Monday, September 30, 2013

George Zakos and Chicago

Readers of The Medici Conspiracy will be aware of the links between Robert Hecht and George Zakos. In 2008 the Art Institute of Chicago acquired some 58 votives, perhaps derived from Thessaly in Greece [Annual Report]. They date to the Geometric and archaic periods. The collecting history of the pieces is given as follows:
George Zakos of Basel, Switzerland since at least 1965 as reported by the owner of Ariadne Galleries to Mrs. Walter Alexander [email in curatorial file]; purchased by Ariadne Galleries of New York, New York in or around 1975; purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Alexander of Geneva, Illinois in 1985; donated to the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois in 2008.
These objects now appear on the AAMD Object Registry. Their acquisition is justified as follows:
based on the results of provenance research, the Art Institute of Chicago can make an informed judgment that the object was outside its probable country of modern discovery before 1970. The collection of fifty-eight objects was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Alexander in 1985 from Ariadne Galleries of New York, New York. According to Mrs. Walter Alexander, the owner of Ariadne Galleries reported to her that he purchased the entire collection from George Zakos of Basel, Switzerland, around 1975, and that it was his understanding that Mr. Zakos had owned the objects for at least ten years. The Art Institute of Chicago has been unable to confirm this information with Mr. Zakos, as he is now deceased.
The Ariadne Galleries are linked to the handling of the Icklingham Bronzes removed from Suffolk, England.

So how did the curatorial staff at the Art Institute of Chicago pursue a due diligence search? Did they see authenticated documentation? Did they research the background of the dealers? When did these Thessalian antiquities leave Greek soil?

And what does this acquisition tell us about the then President and Director of the AIC, James Cuno?

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Cleveland Apollo

Earlier this year I drew attention to the forthcoming display of the Cleveland Apollo. I look forward to reading about the documentation for its reported display in an East German garden. There has been a discussion of the German collector in the German press. So I presume all the issues will be addressed in full by Michael Bennett's newly published book on the Apollo.

Steven Litt ("The Cleveland Museum of Art wades into global controversy over antiquities collecting with exhibition and catalog on its ancient bronze Apollo", cleveland.com September 27, 2013) quotes Bennett:
Bennett, however, states that the Apollo was one of thousands of antiquities in private hands whose ownership histories are not completely documented. Lack of such documentation, Bennett writes, is not evidence that an object was looted. It’s not a case of guilty until proven innocent.
I hope Bennett has read Chippindale and Gill on such antiquities and that he reflected on how our comments predicted the outcome of the Medici (and related) scandal.

Litt also draws to the recent history of the vendors of the statue as well as comments by museum director David Franklin (and see his comments on the Drusus).

And lest it is forgotten that Cleveland played its part in the returns to Italy (and has yet to rehearse its position on the objects' acquisition) the list can be found here.

I look forward to reading Bennett's book in due course.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Koutoulakis krater and Yale

I have been revisiting the collecting history of the Attic red-figured calyx-krater attributed to the Aegisthus painter by Herbert Cahn. It was returned to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum (inv. 88.AE.66). The krater was first published in 1985.

Interestingly 1985 is the year that Yale acquired a calyx-krater also attributed to the Aegisthus painter (inv. 1985.4.1). The krater was apparently acquired from McAlpine in London (according to the Beazley archive), although Susan B. Matheson noted that it was derived from the Koutoulakis collection. Koutoulakis appears in the Medici "organigram".

What is the full (and documented) collecting history of the Yale krater?

And for another pot attributed to the same painter (and returned to Italy) see here.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Nettos painter fragments at the Getty

I have commented before on the links between Vasek Polak and the Getty (as noted in Chasing Aphrodite).

I was reflecting on some of the other donations made by Polak:

  • Fragment of an Attic black-figured neck amphora, attributed to the Nettos painter. Malibu inv. 81.AE.114.30, joins 83.AE.438.
Where did Polak obtain the two fragments? Why were they given separately? What are their full collecting histories?

There are intellectual consequences to consider. Pots attributed to this painter have been found in the Nile Delta, Cyrene, and Western Anatolia. But what if this had been found in Italy?



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Friday, September 20, 2013

Silence from Princeton

I am beginning to wonder if the Director of the Princeton University Art Museum is trying to send me a message. I have completed a research article on a specific Athenian pot-painter and would like to mention the full (and documented) collecting history of a pot-sherd in Princeton --- but there is silence.

Only last year (2012) I wrote:
University museums should set an example for the highest ethical standards. Unethical acquisition policies should have no place in such places of learning. ... there are serious concerns that the museum was tardy in making a public statement about the most recent return, and that when it did so it failed to make key information available. This apparent lack of transparency only serves to damage the very trust that Princeton's museum director claims is important in his institution.
But perhaps Princeton has yet to learn any lessons from the Medici Conspiracy.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Heritage changes in Wales

Strata Florida © David Gill
The latest E-Fwletin (E-Bulletin) from CADW (September 2013) announces the proposed merger between CADW and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. The model seems to be that adopted for Scotland.

Details of the consultation can be found here.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Collecting histories for Bothmer fragments

It has been drawn to my attention that Dietrich von Bothmer did note the sources for at least some of the pot fragments that he acquired. It would be helpful if the curatorial staff of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art started to post this information on the MMA website. Collecting histories matter!

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Bulgarian coins by post

Source: ICE
In May LM noted the return of 546 ancient coins to Bulgaria. further details of the case have emerged ("Investigation on Bulgaria ancient coins smuggling in U.S. continues", Focus Information Agency, September 7, 2013).
The coins were seized in a post parcel, they were not smuggled by a person. They were sent by post, to a post box in Newark, at the seaport, that is why the investigation takes place there, [HSI Special Agent] Thomas Mulhall explained.
It appears that US officials had been looking out for consignments.
In September 2011, HSI special agents learned of a shipment of ancient coins from Bulgaria destined for the United States. HSI New York, in close coordination with CBP’s Customs Air Cargo Examination Facility, examined and seized the coins. An investigation of the coins revealed the shipment contained a false country of origin, a false description of the commodity and were undervalued.
No doubt we will hear grumbles from a paid lobbyist speaking on behalf of the purveyors of such merchandise.

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bothmer and the Brygos painter

Among the Athenian pot-painters associated with Dietrich von Bothmer is the Brygos painter. Fragments derived from him in the Met include this cup:

  1. Fragments from cup with a seated dog. 1995.290. Joins: 1980.11.1 (purchase, Norbert Schimmel Gift); 1980.473.1 (DvB); 1981.11.14 (Purchase, Jerome Levy Foundation). 
What are the full collecting histories for each of the fragments?

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Friday, September 6, 2013

"Amateur archeologists are damaging important sites"

Christos Tsirogiannis
I was pleased to see my Cambridge colleague Dr Christos Tsirogiannis quoted in the debate about the unscientific removal of archaeological material from the ground ("UK treasure hunters make archaeologists see red"). He was responding to the report:
Hobbyists scavenging for ancient jewelry or a cache of Roman coins are an increasingly common sight in the UK's countryside. With some enthusiasts having unearthed thousands of pounds worth of treasure, the lure of heading out with a metal detector can be potent.
Tsirogiannis emphasises the importance of context for these objects:
"Every object has an amazing historical value, especially when it's found in its actual and original archeological context ... If something is extracted violently and by an uneducated, non-specialist person from its original context, this cannot be reconstructed."
The report did not mention some of the debate surrounding metal-detecting [see PIA]. However it did quote Suzie Thomas:
"Metal detector users are changing what we know," Thomas says, noting that users who record their finds are producing vast amounts of data. "The sub-discipline of battle archeology makes a lot of use of metal detected data because they're looking at objects like cannon balls and musket balls that are, of course, metal. Having the data of where on the field they've been found can help you reconstruct how the battle went, and that's incredibly useful information."
Perhaps more accurately, some metal detector users are detroying information that we will never be able to recover.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Euphronios fragments at the Met

The announcement that pot fragments formerly owned by Dietrich von Bothmer have been returned to Italy raises an issue. What are the collecting histories for other Bothmer donations?

I am particularly interested in Euphronios at the moment and note that Bothmer donated the following fragments to the New York MMA.

  1. 1977.192.3a-c. 3 fragments of a red-figured cup. Attributed to Onesimos and signed by Euphronios as potter.
  2. 1983.524.2. Fragment of a neck-amphora. [Euphronios no. 24]
  3. 1983.524.3a-b. 2 fragments of a cup potterd by Kachrylion and attributed to Euphronios. [Euphronios no. 39]
  4. 1983.524.4. Fragment of a cup attributed to Euphronios. [Euphronios no. 40]
  5. 1983.524.5. Fragment of a cup attributed to Euphronios.
  6. 1985.228.8.a-o. 15 fragments of a red-figured neck-amphora. Join Louvre Cp 11187. [Euphronios no. 16]
  7. 1988.233.1. Fragment of red-figured cup attributed to Euphronios.
  8. 1989.382.1. 11 fragments of a red-figured cup. Helen abducted by Theseus. [Euphronios no. 38]
  9. 1989.382.2. Fragment of a red-figured cup. Nessos and Deianeira. [Euphronios no. 52]

Where were these neck-amphorae and cups discovered? Who has handled them? Who were the proprietors before Bothmer? What do they join?

I also note that the fragment formerly owned by Ariel Herrmann and loaned to Princeton (L.1984.56 = Euphronios no. 25) now is New York MMA 2001.563 (Gift of Ariel Herrmann in memory of Lydia Mannara). This was attributed by J.R. Guy, along with a second fragment, Princeton L.1984.57 [Euphronios no. 26].

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