Friday, June 9, 2017

Stela anthemion surfaces at Sotheby's

Images:
L, Sotheby's;
R, Becchina archive (courtesy of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis)
Sotheby's will have bad memories of their antiquities department in London. The auction-house has restarted antiquities sales in London and on Monday 12 June they will be offering a marble stela anthemion with the personal name, Hestiaios (lot 8).

The collecting history is provided as follows:
  • John Hewett, Bog Farm, Kent, 1960s 
  • New York art market, acquired from the above on November 3rd, 1980 
  • American private collection American family trust (Sotheby’s New York, December 10th, 2008, no. 28, illus.) Sold for $116,500.
  • acquired by the present owner at the above sale 
  • Christie's, London, King Street, October 24th, 2013, no. 32, illus. Apparently unsold.
A parallel is suggested for Rhamnous in eastern Attica.

Yet Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that the anthemion appears in the Becchina archive. The Becchina paperwork suggests that the piece was in his hands from 1977 until 1990, and then passed to George Ortiz. If this does indeed prove to be the case then the fragment appears to have been provided with a falsified collecting history (that can be traced back to the 2008 sale at Sotheby's). This would indicate that there has been a major failure in the due diligence process by the auction-house.

I am sure that Sotheby's will want to withdraw the lot from its sale and that the present owner would be advised to negotiate with the Greek authorities to arrange its return.

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