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The Becchina archive, a Minoan larnax, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

More than 10 years ago, back in 2007, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis identified two pieces in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, a Minoan larnax and a pithos, with photographs from the Becchina archive. There is a case number with the General Secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture: prot. no. 61/1-6-2007.

In 2015 the Italian authorities revealed a major collection of antiquities, worth some 50 million Euros, seized from Becchina in Switzerland. The Becchina archive itself contains some 10,000 photographs and 200 bundles of receipts. These images have led to the identification, largely by Tsirogiannis, of a substantial number of items in public and private collections as well as from auction houses and galleries.

A museum director who was faced with the identification of objects, i.e. more than one object, in their collection from this contentious source would no doubt wish to resolve the issue, not least because there is an obligation under the AAMD guidelines (2013). These state:
If a member…
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A Mosaic from an Anonymous Collector

In September 2013 the Michael C. Carlos Museum installed a mosaic showing Achilles and Penthesilea before Troy in the galleries. A little more information appeared in the Fall 2013 / Winter 2014 number of the journal of the Michael C. Carlos Museum [online]. The Director, Bonnie Speed, was full of praise for the "monumental third- to fourth-century Roman mosaic, offered to the Museum on long-term loan by a very generous donor".

Who is this anonymous donor? There was a time when the museum at Emory University was leading the way in ethical loans of archaeological material (see here). 

We are told the panels "once decorated the floor of a sumptuous Roman villa". Where was that villa?

What is the history of the panels? When did they surface?

The answers to these questions are not provided in the publications of the Michael C. Carlos museum. If they were known, the information would have been stated.

Speed is a member of the AAMD. In 2013 the AAMD revised the Guidelin…

The Steinhardt collection and the Medici dossier

Among the antiquities seized from Michael Steinhardt was a Protocorinthian owl that had been acquired in 2009 for $130,000 (see Search Warrant).  A comparison can be found in the Louvre.

The Steinhardt owl appears in the Medici Dossier. How was it acquired by Steinhardt? What was the migration route?

See also the 20th century "imitation" donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum by Jiri Frel in 1979.

I am grateful to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for sharing the image with me.

Sources for Steinhardt seizure revealed

I am grateful to Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for sharing information about the items seized from the collection of Michael Steinhardt and from the displays at Phoenix Ancient Art in Manhattan.

The Attic white-ground lekythos has been identified from images in the Schinousa Archive showing that it was part of the stock of Robin Symes. Notice the deposits still on the lekythos. When was the lekythos cleaned? Who did the cleaning?

The other Steinhardt pieces are identified in the Medici Dossier as well as the Becchina Archive.

The pieces from Phoenix Ancient Art include items identified from the Medici Dossier (at least 3 items) and the Becchina Archive (at least 1 item).

I expect that the routes through which these pieces passed will be revealed shortly.


Phoenix Ancient Art responds to seizures

A spokesperson for Phoenix Ancient Art has responded to the seizures of antiquities that took place last week (see Search Warrant listing the items). In a statement to Artnet News ("New York Antiques Dealer Phoenix Fine Art Raided on Suspicion of Selling Looted Artifacts", 11 January 2018) it was stated:
“We immediately notified the US private collection that consigned the works to us of the situation, and we do know that the works have a long museum exhibition history spanning from the Geneva Musée d’art et d’Histoire, 1978–1981, and at the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1984–1996.” The temporary display of recently surfaced antiquities in public museums is an interesting one. How are these documented? What about the display of the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask in Geneva? And was the (anonymous?) loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum by a dealer or a collector? This recalls the loan of fragments of the Berlin painter krater, a pot that was subsequently returned to Italy.

Should museum…

Steinhardt collection under scrutiny

The seizures from the Steinhardt collection last week, as well as the connection with the Eshmun sculptures, the Paestan tomb fragment, and the gold phiale from Sicily, means that gifts from that source will now be under scrutiny.

When questions were raised about objects associated with Edoardo Almagià, some museum curators took the matter seriously. Maxwell Anderson, who did so much to address the issue of looting when he was at Emory University, took the initiative and returned a series of objects that had been acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art.

What are the full histories for the objects that have been donated by Steinhardt?

Further seizures in Manhattan

Last Friday the New York State District Attorney's Office raided Phoenix Ancient Art in Manhattan and removed six items (see "List of 6 (additional) objects and warrant details on objects seized from Phoenix Ancient Art by New York State District Attorney's Office", ARCA 9 January 2018). The items include Protocorinthian and East Greek perfumed-oil containers, an Attic head jug, and a Teano ware dove. The dove is almost certainly from an Italian context, and the other objects are types frequently found in funerary contexts in Italy. Together the items are valued at $450,000. The objects appear to be the ones noted in the New York Times: "another six pieces on display at the Phoenix Ancient Art Gallery on 66th Street".

The seizure appears to be linked to the case of Steinhardt.

The full histories of the objects have not been disclosed. What is the authenticated documentary history for each of the items? Did each one surface prior to 1970?


I am reminded that …