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Showing posts from 2016

Looking back over 2016

This has been a year when more of my focus has been on the economic impact of heritage including an analysis of the economic contribution of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. Last year I anticipated further developments around Syria and Northern Iraq, as well as on-going pillaging of archaeological sites in England and Wales. I also suspected that Madrid and the Michael C. Carlos Museum would not be handing over their disputed objects in a hurry (and so they can continue to receive a mention here).

However, some of the themes that have emerged.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cultural Property has been meeting in Westminster. One of themes was damage to the archaeological record in the UK. Part of its business has been to prepare the legislation in order to ratify the Hague Convention. The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill started its way through Parliament and some of the debate was instructive. Some of the honing of the wording is underway. Lord Ashton di…

Sueono's Stone

The panels surrounding Sueno's Stone in Moray, Scotland have been damaged earlier this week (BBC News). The 7m high stone dating from the 10th century is in the care of Historic Scotland (HES).

Dinosaur footprints on Skye damaged

1/2 Unfortunately we can confirm we are investigating reported damage to the dinosaur footprints at Staffin yesterday. Were you in the area? — Lochaber&SkyePolice (@LochabSkyePol) December 29, 2016
Police are reporting that dinosaur footprints on the beach at Staffin on Skye, Scotland, have been damaged. It appears that someone poured paster into the imprints. Reports suggest that the person involved was in a camper van.

Further details from the BBC.

Tiffany Jenkins on Cultural Property

I am working my way through Tiffany Jenkins, Keeping their marbles: how the treasures of the past ended up in museums ... and why they should stay there (Oxford: OUP, 2016).

I will refrain from making my comments until I have finished but it is worth pointing out some of the reviews:
Mark Fisher, The Spectator March 2016: "Her level-headed and balanced book -- which not only considers the role of museums in shaping our historical understanding, but notes the way museums are being transformed by an outstanding generation of contemporary architects -- is a valuable contribution to the international debate, and will enrich audiences and scholars for a long time to come."Kwame Opoku, Modern Ghana March 2016 [online]: "Jenkins, like many supporters of retention of artefacts of others, is very quick to argue that repatriating artefacts 'would be allowing modern-day sensibilities to rewrite history ' Seriously, does anybody believe that returning one Benin bronze to Ben…

Relief from temple of Hatshepsut returned to Egypt

AP circulated a press release last week noting that a relief stolen from the temple of Hatshepsut in 1975 had been returned to Egypt from London (e.g. "Egypt receives ancient stolen limestone relief", Daily Mail December 20, 2016). It appears that the relief had been purchased from a gallery in Spain by a London based dealer.

Which gallery in Spain?

I am particularly interested in the identity of the London dealer as due diligence in the London market is a major theme of the APPG on Cultural Property.

Charges against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener

ARCA has provided a text-base version of the charges against New York dealer Nancy Wiener [see here].
There are some points to note:
apparent falsification of the collecting history ("provenance") of an objectapparent consigning genuine objects with other works to provide cover when passing through customsweakness in the policy for accepting lots by a major New York auction housethe apparent changing of a stated collecting history by the same major New York auction house We are particularly interested in co-conspirator #6:
Co-Conspirator #6 and his father are suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to several recorded conversations, Co-Conspirator #6 has been shipping large quantities of newly dug-up, stolen antiquities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Thailand, often via Hong Kong, and then to dealers from around the world for more than a decade. We note:
Co-Conspirator #6, who in the mid-1980s was a child living in Pakistan…

Happy Christmas 2016

I would like to wish all readers and followers of Looting Matters a very Happy Christmas.

Arrest of New York dealer

The New York Times is reporting continuing fall-out over the antiquities from Asia case (Tom Mashberg, "Prominent Antiquities Dealer Accused of Selling Stolen Artifacts", New York Times December 21, 2016). The case relates to Nancy Wiener.

The complaint states:
“Defendant used a laundering process that included restoration services to hide damage from illegal excavations, straw purchases at auction houses to create sham ownership histories, and the creation of false provenance to predate international laws of patrimony prohibiting the exportation of looted antiquities,” Such claims undermine the position of the market at a time when dealers are claiming to conduct due diligence. How common is the creation of "sham ownership histories"? What about placing objects in collections so that they pre-date the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

Jason Felch adds an important observation:
“Even after a decade of reforms, the art market continues to be pervaded with stolen and looted an…

Cultural Property APPG Meeting (December 2016)

The Cultural Property APPG met this afternoon (see also statement from "Walk of Truth"). There were two main themes: the first, the movement of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill through Parliament; the second, enforcement.

It made me reflect on what constituted cultural material with a "worldwide significance", perhaps prompted by some who wanted to ensure that they could continue to trade in low value pieces. (And readers might want to reflect on what pieces of cultural property have truly "worldwide significance".) Is there an over-reliance on the Red List (e.g. for Syria)? I have observed that some objects that appear to be derived from Syria and that are surfacing on the London market are in categories that do not feature in the list. Should we be concerned about them?

We await the formal minutes of the meeting.

Lord Ashton on the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

Lord Ashton used the Heritage Alliance "Heritage Day" on 1 December 2016 to draw attention to the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill that is currently moving its way through Parliament. In his speech (available here from DCMS) he noted:
I have responsibility in the House of Lords for the passage of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill. It will protect cultural property at home and abroad; introduces the Blue Shield – an emblem which is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross; and makes it a prosecutable offence to deal in unlawfully exported cultural property from an occupied territory.  More than six decades after signing it, we will become the first Permanent Member of the UN Security Council to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols. Lord Ashton also answered some questions.

For some of the themes of the "Heritage Day" see here.

Vibia Sabina and the Kyknos krater

Dr Christos Tsiriogiannis has published a significant study of the routes by which the marble statue of Vibia Sabina and the Kyknos krater passed through the market.

Christos Tsirogiannis, "False Closure? Known Unknowns in Repatriated Antiquities Cases", International Journal of Cultural Property 23 (2016) 407-31. [Cambridge University Press online]

Based on research into the confiscated photographic and document archives in the hands of the top antiquities dealers (Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides, Robert Hecht, Giacomo Medici, and Gianfranco Becchina), so far more than 250 looted and smuggled masterpieces have been repatriated from the most reputable North American museums, private collections, and galleries, mainly to the Italian and the Greek states. Most of these repatriations were advertised in the press as voluntary action by the institutions and the individuals who possessed them. However, this is far from true; the repatriations were the results of lengthy n…

An Apulian Situla, the Becchina Archive, and a Munich Auction

The forthcoming auction at Gorny & Mosch is due to include an Apulian situla attributed to the Lycurgus painter (Lot 87). The collecting history is presented:
Aus der James Stirt Collection, Vevey in der Schweiz, erworben 1997 bei Heidi Vollmöller, Zürich. Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has pointed out that an image of the situla appears in the Becchina archive. He notes: "A handwritten note indicates that the images were sent from Raffaele Montichelli, a convicted antiquities trafficker, to Becchina on 18 March 1988". The image shows that the situla is covered in salt encrustations and is presumably relatively fresh out of the ground.

It is known that part of the James Stirt collection was derived from Ellie Borowski (e.g. an Athenian black-figured cup that passed through Christie's London in 2014 [see Beazley Archive]). In this case the source is Heidi Vollmöller of Zurich.

Dale Trendall [not Sir John Boardman as in the catalogue] described the Lycurgus painter as repres…

A Gnathian squat lekythos and the Becchina Archive

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that a Gnathian squat lekythos that is due to be auctioned by Gorny & Mosch (lot 127). The collecting history is provided:
Ex Christie´s London, 15.04.2015, ex 113; aus der Privatsammlung von Hans Humbel, Schweiz, erworben bei der Galerie Arete, Zürich in den frühen 1990er Jahren. Tsirogiannis points out that the Becchina photograph is dated to 24 September 1988. The objects appear to have been supplied by Raffaele Montichelli.

The significance of the collecting history is that the object was offered for auction at Christie's (London) on 15 April 2015 (lot 113). This is one of four lots withdrawn from the Christie's sale after Tsirogiannis had raised concerns about their collecting histories. It is perhaps noteworthy that the online Christie's catalogue has removed information about the askos.

This raises a number of questions:

Was the askos sold at Christie's in spite of being withdrawn?Was the askos returned to its vendor?Is th…

An Etruscan bronze athlete from an old Swiss collection

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has drawn attention to four items in the December sale of antiquities at Gorny & Mosch in Munich.

I am particularly interested in the fifth century BC Etruscan bronze figure of a youth. The collecting history is given as follows:
Ex Sammlung R.G., Deutschland. Bei Royal Athena Galleries, New York, Catalogue XXI, 2010, 43. Ex Sotheby´s Catalogue of Antiquities 13. Juli 1981, 341. If we tidy this up, it could be presented as:
R.G. Collection, Germany; Sotheby's (London) 13 July 1981, lot 341; Royal Athena Galleries, New York, Catalogue XXI, 2010, no. 43. However if you check the Royal-Athena Galleries catalogue for 2010, the following collecting history is provided:
Athos Moretti collection, Bellinzona, Switzerland; Royal-Athena Galleries, 1985; R.G. Collection, Calodyne, Mauritius, 1985-2008. From my notes on the piece I can provide a little more information:
Athos Moretti collection, Bellinzona, Switzerland; Sotheby's (London) 13-14 July 1981, lot …

New Surfacings and Re-surfacings in Germany

Cambridge based archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogannis has made a number of new identifications for items that are due to be auctioned by Gorny & Mosch in Munich on 14 December 2016.

Below is a text based on Tsirogiannis' notes and reproduced with his permission.

1. An Etruscan bronze figure of a youth (lot 19)
Mid 5th century B.C.
Collecting history: 'Ex Sammlung R.G., Deutschland. Bei Royal Athena Galleries, New York, Catalogue XXI, 2010, 43. Ex Sotheby´s Catalogue of Antiquities 13. Juli 1981, 341'.
Tsirogiannis had previously identified the same figure from the Symes archive when it was on offer in the Royal Athena Galleries on October 2010. It was one of several pieces identified from the Medici and the Becchina archives. In January 2011 these identifications were presented in brief through 'Looting Matters' and by the Italian journalist Fabio Isman in Il Giornale dell'Arte (see here). It is unclear why this piece has resurfaced given the earlier discus…

Collecting histories and the Chesterman collection

Now that Bonhams has withdrawn an Etruscan antefix from its auction due to what appear to be links with the Medici Dossier it is important that the collecting histories of the Chesterman collection of terracottas are explored and investigated.

Are any of the sources for these terracottas ones that are already known from the hundreds of objects already returned to Greece and Italy?

Anglo-Saxon jewellery declared treasure

A piece of Anglo-Saxon jewellery discovered by a metal-detectorist in a Norfolk field near Diss has been declared Treasure ("Anglo-Saxon find in Norfolk declared treasure", BBC News November 29, 2016; see also "Anglo-Saxon pendant: Norfolk student makes 'royal' find", BBC News February 27, 2015). A subsequent excavation showed that this came from a female burial.

Bonhams withdraws ex-Chesterman lot

Bonhams has withdrawn the Etruscan antefix from its sale of antiquities after images of what appeared to be the piece were identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in the Medici Dossier.

The staff of Bonhams now need to reflect on their due diligence process and perhaps the auction house's use of "stolen" art databases. It has been pointed out at the APPG in Westminster that there are clear issues about the over reliance of such databases for identifying recently surfaced archaeological objects.

The decision to withdraw the lot will presumably imply a detailed analysis of the Chesterman collection and the origins of each of the terracottas.

The Medici Dossier and the James Chesterman collection

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has made another identification from the Medici Dossier. The piece in question is a 6th century BC Etruscan terracotta antefix that is due to be auctioned in London later this month (Bonhams 30 November 2016, lot 14). The collecting history ("provenance") is given as:
James Chesterman Collection (1926-2014), formed in the UK in the 1970s-2000. With À la Reine Margot, Paris, acquired in December 1986. The antefix appears in two images, one as a standard Polaroid, the other as a record card for the Hydra Gallery. Hydra Galerie has been associated with Medici and has been discussed before, for example:
The Medici PanFragments of the Euphronios cup formerly in the J. Paul Getty Museum It is not clear why Bonham's has not mentioned Hydra Galerie in the collecting history. But note that on the card there is the annotation that the piece was to be assigned "v[ia] Londr[a]" with a value of $1,500.

The association with James Chesterman clearly has…

So-called provenance and collecting histories

The latest number of the International Journal of Cultural Property (IJCP) 23.3 (August 2016) has a cluster of papers that will be of interest. The starting point is Elizabeth Marlowe's, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Provenance: A Response to Chippindale and Gill" [DOI], pp. 217-236.
In an influential article published in 2000, David Gill and Christopher Chippindale devised a scale to assess the quality of the provenance information provided for the antiquities displayed in seven recent high-profile exhibitions or collections. This article critically reviews Chippindale and Gill’s provenance scale, arguing that the values it encodes legitimize some of the more intellectually harmful practices of dealers and curators. The scale also fails to differentiate between more intellectually responsible methods of hypothesizing provenance and those that merely generate houses of cards. An alternative model for assessing how antiquities are discussed in museum scholarship,…

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill: Second Reading

The Hansard text of the second reading of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill on Monday 31 October 2016 has now been made available.

Some highlights in the debate (that ranged over a number of cultural issues beyond the Bill) include:
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Karen Bradley): "We are lucky to have a highly professional and dedicated heritage and museum sector that works extremely hard to preserve our heritage and bring the story of our history to life. This work helps attract visitors to our shores too. We also have a duty to help protect the culture and heritage of other countries, for they are part of our shared inheritance as human beings."Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): "Can she assure the House that after the 62 years we have waited since we signed the treaty, there will not be another 62 years until the Government bring it into effect?"Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): raised an important issue about clause 17 and "u…

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [pdf] will have its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 31 October 2016 (see timetable).

The Bill will "enable the United Kingdom to implement the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 and the Protocols to that Convention of 1954 and 1999".

The House of Commons Library analysis (25 October 2016) can be found here.

The aims of the Bill are as follows:

create offences to protect cultural property (as defined by the Convention) in the event of armed conflict create offences relating to the unauthorised use of the “Blue Shield” – the emblem used to identify cultural property protected under the Convention and its Protocols make it an offence to deal in cultural property illegally exported from occupied territory introduce immunity from seizure for cultural property which is being transported to, or through, the UK for safekeeping
There has been considerable discussi…

Draped goddess from "a distinguished private collection"

Christie's is due to be auctioning a 'Roman marble draped goddess' in their auction at the Rockefeller Plaza, New York on 25 October 2016 (lot 92). It is recorded as the "property from a distinguished private collection". The collecting history ("provenance") is provided as: "with Perpitch Gallery, Paris"; and acquired from there by the current owner "prior to 1991". The estimated value is $100,000 to $150,000.

1991 is some distance in time from the benchmark date of 1970 provided by the UNESCO Convention.

The goddess appears to be the same as the one identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in the Schinoussa Archive. This suggests that the goddess, at some point, passed through the hands of Robin Symes.

Why is the collecting history for the goddess that appears in the sale catalogue incomplete? Had the due diligence process failed to make the apparent link with Symes? How had the object's history between 1970 and 1991 been explain…

Arrests in Greece

News is emerging of 26 arrests linked to a network supplying antiquities (including coins) to outlets in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK (Helen Stoilas, "Police in Greece arrest 26 in bust of alleged antiquities smuggling ring", The Art Newspaper 5 October 2016). It appears that more than 50 people were involved in the network.

It is reported:
The two alleged ringleaders of the gang were arrested on Sunday at the Greek-Bulgarian border, and had almost 1,000 coins and small artefacts hidden in the bumper of their car. Police said they have recovered a cache of more than 2,000 objects, mostly coins, but including gold jewellery, bronze figurines, ancient glassware and some larger stone and marble statues. A number of metal detectors were recovered.

A spokesperson for the Greek police is mentioned, "Police said the works were sold using fake provenance documents attributing them to private collections in Europe, but that the auction houses involved (which have no…

Spotlight on European collections

Following the recent return of antiquities from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek to Italy, the spotlight will be on other European collections that contain archaeological material that appears to have been derived from Italy. Among the museums are:
Amsterdam, Allard Pierson Museum. Some 15 disputed objects linked to Ellie Borowski, Palladion Antike Kunst, and Robin Symes.Berlin, Altes Museum. Tomb group containing Apulian pottery.Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden. Cavalry armour derived from a Swiss dealer.Madrid, Museo Arqueologico Nacional. 22 objects identified from the Medici Dossier and the Becchina archive. [See also here.] The Italian authorities will no doubt be negotiating with each of these institutions to secure the return of this material.

Architectural terracottas from Pyrgi

It now appears that some of the architectural terracottas returned from Copenhagen to Italy [press release] were derived from the Etruscan sanctuary site at Pyrgi, the port serving Cerveteri. It is unclear why the museum authorities in Denmark have been so reluctant to disclose a full list of what has been returned. What is becoming clear is that many of the objects were handled by or associated with individuals such as Robert Hecht, Giacomo Medici, and Fritz Bürki.

Other European museums, especially those in Germany, Holland and the UK, need to be looking carefully at objects that were acquired from these same sources.

Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Policy on the Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts

I am grateful to a colleague for sending me detail of the Society of Biblical Literature's policy on Scholarly Presentation and Publication of Ancient Artifacts. It is an endorsement of ASOR's Policy on Professional Conduct. There is a pointer to ASOR's Section III.E:
studies of the past are enhanced when an artifact is clearly associated with an intact archaeological context. Artifacts which lack a defined archaeological findspot or provenience have a greater potential to undermine the integrity of archaeological heritage in view of the possibility of admitting suspect artifacts into archaeological heritage. Looting is an illegal act that breaks the association between artifact and context. A looted artifact may be considered stolen property. Therefore, archaeological heritage that is looted is more likely to travel through illicit channels of distribution and/or exportation, which involve processes that may mask or confuse the identification of the artifact or its true f…

Silver phiale acquired in honour of Thomas P. Campbell

I note that the AAMD object registry has listed an Athenian gold-figured silver phiale that has been acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 2015.260.3). It had been placed on loan from June 2014.

The collecting history is given as follows:
[By 2001, with Ariadne Galleries, New York and London]; 2001, purchased by Mary and Michael Jaharis from Ariadne Galleries, New York; 2001-2015, collection of Mary and Michael Jaharis, New York; acquired in 2015, gift of Mary and Michael Jaharis in honor of Thomas P. Campbell. Thus the history cannot be traced back to the period prior to 1970.

What information has been provided by the Ariadne Galleries? What is the extent of the due diligence search?

Interestingly the weight is given as 14.6 oz, the equivalent of over 400 g, close to the equivalent of 100 drachmas or 1 mina. Comparable pieces have been found at Duvanli in Bulgaria.

It would be difficult for the MMA if an object presented in honour of its director was found to ha…

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek: Terracottas

Further details are emerging on the Etruscan architectural terracottas that have been returned from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen to Italy.

Here is a selection of the architectural terracottas from the return. They are suggestive of material from several Etruscan temples in the region of Cerveteri.

HIN 696-703. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, pp. 28-29, no. 1 HIN 704. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, pp. 38-39, no. 7  HIN 705. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, p. 38, no. 7HIN 706. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, pp. 38-39, no. 7  HIN 707. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, pp. 38-39, no. 7  HIN 708. Raking simas. Similar to pieces from Cerveteri. Christiansen & Winter 2010, pp. 38-40, no. 7  HIN 709, 710. Revetment plaques. Similar to piece…