Friday, November 3, 2017
The relief was recorded at Persepolis as late as 1936 (see here). It was acquired by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in the 1950s from Frederick Cleveland Morgan. (It is not clear how it moved from Persepolis to Montreal.) The relief was stolen from the museum in September 2011, and recovered in Edmonton in January 2014. The insurers apparently sold the relief to Rupert Wace Ancient Art from whose stand at TEFAF the piece was seized.
It is not clear why the relief was not spotted from the archive photographs when it formed part of the collection in Montreal. It can only be assumed that the dealer assumed that there was no problem with the history of the relief fragment.
The relief was clearly removed after the 1930 legislation (see here) that would have made its export illegal.
Friday, October 27, 2017
|Source: Christos Tsirogiannis|
The statement makes it plain that the Greek authorities are seeking the return of the objects to Greece (Οι εν λόγω ελληνικές αρχαιότητες διεκδικούνται ήδη από το Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού, το οποίο θα συνεχίσει τις προσπάθειες επαναπατρισμού τους αξιοποιώντας κάθε πρόσφορο μέσο).
We can only presume that the Swiss authorities will want to avoid any damaging legal process that will explore the sale of this material.
Can we also presume that the Greek authorities will be reopening the investigation into the three objects in the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University?
- See also ARCA
Thursday, October 26, 2017
|Marble funerary markers on display in London|
Source: Christos Tsirogiannis
On the left (no. 237), the history of the lekythos is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977". I understand from Dr Tsirogiannis that the lekythos was listed by Gianfranco Becchina on 5 September 1977. Was this information known to Cahn? The lekythos is listed as co-owned by Becchina and George Ortiz.
On the right (no. 239), the history of the loutrophoros is given as "Formerly Swiss art market, October 1977".
These two funerary markers are almost certainly from a cemetery in Attica, and Tsirogiannis is right to suggest that "the Greeks are the rightful owner", especially if there is no documentation relating to their movement from Greece to Switzerland.
More troubling is the role of the Art Loss Register. If the ALR was not able to identify the markers in a photographic database, they needed to say that very clearly. But perhaps they did. But Malvern tells us, "The Art Loss Register said that it was considering its position on the vases." Why does the ALR need to reconsider? Does it think that it gave misleading advice? Does the ALR need to reconsider all its advice relating to recently surfaced antiquities?
We presume that Cahn has now had time to contact the Greek authorities to arrange their return.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
|Marble loutrophoros from the Becchina archive.|
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
The dealer, Jean-David Cahn, states:
In the past few years, the gallery has been rethinking its acquisition policy, pinpointing quality as well as provenance even more. Our profile is then to provide/show quality pieces with a strong expertise and mint provenance.Were these two pieces offered with the information that they were linked to Becchina? What sort of due diligence process had been conducted by the gallery? Had the gallery contacted the Greek authorities to check that the objects had not been removed from the country illegally?
A "mint provenance" would provide the full, documented and authenticated history of the object from when it left the ground to the point of its present sale.
Monday, October 23, 2017
|Left: image from Becchina archive.|
Right: larnax in Michael C. Carlos Museum
There are three items: a Minoan larnax, a pithos, and a statue of Terpsichore.
It is about time that the curatorial team at the Michael C. Carlos Museum offered to return the items to Greece.
|Marble loutrophoros from the Becchina archive.|
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
The marble lekythos and loutrophoros were displayed by Swiss-based dealer Jean-David Cahn at the Frieze Masters art fair in Regent's Park in London.
It appears that the items are being offered on behalf of the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt. They had apparently formed part of the stock seized from Becchina's warehouse in Switzerland. (For more on this see here.)
Strangely the Swiss authorities are claiming that the Italian authorities have given permission for the material to be sold. But these two items are objects that were created in Attica for display in Attic cemeteries. They are from Greek, not Italian, soil.
The key question is this: did the Swiss authorities as well as Cahn contact the Greek authorities to check that the sale was acceptable? If the answer to this is no, then there has been a major breakdown in the due diligence process. Any responsible dealer would have known that they need to contact the Greek authorities for objects that would have been found in Greek funerary contexts.
This makes the statement from James Ratcliffe, counsel for the Art Loss Register sound ridiculous: “If [the Italians] are not reclaiming it, it’s then in this grey area where legally it’s seemingly OK ... As far as [the Swiss] were concerned, they were selling with good title. Now if that’s not the case, and information has emerged that’s contrary to that, then quite clearly that’s something we would say changes our view.” But if the two funerary objects came from Greece rather than Italy, then Ratcliffe's statement reflects his apparent lack of understanding of the reality of the situation.
Cahn is not unfamiliar with handling material from Greece. Items include the statue of Apollo that had been looted from Gortyn on Crete, and another Attic marble lekythos.
Incidentally, the Becchina archive also includes images of a Minoan larnax from Crete now in the Michael C. Carlos Museum. This case is currently unresolved.
These two ex-Becchina items are now toxic. The Basel authorities and Cahn would be best advised to arrange for them to be returned to Greece before the Greek authorities make a formal request and with it all the associated publicity.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
|BBC Look East 17 October 2017|
The message that needs to get through is that archaeological contexts are being lost, and key pieces are not being reported.
The programme is available here for 24 hours.
Friday, October 13, 2017
|Bull from temple of Eshmun, Lebanon. |
The marble bull's head that was also seized in New York is due to be returned to the Lebanon in the next two weeks.
Christos Tsirogiannis has established that the Beierwaltes, through whose hands the bull passed, were clients of Robin Symes. Is this the source for the bull?
And if so, did Symes handle the other statue?
And what other material removed from Lebanon could have passed through this route?
Colin Moyniham, "Couple Drops Lawsuit Over Disputed Antiquity", New York Times, October 13, 2017: "The calf bearer sculpture passed though some of the same hands as the bull's head, according to the letter. It too had been excavated at Eshmun and was stolen from the Lebanese Republic, prosecutors said. It was then sold in 1996 by Mr. Symes for $4.5 million to the Beierwalteses, who later sold it to Mr. Steinhardt, Mr. Bogdanos wrote." The bull's head was purchased for $1 million in 1996.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
|Stonehenge (c) David Gill|
Members of the National Trust can vote on the resolution on-line here. Details of the resolution can be downloaded here.
The Heritage Journal lays out some of the concerns here.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Readers of LM will find some of the chapters of interest.
Paul Burtenshaw ("Economics in public archaeology", pp. 31–42) touches on how to reduce looting and preserve sites by showing the economic benefits of heritage through tourism.
Don Henson ("Archaeology and education", pp. 43–59) shows how education can be used to reduce the risk of looting.
Roger Bland, Michael Lewis, Daniel Pett, Ian Richardson, Katherine Robbins, and Rob Webley write on "The Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme in England and Wales" (pp. 107–121). They have a section on the Staffordshire Hoard with the subtitle, "archaeology captures the public imagination". The authors respond to criticisms (without citing any studies; see the Forum discussion in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology apparently unknown to the authors) that the scheme has not stopped illegal metal-detecting, described by the term "nighthawking". It would have been helpful for the authors to have discussed the case of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet (but discussed by me in a later chapter) or the Lenborough Hoard.
I have a chapter on "The market for ancient art" (pp. 187–200). This includes sections on the scale of the market, suggesting that there have been over-estimates used. I also discuss metal-detecting, the impact of the Medici Conspiracy, and the fabrication of object histories.