Thursday, 21 September 2023

Bothmer, Almagià and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Red-figured calyx-krater fragment
attributed to the Kleophrades painter.
Michael C. Carlos Museum inv. 2006.051.011B

I have noted that Dietrich von Bothmer acquired a fragment of a cup from Edoardo Almagià and then gave it to the J. Paul Getty Museum: the rest of the fragments were supplied by Galerie Nefer (D.W.J. Gill 2022. "Context Matters: Fragmented Athenian Cups." Journal of Art Crime 27: 77–84. ). 

A fragmentary calyx-krater attributed to the Kleophrades painter was presented to the Michael C. Carlos Museum by Bothmer in 2006. It is interpreted as showing the funeral mound of Hektor. Bothmer acquired the first fragment in July 1972, followed by further fragments in September 1978: the sources for these are unknown. However in 1978 another fragment was acquired from Bruce McNall of the Summa Galleries; this was followed by further fragments from Nikolas Koutoulakis in 1981, Edoardo Almagià in 1993, and Harry Bürki in 1994. 

This network of names would suggest that the origins of this krater deserve further investigation. Tsirogiannis and I will be exploring a parallel network, also including Bothmer, in a forthcoming article.

Incidentally, a fragmentary calyx-krater showing the funerary mound of Achilles (?), and compared by Bothmer to the Kleophrades painter, had resided in the private collection of Cornelius C. Vermeule (BAPD 3197). Both kraters seem to have surfaced around the same time.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Two bronze hydriai: one from a Munich collection

L: Formerly Shelby White collection
R: Currently Michael C. Carlos Museum

Jasper Gaunt has drawn a parallel between a bronze hydria returned to Greece from the Shelby White collection and a second acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum from Robert Hecht in 2001. The second piece is reported to have once formed part of the collection of Doris Seebacher in Munich, Germany.

The authorities at the Carlos might like to consult the index of Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy, in order to find out more about this 'collector'. 

Can the hydria's history be traced back to the period prior to 1970?

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Saturday, 2 September 2023

Bubon: More Returning Sculptures

Line drawing of part of the base in the Sebasteion at Bubon, Türkiye with portrait statues of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus at the appropriate positions. Note: the figures are not to scale.


Christopher Chippindale and I drew attention to the imperial bronzes associated with the Sebasteion at Bubon in Turkey back in 2000: discussion of this group can be traced back to the 1970s. The looting of this space seems to have taken place in the early 1960s. It now seems that the (headless) portrait of Marcus Aurelius as a philosopher will be returned from the Cleveland Museum of Art and will be reunited with the portrait of Lucius Verus from the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection: the pair were originally displayed, appropriately, next to each other. They will join the Lipson statue of Septimius Severus that was seized from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other pieces include the head of Caracalla that had been displayed at Fordham University. 

Elizabeth Marlowe ("Bronze Roman statue, believed to have been looted from Turkey, seized from Cleveland Museum of Art", The Art Newspaper 31 August 2023) has pointed out that Cleveland has played down both the identification with Marcus Aurelius and the association with Bubon. The same phenomenon is being played out with the bronze statue in the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. The online entry now notes: 
It was associated throughout the 1970s and 1980s, by some scholars, with other bronzes that had been found near Bubon, Turkey. However, that opinion was ultimately disproved in 1993. The Houston sculpture was acquired in 1962; the excavations at Bubon commenced two years after, in 1964.
The start of the illicit activity at Bubon may well have preceded 1962 and the museum would be sensible to be cautious.

It appears that a portrait of a woman from the Worcester Art Museum (inv. 1966.67) has also been removed from display. It was reported to have been found 'in south-western Anatolia'. Andrew Oliver associated this find with Bubon. 

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Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Acquiring Antiquity at the Carlos Museum


Stephanie M. Lee has provided a detailed look at the way that the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University developed its collection of antiquities. It includes a discussion of the Minoan larnax that was first raised on LM back in 2008.

Lee, S. M. 2023. "The Little Museum’s Big Score: Emory University wanted only the finest antiquities. It didn’t ask a lot of questions." The Chronicle of Higher Education August 23, 2023.


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Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Fragments of the Sophilos Dinos

Detail of the Sophilos dinos © David Gill


The Sophilos dinos in the British Museum has been reconstructed from approximately 50 fragments. It was acquired in 1971 from the Honourable Robert Erskine. Brian Shefton knew of the dinos in 1962, and Paul Zanker noted in 1965 that the dinos resided in an English private collection.

Fragments of the dinos were placed on loan from the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1977/78 (and were deaccessioned in 1983): they had been acquired from from Max and Lynda Palevsky in 1976. The couple were the source of numerous figure-decorated fragments acquired by the Getty, including dinos fragments attributed to Kleophrades (and connected with fragments derived from Malcolm Wiener and Jonathan Rosen).

Two further fragments of the London Sophilos dinos were acquired in 1978 from Bruce McNall's Summa Galleries in Beverly Hills (1, 2). 

Where did the Palevskys acquired their Sophilos fragments? And what about the Summa Galleries? Were they from the same source? When did Erskine acquire his fragments? Did he acquire them from, say, a Paris based antiquities dealer? And did that same dealer supply fragments to the gallery in Beverly Hills?

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Monday, 17 July 2023

"A profoundly generous supporter of the Met"

The New York Times has reflected on the seizure of antiquities collected by Shelby White. There are informed comments from academics who research cultural property. 

Bowley and Mashberg commented:
For all the understanding of the ancient world that White had fostered, her ambitious collecting upset some archaeologists who thought it helped create a market that encouraged looting. When objects were wrenched from their original context, they complained, it undermined the very understanding of antiquity that she was trying to develop.
Patty Gerstenblith is quoted:
“If you pick a trustee whose financial generosity is the most important factor, then fine ... But should a trustee be a model of conduct when it pertains to the purpose of the museum itself? Her collecting practices do not fit the model of how a museum should be pursuing knowledge and preserving the historical record.”
Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and who is said to be championing a new spirit of transparency at the museum stated:
“Shelby White is a profoundly generous supporter of the Met ... and she has had an enormous impact at this museum and many other institutions."
This report by Bowley and Mashberg comes 23 years after the first analysis of the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection. 

When will the Icklingham Roman bronzes be returned to Suffolk (UK) so that they can be displayed in the county museum? What about the krater that was on loan to Houston Museum of Fine Arts?

There continue to be some unanswered questions.

  • Bowley, G., and T. Mashberg. 2023. "At the Met, She Holds Court. At Home, She Held 71 Looted Antiquities." New York Times July 17, 2023.
  • Chippindale, C., and D. W. J. Gill. 2000. "Material consequences of contemporary classical collecting." AJA 104: 463-511.  [DOI]
  • Gill, D. W. J. 2023. "Context matters: Returns from the Shelby White Collection." Journal of Art Crime 29: 49–55.
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Saturday, 15 July 2023

A pair of Nereids from an old Swiss collection

Two Nereids in the Louvre.
Source: Louvre


Two Apulian terracotta reliefs showing the Nereids were acquired by the Louvre in 1982 (CA 6823, CA 6824). They are alleged to have been derived from "une ancienne collection suisse" prior to 1939. However, the official museum website fails to mention this prior history.

What is key about these two Nereids is that they feature in the Becchina archive. Will the Louvre disclose the identity of the "old Swiss collection"? And what is the nature of the authenticated documentation that can demonstrate that the Nereids were known prior to 1939? 

Presumably this pair of terracottas form part of the Italian claims. Will the Louvre seek to be co-operative with the request?

What other items were acquired from Becchina or Palladion Antike Kunst?

I am grateful to Christos Tsirogiannis for advising me on the Becchina archive. The identifications were first made by Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini.

Besques, S. 1988. "Deux reliefs apuliens en terre cuite." Monuments et mémoires de la Fondation Eugène Piot 69: 1–28.

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Friday, 14 July 2023

Two Funerary Statues from Cyrene Returned to Libya

Funerary sculpture from Cyrene
Source: Manhattan DA

The Manhattan DA has announced that two funerary statues from Cyrene have been handed over to the Libyan authorities ("D.A. Bragg Announces Return of Two Antiquities To The People of Libya", July 14, 2023). The statues were seized from a storage facility in New York where they had been placed by Robin Symes. It is reported that one of the statues may fit fragments found in recent excavations.

Other statues derived from the cemeteries of Cyrene include one from the Steinhardt collection, and another that had been placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another had passed through Dubai.

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Italy Seeks Return of Antiquities from the Louvre

Amphora attributed to the Berlin painter.
Source: The Louvre

The Italian authorities are seeking the return of seven antiquities from the Louvre (Roxana Azimi, "Italy calls on the Louvre to return seven of its archaeological objects", Le Monde July 13, 2023). The report draws attention to the Attic red-figured amphora that once formed part of the Hunt Collection (Wealth of the Ancient World no. 10). A further fragment from the amphora was supplied by Dietrich von Bothmer, and Robert Guy identified another piece that was presented to the Louvre in 1995 in honour of François Villard (Berlin Painter cat. no. 13; no. BN5; BAPD 8798). It should be noted that pots (and fragments) attributed to the Berlin painter have featured frequently in the returns to Italy. The identification of the Berlin painter amphora was made by Christos Tsirogiannis in 2006.

What are the other pieces likely to be? We know that the items were acquired between 1982 and 1998.

Possible candidates include:
a. Sicilian bell-krater attributed to the Lentini-Manfria group (CA 7249). Acq. Fritz Bürki (1986).
b. Capuan bell-krater attributed to the Ixion painter (CA 7124). Purchase (1985).
c. Attic black-figured psykter-krater attributed to the manner of the Antimenes painter (MNE 938) (BAPD 26150). Purchase (1988).

The Attic and the Capuan kraters (b–c) have been identified from the Becchina archive. The identifications were  made by Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini.
  • Rizzo, D., and M. Pellegrini. 2021. "The Italian Archaeological Heritage Abroad: Between Agreements, Debates and Indifference." In Stolen Heritage: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region, edited by A. Traviglia, L. Milano, C. Tonghini, and R. Giovanelli, Antichistica, vol. 29: 99–114. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari.

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Friday, 16 June 2023

Bubon and North American Collections


Two Roman imperial statues associated with Bubon in Türkiye appear to be in a state of flux. The statue of Marcus Aurelius that was acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1986 (inv. 1986.5) and had earlier been in the Lipson collection is no longer on public view in spite of being central to the classical galleries. The head of Caracalla, formerly in the collection of Norbert Schimmel, and acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1989 (inv. 1989.281.80) has disappeared from the museum's website, a fate normally indicating that it has been deaccessioned. 

Are these two about to join the statues of Lucius Verus formerly in the Shelby White collection, and the Septimius Severus formerly in the Lipson collection? If so, will Bubon associated statues from other North American and European museums be reunited in Türkiye?

Such returns indicate that material that surfaced prior to 1970 is now subject to investigation.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2023

Sourcing Makron


New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) appears to be reluctant to release the full details of the source for three cups attributed to Makron that were acquired in 1979 alongside the two cups that were discussed in The New York Times

The three cups are:
a. 1979.136, gift of Dietrich von Bothmer. BAPD 275244. Joins other fragments in the Vatican; reported to have been transferred to the Vatican.
b. 1979.11.11, purchase (Mr & Mrs Martin Fried Gift). BAPD 6919.
c. 1979.11.4, purchase (Norbert Schimmel Gift Fund); 1979.11.16 [4 frr.]; 1980.11.5, purchase (The Dover Fund Inc. Gift). BAPD 6918. [The third acquisition is not noted on BAPD.] The MMA website attributes one of these acquisitions to the Euaion painter even though the other pieces are attributed to Makron.

No images are provided on the website for any of these three pieces.


Each object page invites users to provide feedback or to ask questions. The MMA clearly did not appreciate my requests using the online form as there has been no response to a polite request for information.

I hope that this post will prompt the MMA to update the five records to provide the relevant information as well as some images. Or were the fragments sourced from the same galleries and dealers as the other two Makron cups?

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Thursday, 20 April 2023

Fragments from a cup attributed to Makron

Cup seized from
New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

The New York Times has run a discussion of one of the Attic red-figured cups seized from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2022 (Graham Bowley and Tom Mashberg, "The Kylix Marvel: Why Experts Distrust the Story of an Ancient Cup’s Rebirth", April 19, 2023). The article looks at the way that this cup (and a companion piece also in the same museum) was put together from a series of fragments starting with pieces acquired from Fritz Bürki and the Summa Galleries, followed by pieces derived from Frieda Tchacos and Dietrich von Bothmer. 

The article includes identifications made by Christos Tsirogiannis from the Medici Dossier.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Princeton Fragments from an Attic Cup

Princeton y1988.16 and y1989-19a–r
Source: Daily Princetonian
In 1988 Princeton University Art Museum purchased through the Classical Purchase Fund a fragment of an Attic red-figured cup attributed to the Villa Giulia painter (inv. y1988.16). The following year Dietrich von Bothmer presented a series of fragments from the same cup (inv. y1989-19a–r). The note in the Record acknowledged the join.

What was the source for the fragment purchased in 1988? And what was the sources (or sources) for Bothmer's fragments?

The cup is one of the pieces under investigation by the Manhattan DA.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2023

Developments at Princeton

Etruscan amphora inv. y1984-19.
Source: Daily Princetonian
It seems that five objects relating to Edoardo Almagià are to remain in Princeton University Art Museum (Sandeep Mangat and Miriam Waldvogel, "Five artifacts linked to alum under investigation for art smuggling will remain at University Art Museum", Daily Princetonian April 11, 2023). I am a little confused as the earlier report included pictures and some of the pieces mentioned in the most recent article, for example the Roman doll (inv. y1993-13), the Campanian stamnoid pyxis (inv. 87-3a–b) and fragments of a Roman Arretine bowl (inv. y1992-67), do not feature among the images. 

However, among the pieces staying in Princeton is the Etruscan amphora attributed to the Paris painter (inv. y1984-19). This is stated as: "Gift of Peter Glidewell through Edoardo Almagia, Class of 1973".

It should be remembered that Princeton has already returned a series of Etruscan architectural terracottas that were given by Almagià. These are discussed in: D.W.J. Gill, "Context matters: Princeton and recently surfaced antiquities," Journal of Art Crime 7 (2012): 59-66; id., Context matters: Collating the past, Amelia: ARCA, 2020, pp. 106–14; id., "Returning archaeological objects to Italy," International Journal of Cultural Property 25 (2018): 283–321 [DOI].

The latest article in the Daily Princetonian seems to confuse items that had been loaned by Almagià and those that had been given by him.

The article does include an interesting statement attributed to Almagià: 
"He added that he gave these fragments to Dietrich von Bothmer, a prominent German-American art historian."
We are aware that Almagià appears to have been the source for fragments in Bothmer's collection that had been acquired in 1984, 1986 and 1987. Does this imply that the fragments appearing in the original article were derived from Almagià? And was the Psiax fragment from the Centre Island private collection also from this source?

The Daily Princetonian mentions the seizure of fragments from Bothmer's collection although as far as I am aware no connection with Almagià had been made. These are discussed in: D.W.J. Gill, "Context matters: Fragmented pots, attributions and the role of the academic," Journal of Art Crime 8 (2012): 79-84. However other Bothmer fragments were included in the recent seizure from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Other figure-decorated fragments derived from Almagià have been returned from the San Antonio Museum of Art that had acquired them in 1985. Material derived from Almagià has featured in the Steinhardt return

I am aware of other Almagià material in a north American university collection that appears to have been derived from Crustumerium in Lazio. (A discussion of the piece along with other items from the same place features in a forthcoming article.)

Is it time for Princeton to provide additional so-called "provenance" information on its website?

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Saturday, 8 April 2023

Amphora fragment seized from Princeton

Amphora fragment attributed to Psiax
Source: Daily Princetonian


An Attic belly amphora fragment attributed to Psiax (by Dietrich von Bothmer) was among the 11 objects seized from Princeton University Art Museum by the Manhattan DA (inv. 1997-469: BAPD 902285). The fragment was acquired by 1997 as an anonymous gift by exchange, though we also know that it was derived from a "Centre Island private collection". 

Among the other objects seized were six pieces on loan from Edoardo Almagià. Further details have yet to be released.

We know of another calyx-krater attributed to Psiax that had also formed part of a "Centre Island private collection". 

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Thursday, 23 March 2023

Return of antiquities to Türkiye

Source: Manhattan DA


Twelve antiquities have been handed over to Türkiye ("D.A. Bragg Returns 12 Antiquities to the Republic of Türkiye", March 22, 2023). Nine of the objects are derived from the Shelby White collection. The remaining three include a head from Perge:
The Perge Theater Head, dating back to 290 C.E., was looted from Perge, an archaeological site in Türkiye. The piece first surfaced on the international art market at Sotheby’s in 2000. It then resurfaced at Christie’s in 2012, when it was purchased by a private collected who loaned it to the Met. It remained at the museum until it was seized by the Office in January.
Formerly New York MMA L.2011.4
© David Gill
Another is a bronze statue apparently looted from Bubon:
A bronze statue of the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, dating back to 225 C.E. The statue was stolen in the late 1960s from Bubon, an archaeological site in Türkiye, by looters and was eventually smuggled into Switzerland by Robert Hecht. Coin dealer Charles Lipson eventually loaned the piece to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It landed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011, which it remained on display until it was seized by the Office in February. With its partners in Türkiye, the ATU was able to find and interview one of the individuals who actually looted and smuggled this statue.
This statue will join the Lucius Verus returned to Türkiye from the White collection in 2022. This will have implications for other European and North American museums that currently possess bronzes from this particular site.

It is possible to recognise some of the items from pictures from the press conference. They include a marble 'stargazer' (Glories no. 4), a bronze waggon with oxen (Glories no. 19), and an East Greek trefoil oinochoe decorated with two grazing ibex (Glories  no. 100). A further White piece is:
The Sitting female figure from Çatalhöyük, which dates between 6000 and 5000 B.C.E. After it was smuggled out of Türkiye, it first appeared on the market in London at the Rabi Gallery, where it was purchased by Shelby White in 1985. It remained in his possession until it was seized by the Office in 2023.
This is the steatite sitting female figure (Glories no. 3).

Source: Türkiye, Consulate NY



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Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Bronze Hydria Returns to Greece

Source: Homeland Security

Further photographs of the latest return to Greece have been released. The bronze hydria from the Shelby White collection is of particular interest (Greek Bronze Vessels no. 8). Jasper Gaunt drew a parallel with a bronze hydria in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (inv. 2002.012.001). The 'provenance' for this second hydria is given as:
Ex coll. Doris Seebacher, Munich, Germany. Purchased by MCCM from Robert Hecht (1919-2012) [Robert Hecht Gallery], New York, New York.
Is this the Doris Seebacher linked to Nino Savoca? Should the Michael C. Carlos Museum be contacting the Hellenic Ministry of Culture?

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Further returns to Greece

Source: Manhattan DA

The Manhattan DA has announced the return of 29 antiquities, worth over $20 million, to Greece ("D.A. Bragg Returns 29 Antiquities to Greece", March 21, 2023 press release; see also here).

The items include a gold coin celebrating the assassination of Julius Caesar that surfaced on the Munich market in 2016.

The press release mentions the seizure of a bronze krater:
The Bronze Calyx Krater, which dates to 350 B.C.E., once held the bones of a deceased individual in a chamber tomb. It was looted and smuggled into Switzerland, where it was cleaned and restored by Fritz and Harry Bürki, the Zurich-based restorers and business partners of Robert Hecht. Hecht then arranged to smuggle the piece into New York, where it was sold to Leon Levy and Shelby White. It was seized by the Office in January of this year.
This seems to be a companion to the krater apparently looted from Pieria that was returned to Greece in 2008.

Unmentioned in the release, but placed next to the krater, was a bronze hydria that appears to be the one from the Shelby White collection (Bronzes no. 8). It is decorated beneath the vertical handle with a relief of Orpheus and a satyr. Chi and Gaunt draw attention to a companion piece in the Michael C. Carlos Museum (inv. 2002.012.001) that was acquired from Robert Hecht.

The release also mentions the return of a Late Neolithic marble group:
The Neolithic Family Group, which dates to 5000-3500 B.C.E and valued at $3 million. This group of objects compromises five human and animal figures carved from marble, and was looted from the island of Euboea by a Greek trafficker who smuggled the pieces into Switzerland. In 1982 dealer-trafficker Nicolas Koutoulakis sold the group to New York-based collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White. White loaned the group to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2000, where they remained on display until March of this year, when it was seized by the Office.
The group had been owned by Charles Gillet and Marion Schuster. They are "said to be from Euboea, or the east coast of Attica opposite, near Porto Raphti, perhaps from an islet attached to the mainland in prehistoric times" (Glories no. 8). It is interesting that the release emphasises the findspot on Euboea rather than Porto Raphti or more generally Attica preferred by Getz-Preziosi and Thimme. There are aspects of the group that make me wonder if they are ancient, a concern raised by Thimme back in 1977.

Next to the Late Neolithic group, but unmentioned in the release, was a double Cycladic figure: a small female figure standing on the head of a larger one. This appears to be the figure in the Shelby White collection (NAC no. 18; Glories no. 9; Katonah no. 15). Next to them was an Early Cycladic II bowl that also appears to be from the Shelby White collection (Glories no. 15).

Among the other items that appear to have been other items that formed part of the Shelby White collection:
  • Glories no. 76: A Late Geometric pair of horses 'said to have been found on Corfu, and for at least twenty years was in a collection in Austria. In October 1970, the group was lent to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna for restoration.'
  • Glories no. 80: an armlet, two lidded pyxides, and an oinochoe from a hoard of at least 40 pieces found in northern Greece.
  • Glories no. 141: a gold treasure consisting of a pair of coiled snake armbands, a pair of earrings with swans, a gold and carnelian necklace, a gold ring with carnelian intaglio, part of a gold wreath, and a gold diadem. 
The press release mentions that the Royal-Athena Galleries have co-operated with the investigation suggesting that some of the other items were from that source (perhaps including a fragment of wall-painting).

I note that Christos Tsirogiannis was involved with some of the identifications. 

We await for a full list of the return.

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Monday, 13 March 2023

UK Government and the Parthenon: Update

Parthenon metope in the British Museum © David Gill

British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has commented on the proposal that the architectural sculptures from the Parthenon that are currently displayed in the British Museum should be returned to Greece. Nick Gutteridge, writing in the Daily Telegraph ("Elgin Marbles will not stay in Greece, says Rishi Sunak", March 13, 2023), quotes Sunak on the "Elgin marbles" (commenting, "Greece calls [them] the Parthenon marbles" - perhaps overlooking the fact that archaeologists also talk about the building from which they were removed):
“The UK has cared for the Elgin Marbles for generations. Our galleries and museums are funded by taxpayers because they are a huge asset to this country,”
Is he suggesting that because the sculptures have resided in London for 200 years that they should remain here? Is Sunak placing an economic value on the heritage assets that reside in the UK's museums and galleries?

Sunak is also quoted as saying, 
“We share their treasures with the world, and the world comes to the UK to see them. The collection of the British Museum is protected by law, and we have no plans to change it." 
Tourism seems to be the justification for the UK to retain the sculptures. 

The Times (London) indicated that Sunak was in favour of a temporary loan of (some of?) the sculptures to Greece (Chris Smyth, Oliver Wright, Richard Fletcher, "Rishi Sunak latest: PM unveils defence spending boost and submarine deal", March 13, 2023). The report noted:
However, the museum is banned by law from disposing of objects in its collection and Sunak said “we have no plans to change it”. It is understood that Sunak does not believe that a long-term loan would be in the spirit of the British Museum Act.
There is little understanding that the Parthenon architectural sculptures were designed to be part of a specific building that now forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Athenian Acropolis.

See also D. W. J. Gill and C. Chippindale, "The trade in looted antiquities and the return of cultural property: a British parliamentary inquiry", International Journal of Cultural Property 11 (2002), 50-64. [DOI].


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Wednesday, 15 February 2023

A Roman fresco fragment and some apparent cut marks

Malibu 83.AG.222.9
Source: J. Paul Getty Museum

Among the fresco panels and fragments from ‘a wealthy Roman’s seaside villa in the area of the Bay of Naples’ acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1983 from Palladion Antike Kunst is this panel with two fish (inv.  83.AG.222.9). Someone appears, at some point prior to acquisition, to have tried to cut a square panel from the fragment.  Why would they want to damage the panel in that way? 

Is this evidence of how the panel(s) was (were) removed from the archaeological context?  Or was someone trying to cut down the panel to make it easier to move? What would have happened to the remaining section of the fragment?

Such an indication is reminiscent of the panel returned from the Shelby White collection (no. 142; 86.2 cm by 86.5 cm) that came from the same composition as two fragments from the Fleischman collection and acquired (and returned) by the Getty (nos. 125 and 126; 91 cm by 80.5 cm, 61 cm by 81 cm). [See discussion here.]

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Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Two octagonal panels probably from the Bay of Naples

Two octagonal panels. Malibu inv. 83.AG.222.5, 7

Yesterday I noted three panels apparently from the same room of a villa that probably stood somewhere in the vicinity of the Bay of Naples. Like the other panels, this pair of frescoes was derived from Palladion Antike Kunst in 1983. Unlike the other pieces these two are not currently on display. 

How did these fragments leave their villa and move to California? Will the curatorial team at the Getty be raising this with their Italian colleagues?



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Monday, 13 February 2023

The frescoes from a wealthy seaside villa

Three panels acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1983.
Inv. 83.AG.222.2, 4, 8.

In 1983 the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired a series of Roman frescoes on the 'European market', in fact from Palladion Antike Kunst in Basel. The Getty's handbook suggests that they are derived from ‘a wealthy Roman’s seaside villa in the area of the Bay of Naples’. 

Elizabeth Marlowe has commented on the displayed fragments, suggesting that the panels had been removed from a single room somewhere in the vicinity of Vesuvius. Indeed, there are fragments that were acquired at the same time that clearly come from a third panel, presumably from the same room. Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini have recently drawn attention to the problematic nature of these frescoes and published an image of a further section of the decoration that appears in the Becchina photographic archive. 

How does the Getty interpret the history of the fragments? Is the museum actively seeking to return the sequence of fragments to Italy?


References
Lapatin, K. D. S., and K. Wright. Editors. 2010. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.
Marlowe, E. 2020. "The reinstallation of the Getty Villa: plenty of beauty but only partial truth." AJA 124: 321–32. [Online]
Rizzo, D., and M. Pellegrini. 2021. "The Italian Archaeological Heritage Abroad: Between Agreements, Debates and Indifference." In Stolen Heritage: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in the EU and the MENA Region, edited by A. Traviglia, L. Milano, C. Tonghini, and R. Giovanelli, Antichistica, vol. 29: 99–114. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari. [Online]

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Monday, 6 February 2023

From Geneva to Athens

L: source, Phoenix Ancient Art
R: source, Hellenic Ministry of Culture

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced the return of 15 antiquities that had been seized from an unnamed antiquities gallery in Geneva [press release]. The Attic black-figured column-krater attributed to Lydos appears to be the one that features in the 2015 catalogue for Phoenix Ancient Art of Geneva and New York. Entry no. 4 shows the krater, reconstructed from 'large fragments', decorated with Herakles and the centaur Nessos. The entry suggests that it formed part of the Lambert collection in Neuchâtel prior to 1972 and then by descent through the family. 

Such histories may have to be treated with caution given the disagreement over the paths taken by the Ka-Nefer-Nefer coffin lid, the head of Drusus, and the Leutwitz Apollo. 

We do not know where the krater was unearthed, but northern Greece seems to be a likely possibility. 

I am grateful to a colleague in Italy who directed me to search the catalogue of Phoenix Ancient Art.

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Bothmer, Almagià and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Red-figured calyx-krater fragment attributed to the Kleophrades painter. Michael C. Carlos Museum inv. 2006.051.011B I have noted that Dietr...