Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2013

Nostell Priory and Context Matters

Later this week I will be exploring the collecting history of an Attic black-glossed bolsal that formed part of the Nostell Priory collection inYorkshire. It probably formed part of an early 19th century collection in Italy. A study of the piece, with a companion in the British Museum, has reminded me of the importance of archaeological context. Where the was bolsal found? What were the associated objects? I doubt we shall ever know. It is possible to say something about the piece thanks to excavated examples from Athens.

Lee Rizzuto and the Getty

Among the objects to be appearing in the forthcoming exhibition exploring ancient Sicily at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art is a terracotta given by Lee Rizzuto in 1979 (no. 119; inv. 79.AD.37).

In the same year Rizzuto gave a silver and gold bracelet that apparently came from Turkey (inv. 79.AM.36), a steatite goblet apparently from Turkey (inv. 79.AJ.51), an Anatolian pot with Geometric decoration (inv. 79.AJ.53), pots with Geometric decoration (inv. 79.AJ.49, 79.AJ.50), a silver beaker possibly from Iran (inv. 79.AJ.47), a Syro-hittite bronze statuette (inv. 79.AJ.44), a basalt half-figure (inv. 79.AJ.43), two steatite lamps apparently from Syria (inv. 79.AJ.45, 79.AJ.46), a bronze warrior possibly from Argos, Greece (inv. 79.AB.38), a Byzantine censer (inv. 79.AC.48),  and a series of Roman fresco fragments, some with a sphinx (inv. 79.AG.39, 79.AG.40, 79.AG.41.1, 79.AG.41.2, 79.AG.41.3, 79.AG.41.4, 79.AG.41.5, 79.AG.42).

What are the full collecting histo…

Max Gerchik and Sicily

The image chosen to publicise the upcoming exhibition, "Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome", at the Cleveland Museum of Art from September 2013 is a Sicilian terracotta head given to the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1976. The Getty has issued a checklist of the exhibits that includes items returned from North American collections to Italy.

We know that Dr Max Gerchik was the donor of at least one item that was returned to Italy. We also know that he was the donor of several inscribed lead plaques that were allegedly found at Selinus on Sicily.

Both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum have had to return objects to Italy. Both museums will want to avoid any further controversial decisions.

So when did Gerchik acquire this "Head of a Goddess"? Did he acquire it on the Beverly Hills market? For how long did it reside in his collection? Was the head from an "old Swiss collection"? What is the full collecting history of this piece…

Disney and Collecting Histories

The ex-Steinhardt phiale from Sicily

Earlier this week I noted the forthcoming exhibition of antiquities from Sicily that will open at the J. Paul Getty Museum this summer. Part of the Morgantina silver hoard will be on display (after its return from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art). I am grateful to Fabio Isman for drawing my eye to another important piece in the exhibition: the gold phiale apparently found near Caltavuturo (no. 89).

The story of the phiale is well documented (and see images). It was seized from Michael Steinhardt and returned to Italy.

Paul Barford on East Anglia

The UCS Heritage seminar welcomed Paul Barford to give a paper today. It was a good opportunity for me, and for those attending, to hear Paul articulate his views on the unrestricted hunt for portable archaeological objects. There appeared to be a mix of attendees from the archaeological service, the Portable Antiquities Scheme, museums, and the metal-detecting community.

My colleague Dr Ian Baxter and I were tweeting some of the key points. Here are some of them:

lack of clear conservation policy for the archaeological recordcritical debate on artefact hunting missing from the archaeological communitythe forum paper for the Papers of the Institute of Archaeologyunder-reporting may be as high as 80% (though Norfolk may be as low as 25%)the development and methodology of the Heritage Action counterthe disturbance of deep stratigraphy due to metal-detectingthe increasing use of metal-detectors that detect deeper and in a range of conditionsthe intellectual consequences of loss of context…

Unsustainable digging around?

It was good to discuss Paul Barford's forthcoming UCS Heritage Seminar with him yesterday. [All welcome at the seminar tomorrow, but please book in the normal way.] One of the topics is going to be the unsustainable damage to largely unrecorded archaeological sites. What knowledge is being lost?

One of the more unexpected lines of thought was the way that finds of recently surfaced portable antiquities are merely showing up as a scatter on maps. How far is this a useful way to think about context?

We also reflected on "public archaeology" and the media. How far do programmes that present archaeology as a hunt for "Secret Treasures" do our discipline harm?

There will be time for discussion, questions and answers at the end of Paul's presentation. It would be good to see readers of LM present in the audience.

Sicily at the Getty

The Getty has issued a list of the objects due to appear in its exhibition on Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. [details]

The pieces from the Getty are (with some additional information supplied by me):

23. Incense Burner Supported by Nike. 86.AD.681. [no. 5] 'Restored from a number of fragments'. 'European Art Market'. [Which dealer?]

92. Head of Hades. From Morgantina. 85.AD.105. Formerly Robin Symes; Maurice Temepelsman. The head will be returning to Italy.

93. Head of goddess. 76.AD.34. Gift of Max Gerchik.

96. Footed dinos attributed to the Syleus Painter. 89.AE.73. [no. 5]. Attribution by J.R. Guy. 'Reconstructed from fragments'. 'European Art Market'. [Which dealer?]

98. Disk with a Head of Medusa (Oscillum). 71.AD.255.

106. Statuette of a woman with child. 71.AD.347

109. Statuette of a pig. 78.AD.346. Gift of David Collins.

117. Apulian Krater fragment attributed to the Black Fury Group. 86.AE.417. [no. 7] 'Walter and Molly …

Coin Dealer Indicted

The FBI have issued a press release about the indictment of a North American coin dealer on tax charges ("Coin Dealer Formerly from Hackensack Indicted on Federal Tax Charges", April 2, 2013).
[Gantcho] Zagorski owned and operated a business that sold ancient coins to domestic and international customers, primarily on eBay, from his residence in Hackensack. Zagorski, along with his wife and, at times, his daughter, operated the coin-selling business under the names Diana Coins, Paganecoins, and Diana Coins LLC. For calendar years 2006, 2007, and 2008, Zagorski provided his tax preparer with false and fraudulent information by understating the amount of gross receipts and sales earned by his business. Zagorski then caused to be filed with the IRS those federal income tax returns for 2006, 2007, and 2008 containing that false and fraudulent information. It will be interesting to see what else emerges from this case.

The Portable Antiquities of East Anglia

Paul Barford will be leading a session for the UCS Heritage Seminar in April. Members of the seminar can look forward to a lively debate.

All welcome but attendees should contact Julie Barber (details on poster).