Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Goldstein, Geneva, and the Mummy Mask

Mummy mask excavated at Saqqara
It is known that Sidney Goldstein, the Associate Director of the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM) as well as the curator of Ancient Art, wrote a letter to Dr Mohammed Saleh, then director of the Cairo Museum, prior to the acquisition of the Egyptian mummy mask—known to have been excavated at Saqqara—by the museum in March 1998. The letter does not appear to have been released by SLAM, but a copy was made available to Malcolm Gay for his key article in February 2006. As the veracity of this letter has never been challenged we must assume its accuracy. (The letter was mentioned in a statement, "Press inquiry regarding provenance of mummy mask, 19.1998", issued by Brent Benjamin in January 2006.)

The letter includes a statement by Goldstein:
It [sc the mask] is currently on exhibition in the Egyptian exhibition at the Museum of Art and History in Geneva.
Goldstein, who also appears to have been a donor supporting the acquisition ("Sid Goldstein in memory of Donna and Earl Jacobs"), appears to be making a statement that the mask was on display in a major European museum. This claim would no doubt suggest to Saleh that the enquiry about "parallels" for the mask on display in Geneva was about a well-established object.

Was Goldstein mistaken about the venue? When was the mask displayed in the Musée d'histoire et d'art? What is the documentation for this exhibition?

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Brazil's Cultural Heritage

There is a report in Attractions Management about the pillaging of cultural property in Brazil ("Brazilian states fight back to protect cultural heritage from trafficking", August 26, 2014). There is a small exhibition to mark objects that have been recovered. But the scale of acknowledged theft is huge:
Over the past 12 years, the Minas Gerais Office of the Public Prosecutor for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (CPPC) has recorded the loss of 700 objects of cultural value, though it estimates even more have been lost because most of the objects were never catalogued.
It looks as if this is another area where museums and private collectors need to adopt a more due diligence process before making an acquisition.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Was Kaloterna 'disappeared'?

Egyptian mummy mask excavated at Saqqara
Paul Barford has written on the Kaloterna collection that once (allegedly) possessed the Egyptian mummy mask discovered at Saqqara and for the time being in the St Louis Art Museum (SLAM). He raises an uncomfortable possibility for the curatorial team at SLAM:
One might quite legitimately ask, whether there is a possibility that Kaloterna was 'disappeared' by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's State Security Apparatus for political reasons.
I am sure that SLAM officials would not wish to be seen to have gained an object that could have been released back onto the market by such a means.

Did the SLAM rigorous due diligence process explore (and eliminate) this possibility?

My own position is that I think that it is likely that the Kaloterna collection is fictional. No authenticated documentation has yet been produced through the due diligence process to show that it existed.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Is the Kaloterna collection fictional?

Egyptian mummy mask
reported to have formed part of
"the Kaloterna collection"
Just over a month ago I raised some questions about the Kaloterna collection. Nobody has pointed me in the direction of other objects from this collection. Could this collection be fictional?

What is the authenticated evidence that Zuzi Jelinek acquired this mask from the Kaloterna collection? Did this take place in the early 1960s? Where was Jelinek living when the acquisition was made? Does Jelinek have any (up to now overlooked) record among her papers?

If the Kaloterna collection did not exist, where does it leave the due diligence research by curatorial staff at the St Louis Art Museum? Would it mean that the mask was acquired "improperly" (to borrow a word from SLAM's Director)?

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Visual Heritage Project

Apsara Iyer has been researching the formation and persistence of antiquities trafficking markets in Peru and India. Iyer has now launched the Visual Heritage Project.
The site aims to crowd sources images for archaeological sites from Instagram or Flickr and pairs these photos with older archival images. The goal is to create a visual record of archaeological sites that allows viewers to see how a location has changed over time and can be consulted in cases of looting, automatically updating to incorporate up-to-date photography via public social media posts. Right now, the crucial step is raising awareness about the site to gather more photographs and documentation. 
Readers of LM should consider contributing to the project.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Danbury Metal Detecting Club

I note that the forthcoming sitcom, 'The Detectorists', will include the fictional Danbury Metal Detecting Club.

Is the name a coincidence?

Danbury Place in Essex was the home of Sofia Disney ffytche, the wife of Dr John Disney of The Hyde.

And archaeologists reading this will know the significance of Disney.

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The Detectorists of Suffolk

Cemetery site in Suffolk © David Gill
Will Gompertz has a commentary on the forthcoming BBC sitcom 'The Detectorists', ' about a couple of middle-aged men with a passion for metal detecting'. The latest number of Saxon (the Newsletter of the Sutton Hoo Society) [59, July 2014] has a feature on the programme noting it is about 'two metal detectorists who dream of finding a priceless Saxon hoard'.

Are we conjuring up images of Sutton Hoo, Rendlesham, or perhaps even the Staffordshire Hoard?

The series has been filmed in Suffolk, Norfolk and Suffolk and will apparently feature Orford and Framlingham.

I could think of a couple of walk-in parts for the series including the North American collector who acquires Roman bronzes dug up from a Suffolk farm.

But perhaps I am moving away from fiction.

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ADCAEA: Collector of Egyptian Antiquities

I have been reflecting on the Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art (ADCAEA). One of the three board members is Joop Bollen. Bollen is a collector of Egyptian antiquities (see "Joop Bollen, directeur South Dakota International Business Institute", volkskrant.nl 2 February 2002 [translation here]).

In 2011 Bollen donated an Egyptian mummy mask to the Michael C. Carlos Museum (inv. 2011.017.001). No further information about the prior collecting history is provided on the museum's website. There is a short piece about the gift on the Emory University website ("Art Collector Donates Rare Works to Carlos Museum", Emory Magazine Winter 2013).

These are not the only gifts to the museum:
Collector and friend Joop Bollen has donated several important Egyptian works of art to the Michael C. Carlos Museum, including a Middle Kingdom wooden sarcophagus and a large Nineteenth Dynasty limestone relief slab called a stela.
What are the full documented and authenticated collecting histories of these three pieces?

There seems to be an association with the Egyptology curator at the Museum:
Bollen, a business leader based in South Dakota, is a longtime collector whose interest in antiquities led him to a close association with Peter Lacovara, senior curator of Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art at the Carlos Museum.
If ADCAEA is promoting more transparency ('open communication') in the antiquities market, we would expect to see disclosure when collectors donate to museums.

And whatever happened to Culturegrrl's request to the Museum? (Or, for that matter, mine?)

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Theft from the Italian Chapel in Orkney

BBC Journalist Dave Grey is reporting this evening that there have been thefts from the Italian Chapel in Orkney. This building was created by Italian POWs during the Second World War.

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A coin hoard from the Levant?

I notice that Classical Numismatic Group, Inc. is selling a coin hoard ('Eastern Hacksilber') [CNG 97, lot 1 ]. It consists of 'Hoard of 32 Cut Silver Coins, Hacksilber, and Jewelry', and dates to the late 5th century BC. The hoard contains three fragmentary coins of Sidon.

The information about the lot informs us:
'Uncertain find spot, but the composition of the hoard is consistent with others found in the Levant'.
What is the previous documented collecting history of this hoard? Who was the previous proprietor?

Where in the 'Levant' was this hoard found? When was it found?

Can we be certain that all the pieces of the 'hoard' were found together? Are there other parts of the hoard that are not being offered here? Have parts been retained?

This hoard illustrates some of the intellectual consequences of dealing with numismatic material that has no documented find-spot.

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