Friday, October 13, 2017

Further statue from temple of Eshmun, Lebanon seized in New York City

Bull from temple of Eshmun, Lebanon.
Source: ARCA
ARCA (and other sources) has commented on the seizure of a second statue from the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon that had formed part of a New York private collection. The figure is holding an animal: a calf, sheep or goat. The collector is reported in the legal papers as Michael Steinhardt.

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?

Postscript
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.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Stonehenge and the National Trust

Stonehenge (c) David Gill
Stonehenge is part of one of the most important prehistoric (and historic) landscapes in England. A members' resolution has been presented to the National Trust AGM on Saturday (21 October 2017) that aims to protect and preserve the integrity of the UNESCO World Heritage site in the face of the proposed tunnel construction.

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.



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Monday, October 2, 2017

Public Archaeology and Looting Antiquities

2017
A new volume, Key Concepts in Public Archaeology, edited by Gabriel Moschenska of UCL has been published (UCL Press) [open access pdf].

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.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Aydin Dikmen and the forging of antiquities

Suzan Mazur has published a timely piece on Aydin Dikmen ("Anatolian Stargazer Fakes?—The Aydin Dikmen Connection", Huffington Post September 22, 2017). She raises the spectre that some of the more complete Anatolian "Stargazer" figures could be modern creations. 

Mazur notes the presence of such figures in the hands of Aydin Dikmen who was separately reported as having made the "best fakes" (though not specifically of Anatolian figures). Dikmen's basement in Konya was also reported to have been equipped to make objects from marble.

There are clear intellectual consequences if the insecure "Stargazers" are allowed to join the corpus of Anatolian figures that have been recovered from scientific excavations.

Owners of "Stargazers" that surfaced on the market since 1960 need to check their full histories.

It needs to be stressed that some of these "Stargazers" could indeed be ancient, but the absence of contextual information will make it difficult for their date to be authenticated.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Guennol Stargazer and its findspot

There has been much attention paid to Turkey's claim on the Guennol Stargazer. It needs to be remembered that Pat Getz-Gentle (Getz-Preziosi) appeared to confirm that the figure was found in central Anatolia, i.e. Turkey.

Incidentally, the Guennol Stargazer is reported to have been found with the Stargazer in the Shelby White collection as well as other figures in several other North American private collections.

The authority for Getz-Gentle's statement is unclear. How did she know that the six figures were found together? Did they pass through common hands?

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Guennol Stargazer

Suzan Mazur has written on the Guennol Stargazer, an Anatolian style figure ("Klejman or Hecht?—Who Sold the Guennol Stargazer to Tennis’s Alastair Martin?", Huffington Post September 18, 2017).

G. Max Bernheimer described the piece: "The Guennol Stargazer is an iconic work of art and one universally recognised as the finest Kiliya idol in existence".

The collecting history is:

  • Collection of Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife, Edith
  • Loan to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966-93 (L.66.11)
  • Merrin Gallery, 1993
  • New York private collector, reported to be Michael Steinhardt

The figure was sold at Christie's New York on 28 April 2017 (lot 12) for $14,471,500. The sale was subject to a claim from the Republic of Turkey.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Horse in Ancient Greek Art

Attic red-figured column-krater attributed to the Orestes painter.
Virginia private collection.
Source: NSLM
The exhibition, 'The Horse in Ancient Greek Art', will be on show at the National Sporting Library and Museum, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It will include a number of objects from private collections. I hope that the full collecting histories will be provided.

I looked up the Attic red-figured column-krater attributed to the Orestes painter (and featured on the exhibition website). It surfaced in the Fortuna gallery in Zurich in 1980 (and was re-offered in 1983), and then was for sale in the Royal-Athena Galleries, New York in 1983. It was then offered through the Old World Galleries, New York before being auctioned at Christies (June 8, 2004, lot 328) where it was sold for $47,800. It then passed into a Virginia private collection. What was the collecting history of this krater prior to 1980?

I note that other kraters attributed to this painter were found at Agrigento, Camarina (two), Chiusi and Spina. Where was the Virginia krater found? And when? Its fairly complete nature suggests a tomb is quite likely.

This exhibition reminds us of the material in the Virginia MFA that has been identified by Cambridge-based Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return. 
The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael H. Steinhardt, in 2010. Mr. Steinhardt lent the relic to the Met that year, but after learning that Lebanon was disputing its provenance, he asked the Beierwaltes to take it back and compensate him.
The London based dealer has not been named although other legal papers identify one of their sources (discussed by Christos Tsirogiannis, "Mapping the supply: usual suspects and identified antiquities in ‘reputable’ auction-houses in 2013." Cuadernos de Prehistoria y Arqueología 25 [2015] 107-44 [esp. p. 135] ).

William G. Pearlstein, who is acting for Beierwaltes is reported to have said:
“We believe the district attorney’s position is ill-founded, ... The Beierwaltes are bona fide purchasers with clean hands. By contrast, for more than 50 years, Lebanon has failed take any action domestically or internationally to report any theft of the bull’s head.”
As a point of correction, if the head was published 50 years ago, and the civil war was taking place in the 1980s, then the possible removal from the storage facility was only 30 years ago.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is quoted:
“Upon a Met curator’s discovery that this item on loan may have been stolen from government storage during the Lebanese civil war, the museum took immediate action. We contacted the Lebanese government and the lender, we took the item off display, and we have been working with federal and state authorities, which recently involved delivering the head of the bull to the Manhattan D.A. upon its request.”
I am sure that Beierwaltes will disclose the name of the London-based dealer who supplied the bull's head. From there it should be possible to identify the source of the head.

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The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

Source: Toledo Museum of Art

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics and the Toledo Museum of Art." Journal of Art Crime 17: 77-87.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

Detail of Paestan krater
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its part, disputed the suggestion that it had ignored warnings about the vase. Officials said the museum had noticed Dr. Tsirogiannis’s published research in 2014 and, indeed, had been troubled by the reappearance of Mr. Medici’s name in connection with an artifact. They said they reached out informally to the Italian authorities then, but received no response. The museum said that in December 2016 it sent the Italian Culture Ministry a formal request to resolve the case. The Met said it was awaiting guidance from the Italians when Manhattan prosecutors alerted it in June to their own concerns.
It is to be welcomed that the museum has eventually responded to academic concerns.

It is a reminder to other museums that are holding material identified from the Becchina, Medici and Symes photographic archives that they need to engage with the due diligence process and to act ethically and professionally.

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