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Another Bronze Seized by NYC D.A.


Al Kowsky

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This time a bronze bust of a lady was seized from the Worcester Art Museum in Britain, as reported from the TELEGRAM & GAZETTE. The bronze bust is valued at $5 million, is 21.5 in. high, & thought to be a daughter of Marcus Aurelius. It looks like the program of repatriation of stolen objects is snowballing 😂.

Portrait_of_a_Lady_(Perhaps_a_Daughter_of_Marcus_Aurelius)_AD_160-180_bronze_-_Worcester_Art_Museum_-_IMG_7704(1).jpg.408b9d32e51fa8780f3e91e4019ce43b.jpg

https://www.telegram.com/story/news/local/2023/09/02/worcester-art-museum-gives-likely-stolen-roman-bust-to-manhattan-da/70742896007/

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"The Manhattan district attorney's office has been conducting an ongoing investigation into a smuggling network involving antiquities looted from Bubon in southwestern Turkey and trafficked through Manhattan."

So part of the same investigation that saw the other statute seized it seems.

"The museum said it purchased "Portrait of a Lady (A Daughter of Marcus Aurelius?)" in October 1966. At that time, the museum was provided with limited information about the object’s history. The museum was informed by the vendor that it had been found in southwestern Anatolia (the Roman province of Lycia) that same year. Although the museum conducted its own research at that time, it now acquires objects with greater diligence," the museum said.

Hmm sounds like they probably had a good idea it was looted when they first received it but things were different in the 60s so they played dumb. Probably didn't take much pushing for them to decide to give it up I would imagine.

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1 hour ago, Al Kowsky said:

This time a bronze bust of a lady was seized from the Worcester Art Museum in Britain

Wasn't it the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, MA?

5 minutes ago, Kaleun96 said:

Hmm sounds like they probably had a good idea it was looted when they first received it but things were different in the 60s so they played dumb. Probably didn't take much pushing for them to decide to give it up I would imagine.

I have the impression that provenance wasn't a big thing back then. Recently I found it intriguing that a 1975 auction catalog (ancient coins) I was perusing through didn't have a single mention of provenance. I assume that's because it predated the MOU's and so people didn't really care unless it was previously owned by someone famous.

Ultimately, if an object can be proven to have been looted, then the best thing is to return it. However, I do wish someone would hand Bragg the info about the Elgin Marbles and the Bassae Frieze...

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55 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

However, I do wish someone would hand Bragg the info about the Elgin Marbles and the Bassae Frieze...

The Bassae Frieze was bought by the British Museum at auction in 1815, after a group of archaeologists uncovered it with permission from Veli Pasha, the Turkish commander of the Peloponnese. The Greeks now call the payment made to Veli Pasha a 'small bribe', but that was what was requested. No looting was involved. I'm not saying Veli Pasha was a great cultural ambassador - he made a habit of selling artefacts - but it's not as if anyone stole them, least of all the British Museum. In fact, if this happened under the rules in Britain today, the finders would've been entitled to be paid for them anyway and the Ottomans entitled to buy them.

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28 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

The Bassae Frieze was bought by the British Museum at auction in 1815, after a group of archaeologists uncovered it with permission from Veli Pasha, the Turkish commander of the Peloponnese. The Greeks now call the payment made to Veli Pasha a 'small bribe', but that was what was requested. No looting was involved. I'm not saying Veli Pasha was a great cultural ambassador - he made a habit of selling artefacts - but it's not as if anyone stole them, least of all the British Museum. In fact, if this happened under the rules in Britain today, the finders would've been entitled to be paid for them anyway and the Ottomans entitled to buy them.

I visited the temple at Bassae recently and recall most of the signs there making it very clear that in the Greek opinion they were looted. I'm not an expert in this area of law (or law in general) but I suspect the Greeks would argue that the Veli Parsha was not authorized in selling them since the territory was illegally occupied at the time. This of course wouldn't be the first case where one country occupies another, takes important historical artifacts, and then later on that country wants them back.

My feeling is that it's an incredible shame that the temple is perfectly preserved save for the friezes, which are also preserved but in a different country. It would be absolutely tremendous IMHO to put them back on the temple, then construct a building around the whole thing where visitors could walk around it both above and below and see what a Greek temple actually looked like. There are friezes from temples that no longer stand, but I would prefer to see those from the handful we have left kept in the same place.

Here are some photos I took of what remains.

331A7268-Edit.jpg.80027f2cca242dca83a05b4ed3d77f03.jpg

331A7269-Edit.jpg.1e93b995a057a2f705943fd20d0932a1.jpg

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18 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

I visited the temple at Bassae recently and recall most of the signs there making it very clear that in the Greek opinion they were looted. I'm not an expert in this area of law (or law in general) but I suspect the Greeks would argue that the Veli Parsha was not authorized in selling them since the territory was illegally occupied at the time. This of course wouldn't be the first case where one country occupies another, takes important historical artifacts, and then later on that country wants them back.

My feeling is that it's an incredible shame that the temple is perfectly preserved save for the friezes, which are also preserved but in a different country. It would be absolutely tremendous IMHO to put them back on the temple, then construct a building around the whole thing where visitors could walk around it both above and below and see what a Greek temple actually looked like. There are friezes from temples that no longer stand, but I would prefer to see those from the handful we have left kept in the same place.

Here are some photos I took of what remains.

331A7268-Edit.jpg.80027f2cca242dca83a05b4ed3d77f03.jpg

331A7269-Edit.jpg.1e93b995a057a2f705943fd20d0932a1.jpg

It's a different argument to say, "Why don't we work together to reconstuct the ancient world with what we all have?", to "Hey, you stole that from us back in the day," (even though you didn't), "How about we force you or try to shame you into sending it back now?"

Not that they would be put back on the temple. They'd go into a museum as they are now.

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2 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

It's a different argument to say, "Why don't we work together to reconstuct the ancient world with what we all have?", to "Hey, you stole that from us back in the day," (even though you didn't), "How about we force you or try to shame you into sending it back now?"

Not that they would be put back on the temple. They'd go into a museum as they are now.

The thing is you have one side (the Greeks) saying "hey! that was originally in Greece and we didn't give you permission to take it, so we want it back" and the other side (the UK) saying "hey! By our standards and laws we lawfully exported it from the then Ottoman Empire and so we're not giving it back." So, you have a case that by Greek standards the frieze was looted but by British standards they were not, and both are correct.

The other problem is that if the UK were "good sports" about the matter and returned everything that was acquired when those cultures had little ability to dictate what should stay in their country and what should not, then the British Museum would be empty. 🙂

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1 hour ago, Deinomenid said:

Not pinning this one on us!

I was at that museum a few weeks ago, and  been there a few times  and it was not there.

 

My mistake 🙄. I don't know why I thought it was the museum in Britain, maybe because the BM in London is loaded with looted art objects 😏.

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6 hours ago, kirispupis said:

It doesn't, when matters of cultural identity are involved. 

I'm not sure how that's going to work. Does that mean the US can keep anything it likes from, say, ancient Israel, because it has a Jewish community? It's their stuff, after all. What if the Palestinians controlled Jerusalem? Or, by now, is everyone related to 2000+ year old Jewish culture?
 

8 hours ago, kirispupis said:

The other problem is that if the UK were "good sports" about the matter and returned everything that was acquired when those cultures had little ability to dictate what should stay in their country and what should not, then the British Museum would be empty. 🙂

The British Museum, US museums and many museums around the world are still buying plenty at auction - legitimately according to today's laws - that in 100 years the country of 'origin' could demand back on cultural grounds. Quite a lot of Van Gogh's paintings aren't in the Netherlands. Yale is always buying rare manuscripts that aren't American. Famously, London Bridge is in Arizona. We're going to have to come up with a rule about what's too important to export that works across both time and migration and assimilation patterns.

The main problem, of course, is what constitutes 'ability to dictate what should stay in the country'. I don't always agree with our politicians now, let alone those from 200 years ago. Do I have to go along with their decisions of what's important? And, of course, today this question is mostly decided on a museum's ability to pay, which certain very rich people (many in the US) are able to trump.

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4 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

I'm not sure how that's going to work. Does that mean the US can keep anything it likes from, say, ancient Israel, because it has a Jewish community? It's their stuff, after all. What if the Palestinians controlled Jerusalem? Or, by now, is everyone related to 2000+ year old Jewish culture?

I'm not going to get into the slippery slope of Israeli/Jewish cultural identity, but when you have an artifact that a culture uses as a means of identification, and if that culture has a country that's roughly synonymous with it, then that culture/country will want that artifact housed within its own borders. Keep in mind that this is not a legal definition. I'm not saying that the artifact must be restored, just that the country will certainly want it back.

4 hours ago, John Conduitt said:

The British Museum, US museums and many museums around the world are still buying plenty at auction - legitimately according to today's laws - that in 100 years the country of 'origin' could demand back on cultural grounds. Quite a lot of Van Gogh's paintings aren't in the Netherlands. Yale is always buying rare manuscripts that aren't American. Famously, London Bridge is in Arizona. We're going to have to come up with a rule about what's too important to export that works across both time and migration and assimilation patterns.

The main problem, of course, is what constitutes 'ability to dictate what should stay in the country'. I don't always agree with our politicians now, let alone those from 200 years ago. Do I have to go along with their decisions of what's important? And, of course, today this question is mostly decided on a museum's ability to pay, which certain very rich people (many in the US) are able to trump.

This is all very true. There are numerous cases where cultural identities get entangled and laws frustrate. Take for example the Bust of Nefertiti, which was obtained under dubious legal standing but is now the cultural symbol of Berlin.

I've mentioned before that my wife's family were victims of these laws. There used to be a large Jewish community in Tajikistan, but when they obtained independence from the USSR, her family was denied Tajik citizenship because their passports stated 'Jew'. Businesses were seized from them and their synagogues were destroyed. Her family, along with most of the community, fled to the US and Israel.

However, their prayer books, which were in the family for centuries, were considered the "cultural property of Tajikistan" and they were forbidden from taking them. Their gold coins from the tsars' times were also property of Tajikistan. They buried the prayer books. Since they couldn't even sell the coins locally, because if people found out you were emigrating they killed you, they buried them too.

Perhaps someday someone will dig them up, and again they'll be considered part of the Tajik heritage and forbidden from export.

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