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Showing posts from November, 2010

Sherif Hassan released

Thank you to all who supported Sherif Hassan who was detained in Egypt. There were some 4000 visits to the website over the weekend. I understand that he has arrived at Heathrow this evening.

Rick Witschonke on the stigma of association

Rick Witschonke of Califon, New Jersey has responded in a letter to the editor of the Art Newspaper.  He comments on the report of the appearance of two items that feature in the Medici Dossier in the October sale at Bonhams.

There are several points worth noting:

"The stigma of association with one of these convicted antiquities traffickers is often enough to result in its withdrawal". This was not the case with either Bonhams in October 2010 or Christie's in June 2010; both auction-houses proceeded with the sales. However this was true for Bonhams in October 2008, and April 2010. (For seizures at Christie's in 2009 see here.)"The larger issue, however, is that US collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums are compelled to research the provenance of any prospective purchase to ensure it is not recently looted". The issue is that it is appropriate for vendors and buyers to conduct a rigorous due diligence process. In some recent cases the objects had …

Please Release Sherif Hassan!

Looting Matters normally confines itself to archaeological matters. However, in this case, I am going to make an exception as I know that these posts are widely read by those interested in (ancient) Egypt.

Mark Meynell, who works at All Souls, Langham Place (next to the BBC), has posted a story that is hard to ignore.
On 9th November, we had the terrible news from friends at All Souls. Emma and her Egyptian husband, Sherif, who only got married at All Souls in the summer, were travelling to Cairo to visit members of his family. She was immediately put back on the plane she had come in; Sherif was detained. Over the last couple of weeks, contact has been sporadic, mainly by email but one brief phone call.Meynell has set up a website to encourage support for Sherif Hassan.

If you have an interest in Egypt please consider supporting this campaign and make Sherif's case known.

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy
A discussion of the Zeus returned to Italy.

The Barcelona Galerista and Egypt

I am very proud of my postgraduate students who are a bright group. Today we were discussing repatriation and Egypt. They drew my attention to a limestone block from the Tomb of Imep-Hor that is now listed on the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) website.

According to the SCA website the block was spotted in the Alexandra Irigoyen Art Gallery in Madrid.
On March 19th, 2009, Dr. Josep Cervello from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona sent an e-mail to the Secretary General of the SCA expressing his concern about a limestone block that was then on display in the art gallery of Alexandra Irigoyen in Madrid.This story had been spotted in anonymous form by the same group of students. But now we have further detail:
Dr. Cervello also was able to ascertain that the piece belongs to the Galerias F. Cervera in Barcelona.This is the same Barcelona galerista linked to the Egyptian coffin seized in Miami. Barcelona has also been the location of seizures during Operation Ghelas.

I presume that …

Happy Thanksgiving!

Looting Matters would like to wish North American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

Portable Antiquities Scheme: detail on cuts

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has posted details of how it will deal with the cuts announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. PAS is facing a 15% reduction by 2014-15. One of the most significant features is the impact of devolution. Historically PAS has covered England and Wales. However it is stated:
To reduce the current contribution made by the Scheme to PAS in Wales, the total costs of which is £75K pa, from £59K this year to £6K from 2012. This is on the basis that these costs should be borne by the Welsh Assembly Government, through CyMAL or the National Museum WalesWales is facing significant budget cuts. (See draft budget.) Last Friday, the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, announced:
As a result of cuts to the Welsh budget by the UK government, the Heritage portfolio revenue budget will see a reduction of 3.15% over 3 years with the capital budget decreasing by 33.9% over 3 years.The Welsh Assembly Government website does not appear to contain any menti…

The Portable Antiquities Scheme and The British Museum

I recently completed an invited forum piece on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the Treasure Act and am now waiting to write my response to the five reactions. I note that today the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the new arrangement for PAS. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey "confirmed an additional £1.3m of funding going directly to the British Museum to run the Portable Antiquities scheme" (press release, October 23, 2010).

A more detailed press statement was issued by the British Museum ("British Museum to manage Portable Antiquities Scheme, as exciting new finds go on display", November 23, 2010).
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey today confirmed that the future funding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been secured with a reduction of 15% in real terms over four years. From April 2011 it will be managed directly by the British Museum.
There is a quote from Neil Macgregor:
Following the Spending Review settlement we will wish to main…

Creative collecting histories?

The "Merrin Zeus" is a reminder that purchasers need to have fully documented collecting histories that can be traced back to the period before 1970. If the Zeus was indeed removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano in 1980 it would appear that the collecting history that it had been in an old Swiss collection in the 1960s was fabricated. Who created the account? Who knew it was fiction?

The Castor and Pollux statues now on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art also have an interesting collecting history. Where did they acquire the reported find-spot of the Mithraeum in Sidon? The curatorial staff at the Met have yet to present their documented and authenticated collecting history.

What do the Zeus and the Dioskouroi have in common?

Head from Roman marble statuette. The Schinoussa Archive.

The collecting history of the Merrin Zeus

It appears that my suggestion that the bronze Zeus returned to Italy was significant. This means that we can reconstruct the recent collecting history:

a. 1980. Statue reported to have been removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano.
b. 1982. Statue surfaced in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (no. S-10).
c. 1983. Statue appeared in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (no. S-14).
d. 1984. Statue published by Joyce Geary Volk in California Studies in Classical Antiquity. Owner stated to be Edward H. Merrin of New York City. Collecting history stated: "Mr. Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".
e. 1988-89. Statue appeared in The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, organized by Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten (no. 29).  Owner stated to be: Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman.  E…

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy: a little more detail

The Italian press has been commenting on the report that a female marble torso and a bronze Zeus have been returned to Italy ("Busto romano in vetrina a New York riportato in Italia da un maresciallo", Corriere della Sera November 20, 2010).
Il pregevole bronzetto era detenuto da una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan, che l'aveva comprato da una casa d'aste per 537 mila dollari. La donna, messa al corrente della provenienza illecita, l'ha restituito senza chiedere contropartite. In precedenza era transitato per una mostra a Cleveland, nell'Ohio, dove era stato presentato con un'expertise di Marion True processata poi per gli acquisti del Getty Museum di Malibù e mostrato sulla rivista «Gods Delight».The Italian report confirms the Zeus was in the exhibition The Gods Delight at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

But who is 'la donna' described as 'una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan'?

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy

Earlier today I noted the return of a marble female torso and a bronze Zeus to Italy. The statue of the Zeus is distinctive with the right arm lost below the elbow. (There is now a short statement on the Carabinieri website; see also "Zeus statue returned to Italian museum after 30 years", Daily Telegraph November 19, 2010)

Paul Barford also noted the story and added a quote from AFP.
The bronze statue, which was stolen from the National Roman Museum in 1980, was sold by Sotheby's auction house in New York in 2006 and later put on display at an exhibition in Cleveland in the US state of Ohio.I have been unable to find a bronze Zeus at auction at Sotheby's in 2006. However a bronze figure of a Zeus, some 24 cm tall, with a "missing right hand" (it appears to be missing from the elbow) was auctioned at Sotheby's New York on 9 December 2004, lot 249.

The Zeus auctioned at Sotheby's in 2004 had been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art:
The Gods Delig…

Two Stolen Statues Return to Italy

It has been reported that two statues stolen from collections in Italy have been returned ("Italy announces return from US of 2 stolen statues", New York Post November 19, 2010; "Eagle-eyed officer helps return stolen art to Italy", BBC News November 19, 2010). The marble female torso had been stolen from a museum at Terracina in 1988. It was spotted by off-duty Carabinieri officer, Michele Speranza, in an antiquities gallery in Madison Avenue. He recognised it from the image database of stolen items.

The bronze head of Zeus was stolen from the Museo Nazionale, Rome in 1980. It had resurfaced at an auction at Sotheby's in 2006 and was found in a New York collection.

I am grateful to Katie Downey for alerting me to the story.

Lord Renfrew calls for transparency

The sale of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet for £2.2 million ($3.6 million) has started to raise some uncomfortable questions. It is now clear if the helmet was found by "a young guy" (Georgiana Aitken of Christie's) or "an unnamed father and son" from Peterlee County Durham (The Independent). Dr Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has talked about "the real gap" in The Treasure Act (1996). (Indeed the real issue is the term used for the act.)

A month ago Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn called a review of The Treasure Act in a letter to The Times (London).

On October 20, 2010 Lord Renfrew tabled a written question:
To Ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" so that major heritage discoveries, such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett and recently sold by public auction, should fall within the scope of the Treasure Act.[HL2515]
Baroness Rawlings (the President of the…

RSS Subscriptions and Cultural Property Blogs

Back in July 2010 I took a snapshot of those subscribing to Looting Matters via RSS and Google Reader. I have just taken another look and note that 287 people receive LM in this way. (RSS is also delivering to other Web 2.0 contexts so this is a partial figure.) This means that in October approximately 8000 posts were delivered to electronic desktops, smart phones, iPads and other mobile devices. This was in addition to the 13,695 visits to the website over the same period; email subscriptions are on top of that figure.

For convenience I have combined the latest figures (red) with those for July (blue) to give some idea of how subscriptions have changed.

Robin Symes material on the market

Antiquities handled by Robin Symes are always of interest. Three pieces are listed for the 9 December 2010 sale at Christie's, Rockefeller Plaza.

Lot 88: "A Cycladic Marble Reclining Female Figure". Attributed to the Schuster sculptor (or 'master' as Christie's choose to use the now obsolete terminology). Collecting history: Marion Schuster, Lausanne, acquired before 1965; in North American private collection in 1987 (Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections, no. 58); with Robin Symes, London, 1990s; U.S. Private Collection; with Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva (c. 2006); 'Now owned by a private collector' (Phoenix Ancient Art). A report in the New York Times (Carol Vogel, "Potential Titian Buyers Get an Advance Look", October 28, 2010) states: 'And while Mr. Bernheimer will not identify the seller, people familiar with antiquities say the work is being sold by Michael Steinhardt, the Manhattan financier and collector, who is on Chris…

Washington Lobbyist and Coins from Bulgaria

I have recently noted that the sale of some medieval coins from Bulgaria had been stopped. It now appears that Classical Numismatic Group Inc. (CNG), with an office in Bond Street, London, has issued a press statement. The release included this statement:
On 5 November, CNG's London office received a faxed letter from the Bulgarian Embassy in London notifying CNG that "The Bulgarian authorities have reasons to believe" that one of the lots in the CNG auction was part of a collection reportedly stolen in Bulgaria in 2007, and requesting CNG to withdraw the Bulgarian coins from the auction in order to allow the Bulgarian authorities to further investigate the matter.The interesting thing is that the press release does not appear on the CNG website (as far as I can see). Is there a reason?

So where does the press release appear? On a paid-lobbyist's blog - and if you want to read the release you can click here because this same Washington lobbyist has thoughtfully left t…

Coins from Bulgaria

There are reports that Bulgarian police have stopped the auction of medieval coins reported to have come from Bulgaria ("Bulgarian Police Bust Illegal Medieval Coins Auction", Novinite [Sofia] November 11, 2010). The sale is reported to have been through the London registered Classical Numismatic Group (CNG). Apparently the sale included material from a collection stolen in 2007. It would seem to be a good example of pan-European co-operation.

But there must be another question. The London office of CNG was involved with the silver denarius of Brutus. At that time Eric McFadden of CNG was quoted in the London press:
"One looks at the deal on the table. We're business people. If there's any indication something's not legitimate, we don't deal in it." If that is the case, how did CNG come into the possession of the Bulgarian material? Who sold it to them? What were their sources?

And it should be noted that McFadden wrote an extensive submission on t…

The IADAA position on "looted" antiquities

I have been rereading the IADAA (International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art) position on "looted" and "stolen" antiquities. Their statement is uncompromising:
IADAA also stands against the destruction of the past, whoever is responsible. ... IADAA will use every effort to raise awareness of such destruction. As our code of ethics makes clear, we refuse to deal in pieces, which are looted or stolen. The code of ethics for the IADAA clearly states:
2. The members of IADAA undertake not to purchase or sell objects until they have established to the best of their ability that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property.Do members of the IADAA provide complete and transparent collecting histories for the objects on offer? Do members of the IADAA try to trace objects back to the period before the benchmark 1970 data of the UNESCO Convention?

How do members of the IADAA define "looted" o…

The Met to return objects from Tomb of Tutankhamun

It has been announced today that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art will be returning objects that had been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun ("Metropolitan Museum and Egyptian Government Announce Initiative to Recognize Egypt's Title to 19 Objects Originally from Tutankhamun's Tomb", press release, November 10, 2010). Tom Campbell, the Director of the Museum is quoted:
Research conducted by the Museum's Department of Egyptian Art has produced detailed evidence leading us to conclude without doubt that 19 objects, which entered the Met's collection over the period of the 1920s to 1940s, originated in Tutankhamun's tomb. Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt. I am therefore pleased to announce—in concert with our long-time colleague Zahi Hawass, who has contributed so greatly over many years to the recognition and …

Marion True: "sacrificial victim”

The Rome case against Marion True was dropped, and now her lawyer Francesco Isolabella has spoken out (Gareth Harris, "Marion True's defence lawyer speaks out", The Art Newspaper 4 November 2010). Harris quotes extensively from Hugh Eakin's New Yorkercommentary on True.

Lord Renfrew was asked to comment on the case and recognised, as True has asserted, that there was a wider institutional issue:
"It was unjust that senior figures at the Getty did not publicly share the responsibility with Marion True who was clearly not the principal decision maker".The report finishes with a quote from Isolabella:
“It is worth considering how the Italian state orchestrated a major campaign to obtain works that are now in less committed and less organised environments than before. Considering the universality of these items [belonging to humanity], wouldn't it have been better to leave them in the museums where they were?”There is no consideration of the wider issues. Th…