Thursday 22 December 2022

Inadequate attributions and Cycladic figures

New York MMA
inv. L.2022.38.47
In 1993 Christopher Chippindale and I suggested that some of the attributions to Cycladic 'masters' (as they were then called) were inadequate as not a single piece was derived from a secure archaeological context. Subsequently, the Stafford master was removed from the attributions as key works were considered by Getz-Preziosi / Getz-Gentle to be modern works. In 2002 I returned to the theme of inadequate sculptors in a review of Getz-Gentle's Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (2001) noting the introduction of two new entrants to the category (and both represented in the Leonard Stein collection of Cycladic figures): the Karlsruhe/Woodner sculptor and the Rodgers sculptor.

There are three figures attributed to the Rodgers sculptor. Two are reported to have surfaced from the same dealer, 'three years apart', and both were 'encrusted with similar hard deposits' (quotes from Getz-Gentle). One of the figures was in an anonymous North American private collection (NAC no. 52; acq. 1975) and the other in the Stern collection (and previously in the Rodgers collection; acq. 1972). The Stern figure had been reported as being derived 'from English coll., after World War II' though Getz-Gentle qualified this with the dismissive, 'information I distrust'. The third figure is in the Museum of Cycladic Art (inv. 282: Doumas no. 223). Although Getz-Gentle notes 'find-place unknown', Doumas suggested the 'possible' findspot of Koufonisia. This figure was described by Colin Renfrew as achieving 'a rhythmic effect in the curving outlines of the head, shoulders, upper arms, thighs, and calves' (Cycladic Spirit p. 86, pl. 57). No further information is provided by Aegean Waves (no. 24).

The Stern figure appears in the Homecoming exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art (no. 13) where it is attributed (inaccurately), along with the Athens figure, to the Rodgers master

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Wednesday 21 December 2022

Christos Doumas on Cycladic Forgeries

New York MMA
inv. L.2022.38.49
An interview with archaeologist Christos Doumas was published earlier this week. The focus was on the 15 items from the Leonard Stern collection that went on display in the Homecoming exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art. Doumas raised questions about the authenticity of some of the figures. When pressed by the journalist he thought that at least 4 or 5 of the figures (out of 10!) were likely to be fakes. (Only one is identified: the Late Neolithic figure [no. 1], though it should be remembered that Getz-Gentle does illustrate this in Personal Styles, pl. 2. The Homecoming catalogue notes, 'It belongs to a type that has not yet been identified among Aegean marble figurines of the Neolithic period'.) Doumas based his view on fakes on the type of marble that was used. He raised the issue why there had not been a panel formed to help authenticate the figures in the Stern collection. 

This raises questions about other figures in the Stern collection especially in the light of recent revelations about the forging of Cycladic figures. 

How will the curators at the Museum of Cycladic Art and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art respond to Doumas' concerns? There is likely to be unease that accepting all the Stern figures as authentic has the potential of corrupting the corpus of knowledge for Cycladic figurines. 

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Homecoming and the Stern Collection

New York MMA inv. L.2022.38.22

The Keros Haul is considered to be a notorious example of looting in the Cyclades and in the publication—co-published with the Museum of Cycladic Art—is a figure formerly  in the New York collection of Ian Woodner and now in the collection of Leonard Stern (New York MMA inv. L.2022.38.22). The Stern figure appears in the Keros catalogue (no. 170), and while this publication is referenced in the Homecoming catalogue published by the Museum of Cycladic Art (no. 11) there is no explicit mention that the figure came from the haul. One wonders why this part of the object's history has been suppressed. It is, in fact, one of several pieces in the Stern collection that was derived from Keros.

The figure is attributed by Getz-Preziosi/Getz-Gentle to the Kalrsruhe/Woodner sculptor (/master). The Stern/Woodner figure was paired in Early Cycladic Sculpture (1985) with a figure in the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe:
Nearly identical in length and exceptionally large, the two figures share a number of characteristics whose combined presence cannot have been fortuitous even though they differ in obvious ways.
The Karlsruhe figure was subsequently returned to Greece. What is stopping the Greek authorities from requesting the return of the Stern/Woodner figure? Instead they have accepted it as a temporary loan and recognise the validity of the long-term loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The third figure attributed to this sculptor is in the Museum of Cycladic Art (inv. 724) and is reported to have been found 'in a cave' on Keros. Not one of the three figures has a secure archaeological context.

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Tuesday 20 December 2022

Funerary stele returned to Greece

Stele revealed at the Epigraphic Museum
It is reported that today, December 20, 2022, that a funerary stele for one Epikrates has been returned to Greece. The stele is stated that it was due to have been offered through Christie's in London (December 2021) but was identified from three photographs in the Becchina archive and was withdrawn after intervention by the Art Squad of the Metropolitan Police. Incidentally, the stele was said to have been handled by Koutoulakis, a name that should have raised concerns. 

These three photographs were considered to be sufficient evidence for the return. (I am grateful to Christos Tsirogiannis for sharing the images with me.) Yet, when photographs of a Cycladic figure were identified with a piece residing in the Stern Collection there appears to have been a reluctance for the Greek authorities to seek the immediate return. Indeed there is currently an exhibition, 'Homecoming', at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens that contains 15 Cycladic pieces from the Stern Collection. I understand that questions relating to this inconsistency of policy were asked at the press conference today but were deflected by the Minister. 

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Saturday 10 December 2022

The Forger's Tale

Our latest study on forgeries and the corpus of Cycladic figures is now available from the International Journal of Cultural Property.

Tsirogiannis, C., D. W. J. Gill, and C. Chippindale. 2022. "The Forger’s tale: An insider’s account of corrupting the corpus of Cycladic figures." International Journal of Cultural Property: 1-17 [Web].


Many of the known Cycladic figures – the late prehistoric human-shaped sculptures from the Aegean archipelago – came from twentieth-century illicit excavations, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. It is also known that figures were being faked at the time and perhaps also earlier: a few fakes have been identified, whilst other figures are under suspicion. Interviews with a man who faked Cycladic figures in the 1980s and 1990s give us a first insider’s autobiographical account of the forging business. This article offers, step-by-step, the method that two forgers developed to create fake figures, to treat them so that they appeared ancient, and to sell them on. The forger has identified a few of these forgeries from photographs of figures; his story is consistent with other information and seems to ring true. By verifying various elements in the forger’s testimony – from names of well-known figures in the modern antiquities market to small details and dates – we have been able to evaluate the validity of the narrative; to use it in order to uncover the true paths that fake objects followed into various collections; and to highlight valuable provenance information that no one involved in trading these objects was ever willing to provide.

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Monday 5 December 2022

UK Prime Minister's Position on Parthenon Sculptures Clarified

Part of the Parthenon frieze in the British Museum © David Gill

The British Museum is reported to be in an advanced state of discussion with the Greek authorities over the architectural sculptures originally created for the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis (Katie Razzall, "Deal to return Elgin Marbles to Greece at advanced stage - reports", BBC News December 3, 2022). Discussions have been taking place between George Osborne, the chair of the British Museum, and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister. More recent reports suggest that agreement is far from close ("Greece, Britain discussing Parthenon Marbles return but deal not close", December 5, 2022). It notes the UK Government position:
Asked about British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s position on their return, a spokesman said Britain had no plans to change laws which prevent removing objects from the collection apart from in certain circumstances. 
 “Our position on this hasn’t changed. Decisions relating to the care and management of the collections are a matter for the museum and its trustees,” the spokesman said.
It should be remembered that the UK Government compiled a substantial report on the Parthenon sculptures. This is discussed in:
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2002. "The trade in looted antiquities and the return of cultural property: a British parliamentary inquiry." International Journal of Cultural Property 11: 50-64. [DOI]
The sculptures form an integral part of the main temple that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Saturday 3 December 2022

Identifications at Sotheby's in London

Image from the Becchina archive courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis

Professor Christos Tsirogiannis has identified three objects from the Becchina, Medici and Symes archives that were due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on December 7, 2022. His identifications are covered in a report by Dalya Alberge, "Archaeologist urges Sotheby’s to cancel auction of ‘illicit’ artefacts", Daily Telegraph December 3, 2022.

Take for example the Roman bronze protome spout in the form of a dog or spout (lot 121). The history of the piece is provided:
  • Swiss private collection 
  • Royal-Athena Galleries, 
  • New York John W. Kluge, acquired from the above in 1989 (Christie's, New York, The Morven Collection of Ancient Art, December 10th, 2004, no. 590, illus.)
Notice on the image the annotation 'V[ia]/Jer[ome Eisenberg]' confirming the link with the Royal-Athena Galleries. The image is taken from the Becchina archive and records show that it was derived from Mario Bruno. Presumably one of these two sources is to be identified as the 'Swiss private collection'.

In the report in the Telegraph it is noted:
A Sotheby’s spokesman said that they “uphold the highest standards of due diligence”.
How did Sotheby's conduct a rigorous due diligence test on the anonymous Swiss private collection? Had they considered the possibility that Becchina or another such individual was the origin? 

Royal-Athena Galleries should also have raised an alert. Only in November three antiquities from this source were returned to Turkey: e.g. silver Apollo. Or in July this year an Attic krater from the Gallery was returned to Italy. This was among 60 antiquities from Royal-Athena Galleries. Again, had Sotheby's taken this into account as part of their rigorous due diligence process? 

In May 2017 a Paestan lekythos was provided with a nearly identical history to the bronze spout. Did this raise concern? Indeed it is clear that the Kluge collection has been linked to several antiquities that have been returned to Italy. This in itself should have alerted those preparing the catalogue entry for Sotheby's.

Will Sotheby's in London tighten up its processes? Is there a need to raise the standard of the due diligence approach to a more rigorous level?

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Apulian Dinos Seized from NYC Private Collection

Source: Manhattan DA.

It seems that another piece displayed in the exhibition, Glories of the Past, was seized from a NYC private collection in June 2021 (though the information has only just been made available). The object is an Apulian dinos attributed to the painter of Louvre MNB 1148 (Glories no. 128). The catalogue entry by Dietrich von Bothmer notes that the dinos 'has been broken into many fragments and repaired'. Who restored the piece?

This adds to the 14 other pieces from the exhibition that have been returned to Greece, Italy or Turkey.

I am grateful to Jason Felch for pointing me in the direction of the relevant Search Warrant. 

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Friday 2 December 2022

The Bubon statue in the Cleveland Museum of Art

Imperial bronze in Cleveland Museum of Art
Source: Open Access

In 1986 the Cleveland Museum of Art acquired a bronze statue (Inv. 1986.5). It had previously resided in the collection of Mr & Mrs Charles Lipson of Boston (Mass.). The Lipsons were also the owners of the bronze statue of Lucius Verus that has been returned to Turkey from the Shelby White collection. Both statues are reported to have the same findspot: 'reported to be from Ibecik (ancient Bubon in Lycia), Turkey' (Fire of Hephaistos no. 50; fig. 2 under no. 54). 

Will the Cleveland Museum of Art be contacting Turkish authorities to arrange the return of this statue? 

A discussion of the issues for this statue can be found on Chasing Aphrodite.

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$24 million worth of antiquities reported to have been seized from NYC collector


I understand that back in April this year 18 antiquities valued at $24.393 million were seized from a New York private collection. The most valuable was a bronze statue of Lucius Verus valued at $15 million, followed by an Attic red-figured calyx-krater and a bronze bust, each valued at $3 million. Some of these items had been displayed in an exhibition, Glories of the Past, at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Two of the seized items have been returned to Turkey, and others to Italy: it is unclear if and when one or more of the items will be returned to Greece.

The Art Newspaper revealed today that the objects formed part of the Shelby White collection (Claire Voon, "Looted antiquities returned to Turkey and Italy were seized from New York home of Met trustee Shelby White", December 2,  2022).

Source: Manhattan DA.

I grateful to Jason Felch for assistance with this post, and to Christos Tsirogiannis who made many of the identifications. 

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Thursday 1 December 2022

Returning Glories of the Past

Source: Manhattan DA.
The return of the marble sarcophagus fragments and the bronze statue of Lucius Verus from Bubon highlight how far the Leon Levy and Shelby White collection has been the source of returns to Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Many of these identifications were made by Christos Tsirogiannis.

Returned items that appeared in Glories of the Past include:
87: Bronze statue of naked youth. [Italy]
97: Fragment of an Attic funerary stele. [Greece]
102: Chalcidian neck-amphora, attributed to the painter of the Cambridge Hydria Cavalcade. [Italy]
104: Attic black-figured neck-amphora of Panathenaic shape, attributed to the painter of Louvre F6. [Italy]
107: Attic black-figured neck-amphora, attributed to the painter of the Medea group. [Italy]
112: Attic black-figured psykter. [Italy]
113: Attic black-figured skyphos. [Italy]
117: Attic red-figured calyx-krater, A: Zeus and Ganymede, B: Herakles and Iolaos, attributed to the Eucharides painter. [Italy]
129: Apulian guttus with ram's head spout. [Italy]
131: Apulian fishplate attributed to the Cuttlefish painter. [Italy]
142: Fragment of Roman fresco. [Italy]
143: Fragment of Roman fresco. [Italy]
169: Four fragments of Roman sarcophagus. [Turkey]
174: Bronze statue of Lucius Verus from Bubon. [Turkey]

Concerns about the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection were discussed in:
Chippindale, C., and D. W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." AJA 104: 463-511. [DOI]

There appear to be other returned items that do not feature in Glories.

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Monday 28 November 2022

Bronze Attis Returns to Turkey

L: Bronze returned to Turkey. R: Bronze in Royal-Athena Galleries

Among the objects returned to Turkey was a small bronze identified as Attis. This appears to be the bronze acquired from Galerie Nefer in July 1984 and then sold through Royal-Athena Galleries (Art of the Ancient World 4 [1985] no. 144) to the J.H. collection, Dearborn, Michigan. It was then placed on loan with Ohio State University; Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University; and Fitchburg Art Museum. It was then back on sale at the Royal-Athena Galleries (Art of the Ancient World 29 [2018] no. 18).

Note that the 2018 catalogue entry mentions the oriental 'costume and cap' but rather than identifying it as Attis suggests Orpheus.

What other material did the Royal-Athena Galleries acquire from Galerie Nefer? 

I presume that the Manhattan DA will at some point issue a list of material that has been returned to Italy and Turkey from the stock of the Royal-Athena Galleries. Should those museums and collectors that acquired material from this source now be checking the histories of the objects? 

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Kusura Type Figure Returned to Turkey

L: Figure Returned to Turkey. R: Figure from Royal-Athena Galleries

Among the recent items returned to Turkey was a Kusura type marble figure. Although there was no statement about the origin of the figure it seems to be the one offered by the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York in 2006 (Art of the Ancient World 17, no. 218) and 2017 (Art of the Ancient World 28, no. 166). It is said to have resided in an anonymous French private collection. 

It will be recalled that 60 items from the Royal-Athena Galleries were returned to Italy in July 2022. Was this Kusura type figure seized at the same time or has it been residing elsewhere? The Manhattan DA does not yet seem to have issued an informative press release about these latest returns to Turkey. 

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Wednesday 16 November 2022

A Silver Apollo Returns to Turkey

Left: Symes-Michaelides archive; Right: Royal-Athena Galleries

In November 2022 the US authorities returned a silver statuette of Apollo to Turkey. This was recognised as the figure that had been identified by Christos Tsirogiannis in 2007 as appearing in the Symes-Michaelides archive. It receives a full discussion in his PhD thesis, Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: The Robin Symes - Christos Michaelides Network and its International Implications (Cambridge University, PhD Dissertation, 2012). 

The history can be traced through the various sale catalogues in which it appeared.

The figure seems to have surfaced in an exhibition organised by Marie-Louise Vollenweider, Musées de Genève in January 1987 (no. 274), and then featured in the exhibition for Numismatic Fine Arts, Treasures from an Ancient Jewelbox: Gold and Silver of the Ancient World (1992): the catalogue was prepared by Robert Hecht. 

The figure next appeared in the exhibition organised in memory of Michaelides by Robin Symes, Royal Portraits and Hellenistic Kingdoms (New York 1999) no. 24, and then passed into a New York private collection. It was offered at Sotheby’s (New York) on December 7, 2001, lot 76 but was unsold; it entered an Australian private collection in 2002, and was offered at Sotheby’s (New York) June 5, 2008, lot 22 but again was reportedly unsold. It was purchased by Jerome Eisenberg and appeared in Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World 20 (2009) no. 134; Art of the Ancient World 28 (2017) no. 27. It is not clear when the Apollo was seized.

The evidence used to associate the Apollo with a findspot in Turkey has not been disclosed as part of the return, but it has been associated with rulers from Pontus and Cappadocia.

Note. The label in the Antalya Museum states that the figure is bronze but this is incorrect. I am grateful to Christos Tsirogiannis who was able to confirm the material.

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Düver Frieze Fragment Returns to Turkey

Düver frieze fragment: Antalya Museum (l) and New York market (r)

Among the returns to Turkey is a fragment of the terracotta architectural frieze derived from Düver in Turkey. It was offered on the New York market in October 2021 and had formed part of a New York collection. This is a significant return because Düver was looted in the 1960s before the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

The composition of the frieze was reconstructed after a series of fragments were purchased from auction at Sotheby's (24 February 1964) by a civic museum in England; examples purchased from this sale in a Stockholm collection notes that they were derived from an anonymous Swiss private collection. Further fragments were auctioned at Sotheby's in July 1964 and many of these are reported to have moved to north America. I have already noted one such fragment in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (inv. 78.62.5) that was purchased from the Summa Galleries in Beverly Hills. A further fragment in an English university collection was acquired from Robert Hecht.

It is likely that Turkish authorities will be seeking the return of these dispersed fragments so that they can be reunited and displayed to the public.

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Tuesday 15 November 2022

Shelby White sarcophagus fragments return to Antalya

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Lucius Verus from Bubon Returns to Antalya


Back in 2008 I discussed on LM that the bronze statue of Lucius Verus was one of a series of statues that had originated in the sebasteion at Bubon in Turkey (and an earlier discussion in the American Journal of Archaeology in 2000). It now appears that this statue from the collection of Shelby White (Glories no. 174) has been returned to the Antalya Museum (see story here and here). This return comes soon after the return of further Shelby White material to Italy (discussed here).

This return has serious implications for other museums (e.g. the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Fordham University, and the Ny Carlsberg in Copenhagen) that have bronze statues, or parts of bronze statues, that are derived from, linked to, or associated with Bubon (see previous posts here). 

The return includes other material such as part of the terracotta architectural frieze from the temple at Düver that had surfaced on the North American antiquities market. This will cause concerns for a number of museums, including several in the UK, that acquired parts of the series.

Further details are available in a release from the American Embassy in Ankara. 

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Thursday 13 October 2022

Are Claims Against North American Collections Successful?

Source: Christos Tsirogiannis

Leonard Stern has responded to criticisms of his agreement over the display of his collection of Cycladic sculptures by commenting,  "Usually [countries such as Greece] fight to get their stuff back and don’t succeed" (Michael Kaplan, "Critics ‘angry’ over Greece’s deal with art collector Leonard Stern", New York Post October 12, 2022). Stern is perhaps unaware of the scale of returns: I calculate that over 850 items have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections, as well as from auction-houses and galleries.

Greece has perhaps not been as active in the process as Italy. Indeed, the Minoan larnax that was identified in the Becchina archive by Christos Tsirogiannis remains at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. But we should remember that 55 items worth $20 million from the Michael Steinhardt Collection were returned to Greece earlier in 2022: they included several Cycladic items. And a bronze krater from another New York collection was returned to Greece.

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Cycladic Figure in the Stern Collection Identified from the Becchina Archive

Image courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis

Christos Tsirogiannis has identified one of the Cycladic figures in the Leonard Stern collection from the Becchina archive. The figure appears in a longer discussion about the agreement to display the Stern collection at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens and to place the collection on long-term loan at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Michael Kaplan, "Critics ‘angry’ over Greece’s deal with art collector Leonard Stern", New York Post October 12, 2022). 

The identification was first discussed in: Migdou, E. 2022. "Συλλογή Στερν και Αρχαιοκαπηλία." Athens Voice September 30, 2022.

The Early Spedos figure appears in P. Getz-Gentle, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture, pl. 32. The shape of the feet is put down to 'damage during manufacture or soon after'. A reconstruction of the feet is provided in figure 22.

The appearance of the figure in the Becchina archive is a reminder of the unstated sources behind this collection. It raises issues about the due diligence process that was undertaken by the Greek Government prior to the formal agreement. Would the Met want to 'acquire' (on long-term loan) or display something derived from this particular dealer especially as earlier this year a pair of Apulian gold cylinders from the same source had to be returned to Italy?
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Monday 10 October 2022

The Keros Haul and the Leonard Stern Collection

Figures identified with the Keros Haul in the Stern Collection

Back in 2014 LM noted 5 Cycladic figures (or fragments of figures) that were identified as coming from the Keros Haul. They can be identified in P. Sotirakopoulou, The "Keros Hoard": myth or reality? Searching for the lost pieces of a puzzle (Athens: N.P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art, 2005) as:
  • Keros 170: Stern 138. Attributed to the Karlsruhe/Woodner Sculptor.
  • Keros 180: Stern 177. Attributed to the Copenhagen Sculptor.
  • Keros 181: Stern 157. Attributed to the Copenhagen Sculptor.
  • Keros 223: Stern 181. Getz-Gentle, PS pl. 30.
  • Keros 242: Stern 111. Attributed to the Ashmolean Sculptor.
Incidentally one of the Harmon pieces is specifically mentioned in the review article (D.W.J. Gill, AJA 111 [2007] 163-65).

These figures form part of the Leonard Stern collection (linked to Harmon Fine Art) that is to be passed into the Hellenic Ancient Culture Institute (HACI) based in Delaware, and then placed on loan with the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens, followed by New York's Metropolitan Museum Art. The collection has been the subject of discussion in Greece ("Debate: Cycladic idol deal signals new chapter in heritage management", September 13, 2022). The article reports:
The Met first reached out to the Greek Ministry of Culture in June 2020, informing it that Stern had expressed an interest in showing and donated his collection to the American museum and was asking whether the Greek state was aware of its existence.
The answer is, of course, yes, the Stern collection was known. The collection featured in Cycladic Masterpieces (Harmon Fine Arts, 2004), and a selection of Stern's Cycladic figures had been displayed in the exhibition 'Masterpieces of Cycladic Art' at the Merrin Gallery. Further discussion from strongly-held positions appears in the article.

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Friday 7 October 2022

From Geneva to the Steinhardt Collection

Source: Manhattan DA

Five objects (Attic head aryballos; Protocorinthian duck and owl; Corinthian bull's head; Ionian ram's head; Apulian head vase) in the seizure of antiquities from the collection of Michael Steinhardt have something in common: they were placed on loan with Geneva's Musée d'Art et d'Histoire (1978–81). And all of them were subsequently placed on loan with the J. Paul Getty Museum (1984–96). And all of them were sold by Robin Symes to the Beierwaltes in 1996. All but the Apulian head vase appear in images from the Medici Dossier: the head vase itself appears in the Becchina archive (with an Attic skyphos now returned from the Shelby White collection).

Such loans to these two museums were used as a response to seizures  in 2018 from another dealer. It is almost as if the loans created an acceptable collecting history. This raid seems to relate to another group of material. 

The Geneva museum has associations with other loans such as the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mummy mask (though the museum does not have a record of the loan). And the Getty accepted loans of fragments from some of these same individuals, as well as complete pots such as the Steinhardt hydria.

It should be noted that the same Geneva museum appears to be linked to the Apulian grave group acquired by Berlin

What part did Geneva play in handling recently surfaced antiquities and providing them with a history? What other objects passed this way? The papers relating to the Steinhardt seizure expand on this aspect.

And how many of these objects were then placed on loan with the J. Paul Getty Museum? 

Note: Identifications from the Medici Dossier and the Becchina Archive were made by Christos Tsirogiannis.

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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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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...