Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Oscilla from the Steinhardt Collection

Source: Manhattan DA
Among the objects returned to Italy from the collection formed by Michael Steinhardt were four Roman oscilla. The Manhattan DA Statement of Facts expands:
A set of four marble oscillum (collectively “the Marble Oscilla”), or Roman disks suspended on chains between columns in gardens, appear in dirt-encrusted fragments in multiple Polaroid photographs recovered from the Medici Archive. ... Depicting satyrs and female followers of Dionysus, the Marble Oscilla were crafted in Italy between 100 B.C.E. and 100 C.E. The Marble Oscilla first surfaced on the international art market in 1992, when Steinhardt purchased the antiquities from Robin Symes with no prior provenance for $175,000. In 1998, Steinhardt sent the Marble Oscilla to a Brooklyn-based restorer for“cleaning and repair.” 
The suggestion is that these oscilla probably came from the garden of a residence. Was this a residence buried during the eruption of Vesuvius?

Two further oscilla are known from Polaroids: these are now displayed in the Miho Museum, Japan. Concerns about their origins were first raised in 2007. Daniella Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini have recently indicated that the oscilla feature, like the Steinhardt ones, in the Medici Dossier. They also suggested that they come from 'the Vesuvian area'. Carlos Picón separately has indicated that the parallels for such items come from the area around Vesuvius.

One wonders if the Steinhardt and the Miho oscilla come from the same complex but we will have to await the definitive publication of the Steinhardt examples. 

Will the return of the Steinhardt oscilla place renewed pressure on the Miho Museum to return their pieces so that the series, perhaps originally displayed in the same garden space, can be reunited in Italy?

The identifications of the Steinhardt oscilla were made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis. 

Source: Miho Museum



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The Intellectual Consequences of Collecting an Attic Black-Figured Amphora

Source: Manhattan DA

Among the returns to Italy from the Michael Steinhardt collection was an Attic black-figured amphora showing a Maenad. The amphora is known from the Almagià archive (Exhibits 33A and 33B).

The Manhattan DA Statement of Facts notes:
Almagià’s Green Book lists one “Attic BF [Black-Figure] Amphora” purchased from a tombarolo for $6,500, and then sold for $13,000. Almagià’s day planner lists “Steinhardt” on March 18, 1997, preceding a note on April 2, 1997, “prendere vase da [sic] Steinhardt” (take vase of Steinhardt). Although Steinhardt’s records note that there is “no record of purchase,” the records also indicate that Steinhardt accessioned the Attic Black-Figure Amphora in 1997 from Almagià.
Essentially all we know is that Steinhardt acquired this amphora in 1997, and that Almagià had purchased it from a tombarolo.

The mention of the tombarolo suggests that the find-spot was somewhere in Italy: the Statement of Facts suggests both Etruria and Sicily as possibilities. Note that we cannot be sure of the part of Italy where the amphora was found, let alone the specific place or cemetery. That information has been lost for good.

The relatively complete nature of the amphora suggests that it was discovered in a substantial tomb. But what other objects were found alongside it? Was there a single burial or multiple burials? What was the gender of the main person buried in the tomb? If the tomb was in Etruria, were there decorations on the wall? Would other associated finds have helped with the dating? Could it have been older that other pieces in the tomb?

Vasologists may be even now seeking to provide an attribution for the amphora. Perhaps they will note that it has certain characteristics in the potting. Will it be placed in a particular class of pot? But what about the parallels? Where were they found? Or were they, too, without context? 

The looting of this unusual amphora has stripped it of its useful archaeological information. That is one of the intellectual consequences of collecting newly surfaced material.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2022

Becchina and the Shelby White collection

Source: Manhattan DA

LM noted that two of the objects displayed by the Manhattan DA for return to Italy were in the Shelby White collection. The Attic black-figured skyphos showing Odysseus escaping from the Cave of Polyphemos  clearly appears in one of the photographs seized from the Becchina archive. 

Does this explain why the Italian authorities are revisiting the Shelby White collection? Is it because the previous returns had not taken proper account of the Becchina archive?

It would be interesting to learn how and when Shelby White and Leon Levy acquired the skyphos. Was it directly from Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion? Or was it through another party?

Incidentally, the other piece in the photograph was acquired by a separate New York collection.

It should be noted that the identification of the Shelby White skyphos was made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis. 

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The Steinhardt hydria attributed to the Antimenes painter

Source of images: Manhattan DA.

Among the items seized from the Michael Steinhardt collection and returned to Italy was an Attic black-figured hydria attributed to the Antimenes painter. The hydria had been identified from an image in the Medici Dossier.

The Manhattan DA reports that the hydria had first surfaced with Robin Symes in 1983 (when it was advertised in Apollo). The statement then adds:
By 1987, Symes had transferred the object to the New York-based Atlantis Gallery, part-owned by Robert Hecht, who then loaned it to the Getty Museum. From 1987-1996, the object was on view at the Getty Museum prior to its sale to Steinhardt through Sotheby’s New York on December 17, 1996. 
Steinhardt is report to have purchased the hydria from Sotheby's for $169,411.

The Beazley Archive (BAPD 31596) provides the loan number for the Getty (L87.AE.4) as well as the details for the Sotheby's New York sale (17 December 1996, lot 49). It also suggests that the hydria passed through the Royal-Athena Galleries though this information may not be correct.

Christopher Chippindale and I had rehearsed the history of this specific hydria in our review article of The Medici Conspiracy (2007) [see here]. We clarify that the hydria was placed on loan at the Getty in January 1987, and returned in February 1996. This raises a question about the nature and purpose of loans that were placed at the Getty.

It should be recalled that one of the Attic black-figured neck-amphorae seized from Fordham University was attributed to the circle of the Antimenes painter (BAPD 24304).

It should be noted that the identification of the Steinhardt hydria was made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis. 

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Monday, 19 September 2022

Robert Hecht and the Princeton painter

Neck-amphora fragments attributed to the Princeton painter
Formerly New York MMA inv. 1991.11.2.

In 1991 the Metropolitan Museum received a gift of a fragmentary black-figured neck-amphora showing Herakles, Athena and Hermes, from Dietrich von Bothmer (inv. 1991.11.2). It was attributed to the Princeton painter by von Bothmer (according to Mary B. Moore); BAPD suggests that the person who attributed the fragments was 'unknown'. Moore observes that the amphora was 'broken and mended with significant parts missing'. The restorer of the amphora is not indicated. The amphora was among a batch of antiquities seized from the museum in 2022 and returned to Italy.

Although the Beazley Archive suggests that the amphora had formed part of the Bothmer collection (BAPD 9023766), the MMA  online catalogue entry suggests that it was in fact purchased from Atlantis Antiquities in 1991. This implies that Bothmer had supplied the funds to purchase the fragments from the gallery that was part owned by Robert Hecht

Atlantis Antiquities has already been associated with a number of returns from North American collections that include:
  • An Attic black-figured lekythos attributed to the Diosphos painter from Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
  • An Attic black-figured amphora attributed to the painter of Berlin 1686 from The J. Paul Getty Museum
  • An Attic black-figured amphora attributed to the Antimenes painter from the Steinhardt collection
  • An Apulian amphora attributed to the Darius painter from Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
  • An Apulian loutrophoros attributed to the Metope group from The J. Paul Getty Museum
In some of these cases the restorations had been undertaken by Fritz Bürki. 

It is known that Hecht was the source for some of the pot fragments in Bothmer's collection. 

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Wednesday, 14 September 2022

The Steinhardt Fresco from Herculaneum

Source: Manhattan DA


Among the antiquities seized from the collection of Michael Steinhardt was a fragment of Roman fresco showing the infant Hercules killing a snake (Exhibit 87). The Manhattan DA Statement suggested that the fresco had been looted in 1995 from a villa destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius somewhere in the vicinity of Oliva dei Monaci. A letter sent to the Italian authorities, along with photographs of the finds, identified Pasquale Camera who had sold on the pieces to Raffaele Monticelli for $120,000. Monticelli then sold the fresco to to Robert Hecht for $240,000.

Steinhardt was reported to have been in correspondence with Jasper Gaunt on November 10, 1995 relating to the delivery of a "crate": Steinhardt received an invoice for the fresco from Harry Bürki on November 22, 1995 ($650,000). Bürki later (February 17, 1999) claimed that the fresco had been in his family's collection for some 25 years and that it had been acquired from a "Bulgarian medical doctor".

The interplay between Bürki and Hecht should be noted, as well as the creation of a false collecting history.

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The Intellectual Consequences of Collecting a Panathenaic Amphora

Panathenaic Amphora
formerly in the Michael Steinhardt collection
Source: HSI New York / Manhattan DA
One of my long-standing concerns about looting and the subsequent collection of antiquities is that valuable archaeological information is lost. Findspots, contexts and associations are lost, with them the ability to assign appropriate dates. 

I would like to consider the Athenian Panathenaic amphora from the Steinhardt collection that has been returned to Egypt. The Manhattan DA's statement of fact about the Panathenaic amphora points the reader to the coastal site of Thonis-Heracleion.
The style and details on the Vase from the Pan-Athenian Games are characteristic of black-figure pots recovered from recent underwater excavations at Thonis-Heracleion, off the coast of Egypt.
As far as I know, there have been no Panathenaic amphorae (or fragments) found at Thunis-Heracleion. Indeed, I have only identified five Panathenaic amphora fragments (not complete pots) from Egypt: five from Naucratis (one of which is associated with the Hellenion) and one from Hadra (i.e. near the later foundation of Alexandria). If this amphora does indeed comes from Egypt it would be a most unusual find.

Furthermore, the Panathenaic amphora shows no sign that it comes from a submerged cemetery at Thonis-Heracleion. Or have looters discovered a cemetery site on land? 

However, there are numerous complete Panathenaic amphorae discovered in Cyrenaica in Libya. (See Faraj M. Elrashedy, Imports of post-Archaic Greek pottery into Cyrenaica from the end of the Archaic to the beginning of the Hellenistic period [BAR International Series, vol. 1022. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2002]). There are complete amphorae and fragments from Cyrene, Apollonia, Euesperides (Berenice / Benghazi), Tocra, Barca, Ptolemais and other sites. Could the Steinhardt amphora have been found in one of the cemeteries of, say, Cyrene, and then been smuggled to Egypt where it was associated with Thonis-Heracleion? 

The Manhattan DA may, of course, have access to other evidence that points to Thonis-Heracleion with a little more certainty. Or was this a hunch from someone researching the Steinhardt collection? 

The association of the Steinhardt amphora with Thonis-Heracleion seems, for now, unlikely and the mention of the alleged findspot should not be encouraged unless further information comes to light or is disclosed. Indeed, one wonders if the amphora should have been returned to Libya rather than Egypt. 

The case of the amphora is a reminder of the way that key information is irretrievably lost through the looting process.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2022

The Steinhardt Oinochoe Attributed to the Berlin painter

Oinochoe attributed to the Berlin painter
Source: Manhattan DA

The recent exhibition of Athenian pots attributed to the Berlin painter listed among the new attributions a single oinochoe from the Judy and Michael Steinhardt collection (BN44). It shows a youth feeding a Maltese dog.

The attribution had been made by J. Robert Guy though the date when this was made is not noted.

A polaroid of the oinochoe is reported to be in the Medici Dossier. The Manhattan DA's statement relating to the seizure of antiquities from the Steinhardt collection noted:
The Berlin Painter Oinochoe first surfaced on the international art market in 1996, when Steinhardt purportedly purchased the Berlin Painter Oinochoe from Harry Bürki with no prior provenance for $215,000. 
The statement notes that while the invoice stated that Bürki was the vendor, "Steinhardt’s records reflect that the real seller of the object was the American-born trafficker Robert Hecht."

This is one of several pots attributed to the Berlin painter that have been returned to Italy. And it should be a matter of concern to academics writing on Athenian pottery that such a high percentage of pots attributed to this painter have no secure archaeological contexts. 

It should be noted that the identification was made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis.

See D.W.J. Gill, 'Fragmented Athenian Pots and the Berlin Painter: Recent Breaks?' Academia Letters (2020): 1–5 [DOI].  

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Roman Bronze Bust Returned to Italy

Roman bronze bust. Source: Lynda Albertson (via Twitter)


Among the pieces returned to Italy last week was a Roman bronze bust: 
The Bronze Bust of a Man, dating to either the late first century B.C.E or first century C.E. The piece was trafficked by a Paris-based dealer Robert Hecht to a dealer in Switzerland, who ultimately sold the piece to a New York County based individual.
Who was the dealer based in Switzerland? And who was the private New York collector? 

Where was the bust found? 

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Steinhardt Panathenaic Amphora Returns to Egypt

Panathenaic amphora. Left: HSI New York. Right: Manhattan DA [Exhibit 73]

The return of antiquities to Egypt via the Manhattan DA included a Panathenaic amphora ("D.A. Bragg Returns 16 Stolen Antiquities to the People of Egypt", September 7, 2022). Images from the event show that it was one of the objects seized from the collection of Michael Steinhardt. 

The Manhattan DA document suggested an association with the site of Thonis-Heracleion
The style and details on the Vase from the Pan-Athenian Games are characteristic of black-figure pots recovered from recent underwater excavations at Thonis-Heracleion, off the coast of Egypt.
Such a findspot would be surprising given that there is no indication that the amphora has been derived from an underwater location. Was the amphora found elsewhere in Egypt?

The amphora was purchased by the dealer, Gil Chaya, in Dubai from Mohd Said Issa Mousa Jaradot. Steinhardt purchased the amphora on December 23,  2008, for $300,000.

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Classical Antiquities Returned to Italy from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Source: Manhattan DA (September 6, 2022) / Lynda Albertson (on Twitter)

21 classical antiquities have been returned to Italy following their seizure from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. LM has listed some of the key people associated with the material. 

The objects appear to include (though no definitive list seems to have been issued by the museum):

Sculpture 
b. A marble head of Athena. Inv. 1996.178. 
e. Marble head of a horned youth wearing a diadem. Inv. 2012.479.10. The work has been on loan to, and on display at, The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2007.  
q. A marble head of a bearded man. Inv. 1993.342. 
t. Castor and Pollux.

Silver Plate 
f. Gilded silver phiale. Inv. 1994.57.

Gold 
l. Pair of gold Apulian cylinders. Inv. 1981.134.1, .2 

Bronzes 
a. A bronze plate. Inv. 1986.322.2.  
s. Bronze statuette of Jupiter. Inv. 1997.159. 1987-1997, on loan to the San Antonio Museum of Art, Texas.

Armour 
m. Bronze helmet of Corinthian type. Inv. 2003.407.3. 
n. Bronze helmet of Italian -Corinthian type. Inv. 2003.407.5. 
o. Bronze helmet of Apulian-Corinthian helmet. Inv. 2003.407.4.  

Athenian Pottery 
Black-figured 
c. Attic bf neck-amphora, attributed to the Princeton painter. Inv. 1991.11.2. 
h. Attic bf lekythos, attributed to the manner of Elbows Out. Inv. 1985.11.3 
j. Attic bf amphora fragment, attributed to Lydos. Inv. 1985.11.1.  
k. Attic bf amphora fragment, attributed to the Amasis painter. Inv. 1985.11.2.  
u. Attic bf amphora fragment, attributed to the Amasis painter. Inv. 1985.53.  

White Ground 
p. Attic wg cup, attributed to the Villa Giulia painter. Inv. 1979.11.15.  

Red-figured 
d. Attic rf cup, signed by Hieron and attributed to Makron. Inv. 1979.11.8, 1988.11.4, 1990.170. 

Terracottas 
r. Terracotta statuette of a draped goddess. Inv. 2000.163. Gift of Robin Symes, in memory of Christo Michailidis, 2000.

Glass 
g. A glass situla with silver handles. Inv. 2000.277. 

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Monday, 12 September 2022

Attic Pot Fragments Returning from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fragment of amphora attributed to the Amasis painter. Formerly MMA inv. 1985.53.

Three of the fragments that were returned to Italy from the Metropolitan Museum of Art had been illustrated in the exhibition catalogue of the Amasis painter (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art September-October 1985; The Toledo Museum of Art, November  1985-January 1986; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February-April 1986).

Two were attributed by Dietrich von Bothmer to the Amasis painter:
No. 2 bis: Inv. 1985.53; BAPD 14680; Search List U. Fragment of a panel amphora. Traces of a horse's mane. Attribution by Dietrich von Bothmer. 

Fragment of amphora attributed to the Amasis painter. Formerly MMA inv. 1985.11.2.


No. 17: Inv. 1985.11.2; BAPD 14683; Search List K. Fragment of a panel amphora. End of 'signature'. Attribution by Dietrich von Bothmer. 


Fragment attributed to Lydos. Formerly MMA inv. 1985.11.1.



One fragment was attributed to Lydos. It had been purchased from Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion in 1985:
(fig. 25) Fragment of a plate showing gods. Inv. 1985.11.1; BAPD 14695; Search List J. Attribution by Dietrich von Bothmer. 

All three fragments are reported on the MMA's website to have been with Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion until 1985 (the year of the Amasis painter exhibition). Fragment 1985.53 was purchased by Dietrich von Bothmer and given to the museum as an anonymous gift. 

How were these fragments 'discovered' in the very year of the exhibition? 

And what are the histories of the Amasis painter fragments purchased in the same and preceding year? How were they acquired? For some reason this information is not provided on the MMA website.

No. 18. Inv. 1984.313.2; BAPD 14656. Fragment of an amphora. Anonymous gift.  Attributed to the Amasis painter by Dietrich von Bothmer.

No. 18 bis. Inv. 1985.57.a-h; BAPD 14735. Fragments of a panel amphora; both sides. Anonymous Gift. Attributed to the Amasis painter by J.R. Guy in February 1984 'before the fragments came to New York'. 

No. 56. Inv. 1984.313.1; BAPD 14636. Fragment of a Band Cup. Anonymous gift. Attributed to the Amasis painter by Dietrich von Bothmer. 

What about the fragment of a Band Cup that was given to the museum in 1986 by Dietrich von Bothmer? What was its history?

Inv. 1986.99.6;  BAPD 9035071.

The recent return of the three pieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art has started to raise questions about other pieces in the collection. 

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Thursday, 8 September 2022

Further Shelby White Antiquities Return to Italy

Source: Manhattan DA (September 6, 2022) / Lynda Albertson (on Twitter)

I was looking through the images of the handover of the antiquities to Italy yesterday. The press statement did not clarify the collections linked with all the objects:
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced the return of 58 antiquities valued at nearly $19 million to the people of Italy. The pieces were trafficked by Giacomo Medici, Giovanni Franco Becchina, Pasquale Camera and Edoardo Almagiá.

My main interest was in "21 of the pieces ... seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art" (see here).

I then thought that two of the pieces looked familiar. On the right side of the table is an Attic black-figured psykter with a procession of riders. A quick search in the Beazley Archive pointed me to the psykter in the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection (Glories no. 112; BAPD 43272). The psykter was known from images in the Medici Dossier and had been discussed on LM back in 2008.

Balancing the psykter on the back left corner is an Attic black-figured skyphos showing Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemos. This too is in the White-Levy collection and was attributed to the Theseus painter by Dietrich von Bothmer (Glories no. 113; BAPD 43271).

Does this mean that the Italian authorities are revisiting the Shelby White / Leon Levy collection? Will there be further revelations? Are there other items from this collection included in the return?

Does this open the way for the British Government to request the immediate return of the Icklingham Bronzes?

It should be noted that the identification of the Shelby White skyphos and psykter were made by Associate Professor Christos Tsirogiannis. 

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Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Metropolitan Museum of Art returns material to Italy

White ground cup attributed to the Villa Giulia painter
Source: Manhattan DA

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has now formerly returned further material to Italy ("D.A. Bragg Returns 58 Stolen Antiquities to the People of Italy", Manhattan DA Press Release, September 6, 2022). The items include an Attic white ground cup attributed to the Villa Giulia painter (inv. 1979.11.15). It had been handled by Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion. 

Another piece is the marble head of Athena reported to have been looted from a temple in Central Italy and handled by Giacomo Medici and subsequently by Robin Symes and the Acanthus Gallery (inv. 1996.178). The Medici information was not included on the museum's website.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion and the Met


The news that items derived from the Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion had been the subject of a search warrant at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art suggests that other material from this same source are likely to feature in future investigations.
  • 1978.11.18: Bronze handle from a shallow basin
  • 1980.11.2: Attic red-figured cup fragments, attributed to the Colmar painter
  • 1980.11.3: Attic red-figured cup, signed Kachrylion, attributed to the Thalia painter
  • 1980.11.4: Attic red-figured cup fragments, attributed to the Colmar painter
  • 1980.11.10: Attic red-figured skyphos, attributed to the Brygos painter
  • 1982.11.1: Attic red-figured cup fragments, attributed to the Antiphon painter
  • 1982.11.3: Attic red-figured cup fragments, attributed to the Antiphon painter
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Becchina and the Louvre


Lynda Albertson reminded us that an Attic black-figured calyx-krater / psykter in the Louvre was purchased from Gianfranco Becchina in 1988 (MNE 938; BAPD 26150).

Pasquier, A. 2000. "Un cratère-rafraîchissoir au musée du Louvre : du vin frais pour un banquet de luxe." Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot 78: 5–51.

Other pieces in the Louvre acquired from Becchina include a Capuan bell-krater attributed to the Ixion painter in 1985 (CA7124). It was apparently published by Alain Pasquier in 1978, long before is was acquired. There are also two South Italian terracottas that were both purchased in 1982 (CA 6823, CA 6824). 
Besques, S. 1988. "Deux reliefs apuliens en terre cuite." Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot 69: 1–28.

A further fragment for the pelike attributed to Euthymides that had formed part of the Campana collection was purchased in 1980 (inv. G 31 ; Cp FR 269 ; Cp FR 295 ; Cp FR 72). 

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Saturday, 3 September 2022

Search Warrant for the Met

Castor and Pollux previously on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art
© David Gill


Some of the pieces on the search warrant have been discussed by LM in the past:

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Friday, 12 August 2022

Further returns from the Getty announced


The items include three terracotta figures known as 'Orpheus and the Sirens' acquired in 1976 (inv. 76.AD.11). They were purchased from Bank Leu in Zurich. (For further information see the catalogue of terracottas at the Getty.)

Four other items from the Getty will be returned:
Recent research by Getty and independent scholars also determined that it is appropriate to return a second-century AD colossal marble head of a divinity; a second-century AD stone mold for casting pendants; an oil painting entitled Oracle at Delphi, 1881, by Camillo Miola; and a fourth-century BC Etruscan bronze thymiaterion. The first three of these objects were acquired by J. Paul Getty and the Getty Museum in the 1970s; the fourth in 1996. None of these objects have been on public view in recent years. Getty is currently working with the Ministry of Culture to arrange their returns.
There is no indication in the press statement about the sources though I understand that several feature in the photographic archives seized in Switzerland and Greece. 

The colossal marble head (inv. 72.AL.96) was acquired from Robin Symes. An Etruscan bronze thymiaterion was acquired in 1996 from the Fleischman collection (inv. 96.AC.253). It was sold to the  Fleischmans in 1987 by Edoardo Almagià. (This would be the second Almagià piece to be returned by the Getty.)

The story also appears in The Art Newspaper (incorrectly stating that the thymiaterion was purchased in 1996).


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Monday, 1 August 2022

Parthenon Partnership Proposed

Pedimental Sculptures from the Parthenon © David Gill
Jonathan Williams, the Deputy Director of the British Museum, has called for a 'Parthenon Partnership' to encourage discussion about where the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon should be displayed ("British Museum calls for ‘Parthenon partnership’ with Greece over marbles", The Guardian 31 July 2022). Williams was interviewed by Sarah Baxter of The Sunday Times ("Will the Marbles Finally Go Home?"). 

The museum seems to be restating its ownership of the sculptures though opening up opportunities for dialogue.

The issue is simple. Should architectural sculptures created for a specific building in Athens be displayed within line of sight of that structure? Or should they be retained in London?

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Saturday, 23 July 2022

Myson krater returning to Italy

Back in 2014 I commented on an Attic column-krater attributed to Myson that had been identified by Christos Tsirogiannis from the Swingler collection of photographs (see here).  Tsirogiannis has subsequently published the krater and discussed its links with the Royal-Athena Galleries:
Source: Manhattan DA
Tsirogiannis, C. 2020. "The antiquities market we deserve: 'Royal-Athena Galleries' (1942-2020)." Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia 32: 147–75. [Online]
Tsirogiannis has spotted that the same krater appears prominently in the Manhattan DA repatriation ceremony that took place this week. 

The krater itself surfaced in 1980 (Royal-Athena Galleries) and then had passed through the John Kluge collection (BAPD 9032028 [though without complete history]). The presence of its image in Swingler's photographic archive may suggest that it arrived in the US with consignments of pasta. Did Royal-Athena Galleries receive other consignments from this same source? 

Myson krater in Swingler archive
Image source: Christos Tsirogiannis
Is the krater one of the 60 pieces that are being returned from the stock of the now closed Royal-Athena Galleries? Or is it one of the 34 from other investigations? 

We look forward to the Manhattan DA listing the returned pieces.
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Thursday, 21 July 2022

Crustumerium material


I am aware of an impasto amphora in a North American university collection that appears to come from Crustumerium and was handled by Edoardo Almagià. I presume that curators are checking their items for material from these sources.

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Wednesday, 20 July 2022

New Returns to Italy Announced: Some Linked to Edoardo Almagià

Source: Manhattan DA

It was announced today that 142 antiquities will be returning to Italy (Press Release, "D.A. Bragg Returns 142 Antiquities Valued at Nearly $14 Million to the People of Italy", July 20, 2022). The returns consisted of 
"60 were recovered from Royal-Athena Galleries, 48 were recovered from STEINHARDT, and an additional 34 were seized pursuant to other ongoing investigations".
The Steinhardt material included:
Among the items being repatriated today is the Ercolano Fresco, which was seized as part of the investigation into STEINHARDT. Depicting an infant Hercules strangling a snake, the piece dates to 50 C.E. and was looted in 1995 from a villa in Herculaneum, an archaeological site that was buried for millennia under volcanic ash from the fiery eruption of Mount Vesuvius. STEINHARDT purchased the Ercolano in 1995 for $650,000 with no verifiable prior provenance. It is currently valued at $1,000,000.
Other items identified include:
Three fresco paintings dating to the 4th century B.C.E. from Paestum, an ancient Greek city located in southern Italy, which were seized pursuant to an ongoing investigation. These paintings depict scenes of mourning women, and were hacked from the wall of a tomb by looters.
An Archaic pithos (storage jar) dating back to 700 B.C.E. that was seized pursuant to an ongoing investigation into Edoardo ALMAGIÀ, an Italian native and former New York resident.
The press release also acknowledges the following museums and a single gallery:
Indiana University’s Eskenazi Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston, Royal-Athena Galleries, and the Toledo Museum of Art
One wonders if the Indiana material is linked to Almagià. 

The Boston material includes 9 pots apparently derived from Crustumerium in Latium that was acquired in 1995:
Probably about 1993/1994, illicitly excavated from Crustumerium, Italy and sold to Edoardo Almagià, New York; 1995, sold by Almagià to Jonathan Kagan and Sallie Fried, New York; 1995, year-end gift of Jonathan Kagan and Sallie Fried to the MFA (Accession Date: January 24, 1996); December 16, 2021, deaccessioned by the MFA for transfer to the New York County District Attorney and return to the Republic of Italy.
So far Boston is the only museum that appears to have provided full information.

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Thursday, 26 May 2022

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 illegale di reperti archeologici, confiscato il patrimonio al mercante d'arte Becchina", La Repubblica 25 May 2022). The report suggests that the reason was that Becchina had benefitted from the trade in recently surfaced antiquities. There is a specific link to activity at Selinunte in Sicily. 

This has implications for museums that purchased antiquities from Becchina or his gallery Palladion Antike Kunst in Basel such as the Getty where over 800 items can be identified in the online catalogue. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a pair of Apulian gold cylinders that were received as a gift in 1981. Other material from Palladion Antike Kunst was given by Robert Hecht (e.g. cup fragments attributed to the Colmar painter; ) or purchased directly from the gallery (e.g. a black-figured lekythosthe white ground cup attributed to the Villa Giulia painter). Moreover, the confiscation gives fresh impetus for the identification of objects that can be recognised from the Becchina archive. This includes the Minoan larnax and a pithos in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. 

Among recent returns from north America are three Etruscan gorgon feet from a brazier that were seized from the Steinhardt collection. 

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Oscilla from the Steinhardt Collection

Source: Manhattan DA Among the objects returned to Italy from the collection formed by Michael Steinhardt were four Roman oscilla. The Manha...