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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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...