hydria (pp. 22–23).
  • Attic head vase (pp. 23–24).
  • Protocorinthian duck (p. 24).
  • Protocorinthian owl (pp. 24–25).
  • Ionian ram's head (p. 25).
  • Corinthian bull's head (pp. 25–26).
  • Corinthian lion vessel (p. 26).
  • Faliscan askos (p. 27).
  • Four marble oscilla (p. 27)
  • Cycladic spouted bowl (p. 28).
It is a reminder that the 'Medici Conspiracy' continues to make an impact on cultural property issues.
| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Returning Athenian pottery from the Steinhardt collection

Source: Manhattan District Attorney's Office

The documentation for the Michael Steinhardt  collection identifies several Attic pieces that will be returned to their country of origin, presumably Italy and Greece.
  • Attic black-figured Sphinx cup, 'Tleson, son of Nearchos' (pp. 19–20). Identified from the Medici dossier. Symes sold to Beierwaltes (January 8, 1996); Phoenix Ancient Art (2006); Steinhardt purchased from Phoenix Ancient Art for $310,000 (2007).
  • Attic red-figured oinochoe attributed to the Berlin painter (pp. 20–21). Identified from the Medici dossier. Steinhardt purchased from Harry Bürki for $215,000 (1996); Steinhardt's records show that the oinochoe had been sold by Robert Hecht.
  • Attic black-figured hydria showing Herakles and Kyknos attributed to the Leagros group (p. 21).  Identified from the Medici dossier. Displayed by Christos Bastis at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (1987); Bastis died (1999); Steinhardt purchased from Michael Ward for $127,000 (2000). The paperwork omits that the hydria surfaced at Sotheby's (London) July 11–12, 1983, lot 352, and was sold at Sotheby-Parke-Bernet, New York, December 9, 1999, lot 92. [BAPD 9050]
  • Attic black-figured hydria showing women at a fountain-house attributed to the Antimenes painter (pp. 22–23). Identified from the Medici dossier. Robin Symes advertised the hydria (1983); Atlantis Gallery, New York (1987); loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum L87.AE.4 (1987–96); Steinhardt purchased it at Sotheby's for $169,411 (December 17, 1996, lot 49). [BAPD 31596]
  • African head vase (pp. 23–24).  Identified from the Medici dossier.  Displayed in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva (1978–81); J. Paul Getty Museum (1984–96); Symes sold the piece to the Beierwaltes (1996); Beierwaltes consigned it to Phoenix Ancient Art (2006); Steinhardt purchased it from Phoenix Ancient Art for $163,312.50 (2009). 
  • Attic black-figured eye-cup (pp. 35–36). Identified from the Becchina archive. Mario Bruno, Lugano; sold to Becchina; TL tested by Ralf Kotalla, Germany(July 1992); Robert Hecht sold it to Steinhardt for $170,750 (June 15, 2000).
  • Attic black-figured amphora (p. 50). Identified from the Almagià archive. Purchased from a tombarolo for $6,500; sold for $13,000; accessioned by Steinhardt as coming from Almagià (1997). 
  • Attic black-figured plemochoe (pp. 54–55). Identified from the Symes archive. Photographed by Dieter Widmer (1985); held as loan by Sotheby's London for Budico SA, owned by Henri-Albert Jacques (1989); stolen from Sotheby's and recovered by the police; Budico SA sold it through Sotheby's to Steinhardt for $84,083 (December 11, 2002). Note: 'Ex. Private Coll. London, RS + CM' (?Symes and Michaelides).
  • Attic white ground lekythos attributed to the Triglyph painter (p. 56). Identified from the Symes archive. Symes sold it to the Beierwalters for $360,000 (June 22, 1995); consigned to Phoenix Ancient Art (2006); Steinhardt purchased from Phoenix Ancient Art for $380,000 (December 14, 2006).
| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Reflecting on the Michael Steinhardt collection


The announcement that Michael Steinhardt has 'surrendered' 180 objects valued at $70 million is shocking. Tom Mashberg ("Michael Steinhardt, Billionaire, Surrenders $70 Million in Stolen Relics", New York Times December 7, 2021) has also reminded us:
Prosecutors said Mr. Steinhardt had owned and traded more than 1,000 antiquities since 1987.
Each of these objects has been removed from its archaeological context. Associations have been lost. Stratigraphy destroyed. Knowledge has been swept away and will never be recovered. 

There is cheer that these objects are being returned to their country of origin. Yet repatriation does not restore the archaeological knowledge. This debate has shifted back to the old question, 'Who Owns Antiquity?'

And Steinhardt stands in a line of private collectors, many based in New York, who have chosen to acquire recently surfaced antiquities and have turned a blind eye to the issue of looting. How did he think such objects—1,000 of them—had appeared on the market?

How many of these collectors have funded archaeological excavations? (Just think of how $70 million could have been spent.) And does support for field archaeology cancel out the destruction of those lost contexts? And what about associating the names of these benefactors with some of the great museums of the world? 

We should be concerned at the scale of the problem. But we should be more concerned about the intellectual consequences of so much destruction of the archaeological record. 

| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Ex Symes material on offer in London


Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified two Etruscan bronze attachments that are being offered at Sotheby's, London, on December 7, 2021 (lot 68). The history of the pieces is rehearsed:
Mathias Komor, New York, inv. nos. I.514 and I.515 
Clarence Day, Memphis, acquired from the above on February 24th, 1978 (Sotheby's, New York, Antiquities from the Collection of the Late Clarence Day, December 7th, 2010, no. 15, illus.) 
acquired by the present owner at the above sale
Tsirogiannis made the identification for the bronzes in the Schinoussa archive thus showing that they had passed through the hands of Robin Symes.

The detail is provided in Dalya Alberge, "Antiquities for auction could be illicitly sourced, archaeologist claims", The Guardian December 7, 2021.
| |
Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

The Minoan Larnax at Emory University

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, 6 December 2021

Sources for the returned Michael Steinhardt antiquities



The legal paperwork lists those who handled the 180 antiquities that have been handed over by Michael Steinhardt. Robert Hecht is top of the list with 45 objects. Other names will be familiar to those who study the return of cultural property. 

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Michael Steinhardt and the J. Paul Getty Museum


The return of antiquities from the collection of Michael Steinhardt that have been valued at $70 million raised questions about other objects. 





Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Michael Steinhardt and the return of antiquities valued at $70 million

Michael Steinhardt has agreed to hand over antiquities valued at $70 million (Karen Matthews, "Fund manager to turn over $70 million in stolen antiquities", ekathimerini.com December 6, 2021). Some 180 antiquities are due to be handed over (Dan Morgan, "Hedge-Fund Pioneer Michael Steinhardt Surrenders 180 Stolen Antiquities Valued at $70 Million, Manhattan DA Vance Says", nbcphiladelphia.com December 6, 2021). The antiquities are said to have been derived from 11 different countries, and passed through some 12 networks. Steinhardt has also agreed not to acquire any antiquities in the future; he will not be facing any criminal charges. 

Among the objects to be handed over is a Cretan larnax, a silver rhyton in the shape of a stag's head acquired from the Merrin Gallery, a fragmentary fresco acquired from Robert Hecht and Fritz Bürki.

Press Release from the New York District Attorney's Office: D.A. Vance: Michael Steinhardt Surrenders 180 Stolen Antiquities Valued at $70 Million, December 6, 2021.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Becchina and a Sardinian boat-shaped lamp

Entry from the Becchina archive
Courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified a Sardinian boat-shaped lamb in the seized Becchina archive with what appears to be same piece shortly to be offered at auction in London.

Why does this matter? The archive clearly shows that the lamp passed through Palladion Antike Kunst in 1993. (We note that the value at SFr 60,000 shows that the piece has clearly lost its value over the years.) Yet the auction house claims that this passed into an Austrian private collection after being acquired in Vienna in the 1960s. Now, the 1960s would conveniently place the lamp in the period before the 1970 UNESCO Convention. 

But is the history supposed to be something like this? Sold in Vienna in the 1960s; acquired by an Austrian private collection; sold through Palladion Antike Kunst in Switzerland in 1993; acquired by an anonymous individual or corporate body; consigned for auction in London.

Here are the questions. Was the current vendor unaware that the lamp had passed through the hands of Palladion Antike Kunst in the 1990s? Had the auction house checked the history of the object or had they accepted the oral account? Which Vienna gallery sold the lamp in the 1960s? What is the authenticated documentary evidence? Finally, who consigned the lamp to Palladion Antike Kunst in the 1990s?

We presume that the auction house has contacted the Italian authorities.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Developments in Sicily: Gianfranco Becchina

It has been reported that the assets of Gianfranco Becchina have been confiscated by a court in Sicily (Francesco Patanè, " Commercio i...