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Greece Archaeology Archives • Elginism

Showing results 1 - 12 of 247 for the category: Greece Archaeology.

June 24, 2019

Greek bid to reject Sotheby’s lawsuit over bronze horse rejected

Posted at 12:42 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

An interesting, legal appeal involving disputed Greek artefacts has been taking place in the courts of New York state.

8th century BC bronze horse Sculpture owned by the descendants of art collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet

8th century BC bronze horse Sculpture owned by the descendants of art collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet

First of all, it is worth looking at the image of the bronze horse sculpture (that is the subject of the case).

It dates from the 8th century BC, but with it’s abstracted elegant form would not look out of place in a contemporary art exhibition.

This is a case where one could easily argue that the art has a value of it’s own purely on an aesthetic basis, separate from what any provenance might prove or dis-prove about it’s origins.

But this gets onto the basis of the story – there is very little provenance.

Our first record of the existence of the sculpture is in the catalogue of the May 6, 1967 Münzen und Medaillen auction in Switzerland.
Before that point we know nothing.

The current owners are the descendants of art collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet. They acquired the piece in 1973 from art dealer Robin Symes who “very probably” acquired it from the 1967 auction.

In the 1970s, Robin Symes was seen as a respected antiquities dealer – however, he has since been unmasked as a key player in an international criminal network that traded in looted archaeological treasures. Now, to the best of my knowledge there is no evidence that he was involved in any wrongdoing in this particular case – however, there is no evidence to the contrary either, other than the 1967 catalogue which gives a start to the item’s provenance.

On May 14th 2018, Sothebys in New York was due to host “The Shape of Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet” auction, which included this item as one of the lots. Meanwhile, Christos Tsirogiannis, an antiquities expert who scours auction catalogues noted this proposed sale and, sent a letter to a criminal intelligence officer at Interpol’s works of art unit stating that:

“Please find attached the three images of a bronze Greek figure of a horse, of the Corinthian type, from the confiscated Symes-Michaelides archive. The same figure is to be auctioned as lot 4 in New York, by Sotheby’s at their 15/4/2018 auction.” After citing the provenance given in Sotheby’s catalogue, he writes “Please notify the American judicial authorities in New York, as well as the Italian and Greek police authorities as it is of paramount importance to examine ‘Münzen and Medaillen AG’ in Basel in order to be discovered the identity of the consignor of this bronze horse back in 1967, a valuable information which will eventually lead to the country where the object was discovered.”

Subsequently, the day before the auction was due to take place, Greece’s Ministry of Culture sent the auction house a letter saying the the bronze horse sculpture was the property of Greece and therefore should be returned to Greece immediately. Sotheby’s withdrew this lot and proceeded with the rest of the auction.

As you may have guessed though, this is far from the end of the story. On June 5th 2018, A lawsuit was filed jointly by the Barnet heirs and Sotheby’s in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. The lawsuit asserted that Greece had interfered in the sale “without lawful justification.”

They sought a Declaratory Judgement that the bronze horse sculpture was “acquired lawfully and in good faith by the late Howard Barnet 45 years ago and has been part of their collection ever since.” They also sought a further ruling the Greece has no ownership rights and that they are permitted to continue with the sale of the work.

The basis of the lawsuit is the assertion by Sotheby’s that there is no factual basis to assert that the Bronze horse belongs to Greece. Once could easily counter this though with the fact that there is also no clear evidence that the sculpture was excavated and removed from Greece legally.

There is a good writeup of the case up to this stage here.

Now, as you might imagine, there are many interested parties keen to block cases such as this, which could potentially disrupt sales of any artefacts where the provenance is unclear. A letter to the Antiquities Trade Gazette by Joanna van der Lande, chairman of the Antiquities Dealers Association, stated that: “long-term damage is being inflicted on both the trade and museums” by the growing number of legal cases surrounding antiquities with long North American provenances.

Moving forward to today, last Friday (21st June), U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla rejected Greece’s claim to dismiss the lawsuit. Greece made the claim under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 US law that establishes the limitations as to whether a foreign sovereign nation (or its agencies) may be sued in U.S. courts.

The reason for the dismissal is under the section of the act that exempts commercial activity, which provides three bases under which a plaintiff can sue a foreign state.

  • When the plaintiff’s claim is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state.
  • When the plaintiff’s claim is based upon an act by the foreign state which is performed in the United States in connection with commercial activity outside the United States.
  • When the plaintiff’s claim is based upon an act by the foreign state which is performed outside the United States in connection with commercial activity outside the United States and which causes a direct effect in the United States

Greece argued that such a broad interpretation of this exclusion “would have a chilling effect on the ability of foreign sovereigns to protect their cultural heritage.”

The US courts argued that the Greek Government engaged in commercial activity by sending the letter to Sotheby’s to halt the sale. They also noted that “some U.S. courts have said acts taken to advance a sovereign country’s cultural mission could be deemed commercial in nature.”

You can read the coverage of this stage of the cases here. Full details of the case are available here.

Whether Greece will appeal against this decision or not is ass yet unclear.

The case highlights some of the issues of handling looted cultural property cases under the current legal frameworks – the onus is generally on the claimant to prove that the items were looted, rather than the current owners to prove that their provenance is sufficient. When many of the illegal excavations took place some years ago and were unrecorded, this is often very tricky to do. From what I have read on the case so far, it is unclear whether any further details of the 1967 sale (particularly the vendor and purchaser) have been revealed in the course of the last year.

While the Foreign Sovereignty Immunity Act has many flaws, we should also not see it as being against restitution cases as such. Only a few days earlier, the court of appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a petition to re-hear a landmark ruling from that the heirs of the art dealers who sold the Guelph Treasure under duress during the Nazi era may pursue their claims in U.S. federal court. The meaning of this is that German state museum must face claims based on allegations of Nazi-looted art in their collections – the result of five years of denying the Guelph Treasure claimants any meaningful attention. How easy it is for a US court to enforce such a case in Germany is a separate question of course. There is a lot that could be learned from saga of Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. a few years ago, where state courts participating in international affairs almost led to a major diplomatic incident between the USA and Russia.

January 11, 2018

Talk in Brussels on Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Elgin’s agent in Athens

Posted at 2:09 pm in Elgin Marbles, Events, Greece Archaeology

The inaugural lecture organised the Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Tatiana Poulou of the Greek Ministry of Culture is giving a lecture in Brussels on Sunday, January 21, 2018 at 14:30. The talk is on Giovanni Battista Lusieri who was Lord Elgin’s agent in Athens. Although Lusieri was charged with documenting Elgin’s actions, most of his works from that period were destroyed in a ship wreck off the coast of Crete (not the Mentor – Elgin’s ship, but the Cambria, some years later).

I’ve heard Tatiana speak previously in Athens and would recommend this talk to anyone interested in the Parthenon Marbles or Greek History from this period.

For further information view the Invitation to talk in Brussels.

From:
Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

The Belgian Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures cordially invites you to its inaugural lecture
on Sunday, January 21, 2018, at 2.30 p.m. Cinquantenaire Museum, Parc du Cinquantenaire 10, 1000 – Brussels

Tatiana POULOU
Archaeologist, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports – Ephorate of Antiquities of Athens
Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Lord Elgin’s Unknown Agent His excavations in Athens and involvement in the removal of the Parthenon Marbles
(Lecture in English)
Welcome by François Roelants du Vivier, Senator Emeritus – President of the BCRPS
Visit our Facebook Page: @parthenonsculpturesreunitedbelgium

A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone Toward Capo di Posilippo

A View of the Bay of Naples, Looking Southwest from the Pizzofalcone Toward Capo di Posilippo

August 4, 2016

Restoration work to start on the Parthenon’s west pediment

Posted at 1:22 pm in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology

The long running Acropolis programme of works on the Acropolis site enters a new phase

The current restoration of the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis has been ongoing for many years now. This week, the go-ahead has been given by the Central Archaeological Council for works to proceed on the West Pediment.

You can read more about the proposals (in Greek) here.

The West end of the Parthenon

The West end of the Parthenon

From:
Greek Reporter

Restoration Work on Parthenon’s Western Pediment to Begin
By Kerry Kolasa-Sikiaridi –
Aug 4, 2016

The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved on Wednesday two projects for the restoration of the upright marble slabs and background wall of the drum which form part of Parthenon’s western pediment.

According to the researchers who presented the two studies, the work involves rescue interventions aimed at dealing with the problems found by restorers in that section of the pediment – mainly cracks formed by various causes. In the future, the studies could be used to evaluate whether it would be useful to add material in place of the two missing slabs, they said.
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May 21, 2015

Greece considers raising archaeological site admission charges

Posted at 9:53 pm in Greece Archaeology

Greek Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis has announced that the country is considering raising the admission fees for Archaeological sites.

In many ways, it is a shame that more of the archaeological sites and museums in Greece aren’t given more autonomy to set their own charges. As far as I am aware, the Acropolis Museum is the only state run institution with any real control over its own budget. As this worked fairly well (the museum has never closed due to strikes), I would have thought that other locations in the country ought to have also transferred to a similar model.

A new ticketing system sounds great (in theory), although Greece has never had the massive waits in queues that every site in Rome seems to. The focus here seems to be more ass using it as an excuse to increase charges than anything else.

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis

From:
ANSA Med

Greece: Athens mulling hikes to ticket prices at museums
18 May, 16:11

Greece’s Culture Ministry has appointed a team of experts that are amining a change in the price structure of tickets to enter Greek museums and archaeological sites, Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis revealed on Monday as Kathimerini online reports. In a response to a question in Parliament, Xydakis said the panel would be examining schemes implemented in other countries and would not be proposing an across-the-board increase in ticket prices.

Xydakis added that the government will also introduce tickets giving access to multiple sites and museums. He said that a new ticketing system would be introduced at the Acropolis from June and would then be extended to the next 59 most popular sites and museums. The minister also indicated that the ministry would like to make greater commercial use of Greece’s heritage via the Internet, including offering more merchandise

April 3, 2014

Summer opening hours for Acropolis Museum

Posted at 1:00 pm in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

Previously I mentioned the new opening hours for the Acropolis. The New Acropolis Museum will also be switching to its summer hours.

One think I really like, is that unlike many places in mainland Europe, the museums are open on Mondays, albeit for shorter hours than normal.

Acropolis Museum

Acropolis Museum

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Thursday April 3, 2014
Leading Greek museums and sites extend visiting hours for new tourist season

A number of the country’s archaeological sites and museums inaugurated extended visiting hours on Tuesday in view of the upcoming tourist season.

The Acropolis and the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Crete’s Knossos, Santorini’s Akrotiri and the sites of Ancient Olympia and Delphi in the Peloponnese were among a group of 33 museums and sites set to operate on the new spring-summer schedule – daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. – through the end of October.
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November 28, 2013

Acropolis Restoration architect Manolis Korres to receive Feltrinelli award

Posted at 2:10 pm in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology

The Manolis Korres, the architect in charge of the Acropolis Restoration has become the first Greek to receive the prestigious Feltrinelli award for his contributions to the field of Archaeology & restorations.

Manolis Korres

Manolis Korres

From:
Greek Reporter

Feltrinelli Int’l Prize Awarded to Greek Professor Manolis Korres
By Sotiria Nikolouli on November 24, 2013

The Feltrinelli International Prize was awarded to Professor of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens Manolis Korres, for his contribution in the field of archeology and restorations.

This international award is the highest distinction awarded by the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei of Rome — one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific academies worldwide founded in 1603 — and in the past has included members of prominent figures such as Galileo. The Feltrinelli International Prize is awarded to personalities who have distinguished themselves for their high contribution in art, literature, history, philosophy, medicine and mathematics. It is awarded once every five years and is accompanied by a significant amount of money. A second award is given alongside an international organization for humanitarian action.
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October 29, 2013

Experiments in Nashville to see how the Parthenon’s frieze would have looked from ground level

Posted at 9:25 am in Acropolis, British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Greece Archaeology, New Acropolis Museum

Because of the current start of ruin of the Parthenon in Athens, many theories about how it would originally have looked are somewhat speculative. The fact that Lord Elgin removed many of the sculptures, in no way helps either.

While looking for something else, I came across information on Emory University’s Parthenon Project. They were aiming to try & see how the frieze on the Parthenon might have originally looked from ground level. This fascinated me, as I spent a lot of time creating 3D models to research this same aspect of the building in 2000.

The viewpoint taken by many, is that due to its location & restricted viewing angle, the frieze would have been barely visible to people viewing the Parthenon on the Acropolis, if they did not already know about it. Even then, their views would be limited, because it would be seen from such a steep angle.

With their Parthenon Project, Emory University’s students aimed to use the replica of the Parthenon in Nashville to test out the various theories about the visibility of the frieze.

Although Nashville’s Parthenon is a close replica of the actual Parthenon, it never had the frieze installed due to a lack of funds. This meant that the first task for the students was to recreate the frieze panels. They did this in a variety of ways, creating them flat & in relief, in colour and in black and white. This use of colour is a very interesting step. We know that the panels were originally painted, but when we visualise them, we still tend to see them as they are today in the Acropolis Museum & British Museum, where the detail on them is formed by the shadows cast & therefore becomes more visible when the light is less diffuse. What had not been tested before was how the painting on the surface of the sculptures would have helped to define them more clearly, making the fine detail far more apparent even in the comparative gloom of the location of the frieze (compared to the metopes which were in bright sunlight).

I would be interested to see this experiment re-attempted in Athens – although I’m not sure where it could be done, as the Parthenon now has no roof. The attic sunlight is breathtaking in its sharpness & I wonder whether the sculptures would still be as clear to see on a summers day there as they were in the Nashville experiment.

Visit the website for the project for far more detail about its aims & the issues they encountered in trying to recreate what was originally there.

From:
Emory University

The Problem: the Visibility of the Parthenon Frieze
By Bonna D. Wescoat

The Parthenon is the most famous ancient Greek building, and its celebrated frieze, dispersed between London, Paris, and Athens, is one of the icons of western art. We view the frieze today at eye level within a museum setting, but originally it was placed at the top of the cella wall behind the surrounding colonnade. The location has baffled scholars, who find a serious disjunction between the high level of articulation and meaning, and the low level of visibility. Scholarly opinion on the visibility of the Parthenon frieze is universally negative. The frieze is described as illegible and fragmented, its position dark and cramped. Photographs tend to confirm the awkwardness of the position. In making this assessment, we are of course seriously hindered by the state of the remains. The reliefs are no longer on the building, and the building no longer has its ceiling and roof.

Scholars and the general public have long admired the precise replica of the Parthenon built in the 1920s in Nashville because it allows us to recapture some of the experience of being in an ancient Greek temple. But there is one very important way in which scholars have not yet mined the value of the Nashville Parthenon: it has the capacity to serve as a crucial tool for understanding the visibility of the Parthenon frieze.
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October 25, 2013

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

Posted at 8:22 am in Events, Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

A bit late posting this, as the event has already started.

The Third International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property is currently taking place in Greece, with events at a variety of locations.

If you want further details of the event, have a look at this web page.

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

4/10/2013

As a follow-up to the Second International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 16-17 October 2012, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports organizes the Third International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property.
The Conference will be held from Wednesday 23 until Saturday 26 October 2013. The opening ceremony, as well as the procedures of the first day will be accommodated in the auditorium of the Acropolis Museum, while the rest sessions from Thursday 24 to Saturday, October 26, will take place in Ancient Olympia (SPAP Conference Center).

The conference program is divided into two main areas:
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August 16, 2013

Greek Archaeological sites open late for full moon on August 21

Posted at 2:48 pm in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology

Many Greek archaeological sites are open late because of the full moon on August 21st. Unfortunately, the Acropolis will close at 8pm, due to health & safety concerns. This has been the case since 2011 and there don’t seem to be any plans to revert to the previous late opening that it enjoyed.

From:
Capital.gr

Friday, 16 August 2013 – 11:47
Greece celebrates night of the full moon on August 21

The night of the full moon on August 21 will be celebrated with free events and open access to major sites, museums and monuments throughout Greece, with open-air performances of music, theatre and even guided tours offered by the culture and sports ministry.

In an announcement, Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos publicly thanked the staff involved in ensuring that the “Under the Light of the Moon” programme is a success, such as archaeologists, museum curators or guards at sites and museums, as well as local authorities for their support.
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May 31, 2013

Germany’s Pfahlbaumuseum will return 8,000 illegally excavated pottery fragments to Greece

Posted at 1:15 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

The Pfahlbaumuseum in Bodensee has agreed to return 8,000 pottery fragments that were illegally excavated in Greece in 1941.

From:
ENET

16:15 Wednesday 29 May 2013
Thousands of Greek antiquities repatriated from Germany

8,000 pottery fragments illegally excavated during Second World War

Germany’s Pfahlbaumuseum will in June return to Greece 8,000 pottery fragments illegally excavated from Thessaly during the Second World War
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March 6, 2013

Greek archaeological sites struggle to handle budget cuts

Posted at 8:57 am in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

More coverage of the effects that the Euro Crisis & Greece’s austerity plans are having on the country’s ancient sites.

From:
USA Today

Greek treasures take a hit
by Nikolia Apostolou, Special for USA TODAY
Updated 9/14/2012 12:05 AM

ATHENS — They survived wars, plunderers, earthquakes, millions of tourists and nearly 2,000 years of time. But they may not survive Greece’s debt crisis.

The great ruins of ancient Greek civilization are being imperiled by massive budget cuts Greece is imposing to qualify for European bailout funds after years of overspending, say preservation experts.
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February 13, 2013

What will happen to the old Acropolis Museum

Posted at 8:54 am in Acropolis, Greece Archaeology

Since the opening of the New Acropolis Museum in 2009, the old museum has sat there next to the the Parthenon, unused & half forgotten.

While it pales in comparison to the new museum, for a long time, it was the showcase for many of the amazing finds from the site. Now it appears that its future is uncertain.

I’m in two minds about this – they should never really have built a permanent structure right in the middle of a historic site in the first place – however, if it is there & in good repair, surely it would make more sense to utilise it in some way that enhances the visitor experience, rather than just abandoning it? Particularly considering the cash strapped situation of the Greek state at present.

From:
Archaeology & Arts (Greece)

Greek archaeologists concerned about the old Acropolis Museum
The Central Archaeological Council decided not to declare it a preservable monument
Friday, 1 February 2013

Regarding the recent decision of the Central Archaeological Council not to declare the old museum as a preservable monument, the Association of Greek Archaeologists issued a press release expressing their concern about the old museum’s fate.

In particular, the press release starts with a brief description of the history of the Museum, which is more or less known. Its construction started in mid-19th century. It was designed by architect Panages Kalkos. After various expansions, it took its final form in mid-20th century, as it has been designed by Patroklos Karantinos. It is the first building that was constructed in Greece in order to house a museum. For 150 years it hosted not only the finds of the Acropolis’ excavations but also innumerable visitors: by telling the story of the movable finds it added to the breathtaking experience of an archaeological site with monuments of great significance.
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