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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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...