Bonhams withdraw Roman sculptures with 'Medici link ' from auction
Thursday 29 April 2010
A collection of Roman sculptures that was due to be sold at Bonhams auction house in London yesterday has been withdrawn amid concerns that the statues may have originally been illegally excavated.
The concerns were raised by Cambridge researcher and archaeologist, Christos Tsirogiannis and Dr David Gill from Swansea University. Bonhams's lot 137 – a first or second century AD Roman marble figure of a youth – was sold at Sotheby's in 1986, according to Bonhams in the object's collecting history.
In his Looting Matters blog, Dr Gill compares a polaroid photo taken of one of the statues illegally trafficked by the antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici, with the marble figure withdrawn from Bonhams's sale. It appears - almost beyond reasonable doubt - that the statue sold in 1986 as lot 287, lot 137 withdrawn from Bonhams this week, and the looted statue that passed through Medici's hands, are all one and the same.
As Dr Gill puts it: "The issue is why didn't Bonhams suspect this sale?"
Dalya Alberge in the Guardian reports that police have seized photos of four sculptures, which include the marble statue of the youth and three Roman busts, and that Bonhams is now conducting an internal investigation into the history of the items.
The paper also quotes Lord Renfrew, a noted British archaeologist who is vociferous on the subject, as saying: “Such sales are maintaining London's reputation as a clearing house for looted antiquities.”
While objects up for sale at Bonhams are checked against the Art Loss Register (a database of stolen artworks including antiquities), this register does not provide information on antiquities that have been illegally excavated and removed from the ground.
In 2008 Bonhams withdrew 10 lots from an auction 24 hours before the sale was to go ahead after the Italian government raised questions over the provenance of the Roman artefacts.
Question marks remains over the due diligence carried out by Bonhams if looted antiquities are able slip through the net and onto its catalogues. The other three sculptures that were withdrawn from yesterday's sale are three Roman funerary busts that, according to Looting Matters, were once part of the archive of disgraced art dealer Robin Symes, who was jailed in 2005 and whose name has been linked to Giacomo Medici.
Giacomo Medici's fall from grace has been documented in the book The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...