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Showing posts from July, 2014

St Louis Art Museum and the Mummy Mask

Did the US Authorities handle the case of the mummy mask in the St Louis Art Museum in the most appropriate way? I am sure that readers of LM will have views on this.
but there is a more important issue. do we believe the collecting history, the so-called provenance, of the mask supplied by the vendor and presented by the museum? The answer has to be no. The documentation from Cairo seems to be clear that the mask was in Egypt at the time that it is claimed that it was also passing through the hands of dealers and private collectors in Europe.
And if the collecting history is flawed, how comfortable is the museum with the acquisition? Are the officers willing to say that they have full confidence in the collecting history? Or do they have reservations? and if they have reservations, will they consider taking the appropriate professional and ethical action by opening up positive negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?
does the SLAM mask remind us that some museum curators in North Ame…

Museums Association and Northampton

It seems that the Museums Association has reviewed the decision of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery to sell its Egyptian statue to fund future developments. It looks as if the the MA do not consider that Northampton followed the due process to deaccession the statue as outlined in the MA code of ethics, This is probably the first step in the process for the Northampton museum service to lose its accreditation.
Local councillors and officers in Northampton will now have to explain why they took the course of action that they followed.

Forfeiture and Becchina: another link to Canada

Ric St Hilaire has written about a new forfeiture of two items that seem to be identified from the Becchina archive. The two items are an Attic red-figured skyphos and an Apulian bell-krater, valued at $55,000. They are reported to have been consigned to Christie's in New York. It is reported that they were seized in 2011 from from Walter M. Banko Enterprises, Ltd. of Montreal.

It appears that the paperwork for the objects may have been fabricated as the skyphos passed through the hands of Becchina in 1982 even though there had been a link with Borowski. The krater appears to have been in Becchina's possession in 1992 even though the paperwork suggested an alternative collecting history.

St Hilaire notes the quoted collecting history for the krater that was later moved from France to Canada:
Documents recovered from the search of Becchina’s gallery and warehouse reveal the occurrence of the following events: in February of 1992, Becchina purchased the Krater, in fragments, fro…

'Provenance' at SBL

I note that papyri are coming under the spotlight at SBL in San Diego this November. The session on 'Archaeology of Religion in the Roman World' includes a section on 'Issues of Provenance'. I have argued that the word provenance is now obsolete, and I would encourage participants to start thinking in terms of the collecting history of particular papyri and objects.
This session will consist of a panel of speakers addressing the ethical and scholarly issues concerning the presentation and publication of unprovenanced artifacts. The line-up appears to be:
Organized by Christine Thomas (University of California, Santa Barbara) and Daniel Schowalter (Carthage College). The speakers are: Timothy Potts (Getty Museum) Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester) Michael Peppard (Fordham University) Responses from: Douglas Boin (St. Louis University)David Trobisch (Green Collection)Cary Summers (Museum of the Bible). I presume that somebody will ask Michael Peppard about the docu…

Arts Council England and Northampton

Arts Council England (ACE) is due to make a decision today about Northampton Borough Council's decision to sell an Egyptian statue from the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery (see Gareth Harris, "Northampton awaits Arts Council's response after controversial sale", Art Newspaper 24 July 2014). The decision will be announced on 1 August.

If ACE removes accreditation from Northampton, it will mean that the borough will be unable to apply for funding for the proposed development of the museum.
Scott Furlong, the director of ACE’s Acquisitions Exports Loans Collections Unit, says: “Those who choose to approach the sale of collections cynically or with little regard for the sectoral standards or their long-term responsibilities will only further alienate both key funders and the public who put their trust in them to care for our shared inheritance.”

Metal Detectorists raid English Heritage site in Kent

#Kent Police search for illegal metal detectorists who have targeted historic #Eynsford Castle @kentpolicerural
— EH Heritage Crime (@EHHeritageCrime) July 9, 2014
The grounds of Eynsford Castle in Kent (not far from Lullingstone Roman Villa) have been pockmarked by what appear to be the telltale signs of metal-detecting. This is a protected site and there can be no excuse for this activity.

Such infringements bring us back to the core issues raised in the forum debate in the Papers of the Institute of Archaeology [link].

Personal Styles and Cycladic Figures

My review of the (slightly) revised edition of Pat Getz-Gentle's Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture. Wisconsin Studies in Classics (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2013) has now appeared on BMCR. I consider some of the intellectual issues surrounding this category of material and discuss some of the figures appearing on the market. I remake the case for using the term "Keros Haul" (rather than "hoard") for the fragmentary Cycladic figures.
It is unnecessary to revisit some of the concerns about reconstructing artistic personalities in the third millennium BC. The progression of style is unsupported by any evidence, and relies more on the art historian's perception of how the corpus should be ordered.

Greece pursuing war-loot through INTERPOL

The Greek press is reporting that INTERPOL will be working with Greek authorities to recover some 100 objects removed during the occupation of Greece in WW2 ("Ministry to work with Interpol to trace artifacts", July 12, 2014).

This news comes in the wake of the news that over 10,000 objects have been returned to Greece from Germany. They had been excavated in Thessaly in 1941.

One of the first posts on LM was on this very topic and the Greek authorities may like to start in Hannover.

Sekhemka: Museums Association comment

The Museums Association has updated its comment on the sale of Sekhemka by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. This statement includes the very telling section:
... the MA said that Northampton Borough Council has not demonstrated that the sale of Sekhemka is funding of last resort in relation to the development plans for the museum site. In addition, its plans to share the proceeds from the sale indicate that legal title of the object is not resolved. It will be interesting to see how this is resolved.

Proceeds from the sale of Sekhemka

Pleased that Lord Northampton is donating £1million from his share of the sale of Sekhemka to @NorthantsCF to help community projects
— David Mackintosh (@davidmackintosh) July 11, 2014
Councillor David Mackintosh has announced that Lord Northampton will be donating £1 million from the sale of the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka to community projects.

Sekhemka: The Art Fund issues a statement

The sale of the the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka at Christie's earlier this week has prompted a statement from the Art Fund (press release, 11 July 2014). The determination by the officers and councillors of Northampton Borough Council to ignore the ethical guidance offered by the Museums Association seems to have prompted the response that any museum professional would have expected.

The satement says:
in line with the Museum Association’s Code of Ethics for museums, we [the Art Fund] remain strongly opposed to deaccessioning any item for financial reasons except in exceptional circumstances, where the funds will directly benefit the museum collection and only after all other options have been explored.  This is not the case with the sale of Sekhemka and as such, having gone against the sector's ethical guidance, it risks being stripped of its accredited status. This is therefore a financially as well as morally harmful decision for Northampton Borough Council to take. Not onl…

Northampton Borough Council issue a statement over the sale of Sekhemka

Northampton Borough Council (NBC) has issued a statement over the sale of the statue of Sekhemka for over £15 million (Thursday 10 July 2014, press release). NBC hopes to retain c. £8 million for the museum development project that they expect to cost £14 million (see here).

This means that NBC will be needing to attract some £6 million worth of funding. The press release tells us:
"The Borough Council is in the process of developing a funding package to take the extension forward, including putting together a bid for support from the Heritage Lottery Fund." In other words, NBC are expecting to look to the Heritage Lottery Fund to provide a large portion of the additional funding. But there is a great demand for these funds, and the HLF panel have the potential of not looking too kindly on what has happened in Northampton (and especially against the advice of the Museums Association).

The press release also suggests that the Borough Council has realised that the accreditatio…

Implications of the Sekhemka Sale

ICOM has raised the issue that the sale of Sekhemka may have implications for the rise of looting in Egypt.
ICOM is ... concerned that the sale of the statue, estimated between 5 and 7.5 million euros [$27 million], according to the same press release, may result in an increase of illicit excavation and trafficking of antiquities in Egypt, an area already exposed to such risks. This is not a straightforward issue.

First, the Sekhemka statue has been known (and documented) since the mid-nineteenth century (1849/50) when it was acquired by the Second Marquess of Northampton and left Egypt. In other words, Sekhemka came to England well before the formulation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property [details]. And in a market where so much of the material on offer has surfaced after (or has no authenticated documentation prior to) 1970, the Sekhemka statue offered a well documented co…

Reflecting on the price received by Sekhemka

The news that the sale of the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka for £15,762,500 (c. $27 million) needs to be put in perspective.

Looting Matters has been monitoring the sale of Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's New York since 1998. The total for all Egyptian lots from 1998 to 2013 is just over $77 million (with over $383 million) for antiquities. The highest year for Egyptian lots was in 2010 with a total value of over $12 million.

So a single statue selling for the equivalent of $27 million is a third of the total sales of Egyptian antiquities during a 16 year period.

Christie's New York has sold $225 million worth of antiquities (not just Egyptian) over a 15 year period (from 1999 to 2013). There were only two years when the total sales were worth more than $27 million: 2010 worth over $42 million, and 2011 worth over $38 million.

So this is an exceptional price for a well documented sculpture.

Sekhemka sold

The Egyptian statue of Sekhemka has just realised £15,762,500 at Christie's this evening. That is the equivalent of just under $27 million.

"Our history is not for sale": protest over Egyptian statue

Protesters chanting 'Egyptian history not for sale, our treasure not for sale'
— Callum Jones (@callum_jones22) July 10, 2014
It is clear from Twitter that there is a protest over the decision of Northampton BC to sell part of its collection to fund its museum development.

SLAM Mummy Mask and its collecting history

@davidwjgill David, the provenance of many objects in the collection (including the mask) are on our website:
— SaintLouisArtMuseum (@STLArtMuseum) July 8, 2014
I remain puzzled how the Egyptian mummy mask excavated at Saqqara and acquired by the St Louis Art Museum could be in two places at once. And I am intrigued how the documentation and reported collecting histories were authenticated ("due diligence"). An exchange with SLAM suggests that we are expected to believe in the flawed collecting history.

Please could SLAM release the original documents?

The Northampton statue: likely outcome

The Northampton Egyptian statue has been consigned for auction at Christie's today and I expect that it will be sold. The debate is not about whether or not it should have left Egypt in the mid nineteenth century, but whether or not it should have been deaccessioned by Northampton Museum and Art Gallery in order to fund museum developments. The Museums Association is not happy and has indicated the likely implications for the museums.

it is unlikely that any UK museum will make a bid, not least because they would rely on funding for the acquisition and this would probably not be forthcoming given the concerns of the MA.
But if the buyer is from abroad, will they be able to export it? Given the associations with Castle Ashby this is unlikely. Remember the Northampton amphora that resided in storage after the Castle Ashby Vase auction in the mid 1980s.
And as the MA has concerns, there is unlikely to be Matched funding from a UK museum.
So the outcome could be that the new buyer wi…

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery could lose accreditation over sale of Egyptian statue

The sale of the Egyptian statue deaccessioned by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is set to proceed at Christie's tomorrow, 10 July 2014 (see details). The estimate is £4-£6 million ($7-$10 million). The collecting history of the statue is well documented but the issue is about the way that the museum has decided to sell this asset to pay for other activities.

The UK Museums Association has issued a statement.

David Fleming of the MA has noted that the MA Code of Ethics "provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored".

He added:
“At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest.   “We would urge the council to seek alternative sources of capital funding before undertaking the sale of such an important item with a long history of association with the borough. Without this, the M…

Boursaud Consignments

I have been reviewing the consignments (some 104 items) made by Christian Boursaud to the Sotheby's London sale of July 1985. (Readers of LM will no doubt recall that this included a piece once handled by Luigi Perticerari.)

So, did Boursaud consign the following lots:

Lot 246: Attic black-figured horse-head amphoraLot 257: Attic black-figured neck-amphoraLot 312: Attic white-ground alabastronLot 313: Attic black-figured neck-amphora of Panathenaic shapeLot 572: Attic Droop cup
Could there be more identifications from the Medici Dossier? Will another North American museum be making contact with the Italian authorities to return material?

Could SLAM learn from Boston?

The MFA in Boston has been researching the collecting histories of some of the pieces in its collection ... and has decided to return them to Nigeria (Geoff Edgers, "After tracing history, MFA returns 8 artworks to Nigeria", Boston Globe June 26, 2014. There was no legal case. There was no request from Nigeria.

In fact what we appear to be seeing is an internationally significant museum acting in a professional and ethical way.

Could the Director of SLAM be persuaded to do the right thing and return the Egyptian mummy mask to Egypt? Please?

The SLAM Mask in Two Places?

I have been reviewing some of the views on the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum. There is a useful piece in The International Lawyer (Spring 2013) --- based on the forfeiture statement --- that reminds us that the mummy mask was moved from Saqqara to Cairo in 1966 in box 54. And then in 1973 it was found that the mask was missing from box 54.

Thus we can reconstruct the collecting history as follows:

a. The mask is excavated at Saqqara in 1952.
b. Charly Mathez recalls (in 1997) that he had seen the mask in an antiquities dealer's shop in Brussels in 1952.
c. In 1962 the mask was purchased for the Kaloterna collection.
d. The mask was acquired for the collection of Zuzi Jelinek who possessed it for "40 years" (sic.).
e. Sometime between 1962 to 1966, the mask was returned to the archaeological store in Saqqara.
f. In 1966 the mask was moved to Cairo in box 54.
g. In 1973 the mask was found to be missing from box 54.
h. The mask was back in the Jeli…

The Kaloterna Collection: fact or fiction?

Around 1962 the Egyptian mummy mask excavated at Saqqara, and now in the St Louis Art Museum, is reported to have entered the Kaloterna collection. What is this collection? What else formed part of the collection? Where was the collection located?

When did the owner of the Kaloterna collection sell the mask to a Croatian private collector? And how did the mask move?

Do readers of LM know of other documented items from the Kaloterna collection?

The Director, curators, and Trustees of SLAM need to explain the Kaloterna collection, not least because it coincides with a period when the mask is recorded as being in Cairo.

What if the Kaloterna collection is a fictional collection?

SLAM and Collecting Histories

The time has come for the curatorial staff of the St Louis Art Museum to demonstrate that they have authenticated the documentation relating to the acquisition of the Egyptian mummy mask. The museum authorities need to explain how the Egyptian object formed part of the Kaloterna collection at exactly the same time that it was also in Egypt.

One of the lawyers acting for SLAM indicated that the museum did not wish to own a "stolen" object. So, putting aside the legal decision, how confident is the curatorial team that the mask was not stolen? And if, on balance, they decided that it was "stolen" from an archaeological store in Egypt, then there is an ethical obligation on the museum to return it.

Is it time for the Director and Trustees of SLAM to make a public statement?

St Louis Art Museum: The Egyptian Mummy Mask

The legal decision (conveniently discussed by Rik St Hilare here) that the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum will not be returning to Egypt leaves some questions unanswered.

I have discussed this mask elsewhere. But if we summarise, we can state that we know that it was excavated at Saqqara.

But what about these issues?

What is the authenticated documented collecting history of the mask between 1952 and 1995?

What is the Kaloterna collection?

Can Zuzi Jalinek's testimony be considered trustworthy?

How could the mask be in Cairo and form part of the Kaloterna collection at the same point in time?

Have SLAM curators checked the Cairo register and explained the anomaly in the "received" collecting history?

The officials at SLAM may feel that the legal case is closed.

But if the testimony by Jalinek is flawed, as it clearly appears to be, then the Director and Trustees of SLAM have an ethical obligation to return the mask to Egypt.