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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