Friday, 25 October 2013

Leutwitz Apollo (9): Dr Marinescu Spills the Beans

After finding out it was not in our Institute's library, it was a little bit by chance that I took the opportunity to ask somebody to get hold of a copy of a certain book containing a certain paper from the library in Heidelburg (via Copenhagen). I really did not think it would contain much, being three pages long, and was going to be arty-history stuff. I expect others, faced with the difficulties of getting some small print-run book published in Bucharest thought the same. But I am grateful to Małgorzata Siennicka-Rahmstorf and especially Maria Kostoula, for getting me this.  

When I saw what she had written (presumably what she had said to the conference in May of the same year as she was corresponding with CMA), I was "gobsmacked" as the metal detectorists might say. The big question now is, since he certainly cites the publication (2013, 99 fn 76, 106), why does  Michael Bennet maintain a silence about the bit just before the rather ambiguous section he quotes? Let's run through this article for those who've not the access. The full reference is (since Bennett gets it wrong):
Lucia Marinescu, 'Original, copie, representation antique? Quelques considerations sur Apollon Sauroktonos' in: Criçan Muçeţeanu; Lucia Marinescu (eds), 'The Antique bronzes: typology, chronology, authenticity', Bucharest: Editura de Scaun, 2004, pp 301-4.
 The first page is the sort of classicist waffle I was expecting, a rambling intro about Praxiteles, a bit of Latin quoted, some other people that have written, the usual sort of stuff. This runs on through the second page, the smaller statuary, coin images, intaglios. She suuggests that the intagios give a better clue to what the Praxitelian statue had looked like than the Roman copies including "un arbre élancé dont une branche est tenue et courbée par le dieu" with the leaves forming a canopy over his head - obviously difficult to depict in marble, hence the Romans made a different tree. But right at the top of the second page are four small black and white photographs of the Apollo now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. In fact by the time she was talking, the object had been in the CMA for a month or so. Here's a screenshot. It is definitely the Cleveland statue depicted in the Bucharest volume,  n'est-ce pas?

But look first of all what it says underneath: "Apollon. Statue de bronze. Collection privee - Allemagne". In a private collection, Germany? But in order to get permission to talk about it Dr Marinescu had to contact the dealers Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. based in New York and Geneva. By the time she was speaking (May 2003) the object had - according to the CMA reconstructed collecting history - not been in the "German collector's" (ie Walter's) possession nine years. So is Dr Marinescu just guilty here of sloppy labelling? Maybe she did not want to admit that she'd been chatting to these dealers?  Who knows, but here is the first discrepancy. That's nothing compared to the next. Here's the bit of text introducing the statue which is the main topic of this text (I've run two columns into one):

I'd like to draw attention to this rather interesting bit, 'qu'on trouvait habituellement dans des résidences aristocratiques de l'Allemagne de l'est provient de la propriété d'une ancienne famille de la Lausitz infériere, près de la frontiére tcheque"[fn]. Now note that there is no explicit mention here of any visit to any specific old family, only that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (from a Romanian perspective) the wealthy inhabitants of "East Germany" (sic) were fond of sticking classical sculptures in their gardens - as indeed was the general fashion all over Europe at this time. What a coincidence isn't it, that in Bennett's report of what Mr Walter wrote (we assume independently) to the CMA July 3rd 2003 (Bennett 2013, 65) we find a near-identical phrase. "He believed it to be an eighteenth-century work of the type found on similar estates and in castles, parks and mansions in East Germany". Odd that. Telepathy?

Anyway, matters get even murkier when we follow up that footnote. But before that, let us note that most of the second column of page 303 is filled with a rather remarkable assessment of the statue, its characteristics, lightness. How on earth did she make all those observations during a flyng visit to Leutwitz from Berlin when - according to the CMA account - (a) when she was actually looking at it she thought it was an eighteenth century garden ornament of no particular value (and only realised afterwards what it was) and (b) she saw it as a number of unrestored fragments in a box? But is that what she saw? Look at the footnote 23 now:

Well, that's an eye-opener isn't it? First look at the date. Speaking in 2003 she clearly states she was on her visiting scholarship in 1992 and not 1994 (the date given in the CMA collecting history for her visit to Leutwitz). Secondly, again according to the CMA collecting history, Walter only "found" the sculpture in the rubbish pile in 1993-4, so at least a year after Marinescu says she was in Germany and saw it.   But then here she says nothing about Mr Walter and Leutwitz. She says that when she was "in Germany" in 1992, she had the chance to see this statue "in a group of reproductions of "classical statues", objects of bronze and iron, all of them in the course of conservation". This sounds like a conservator's workshop, doesn't it? What kind of "objects of iron" were being conserved (restored) alongside these neo-classical bronze statues? Was it architectural ironwork maybe, window grilles, railings, gates? Architectural salvage? Whose restoration workshop was it?  So why is there no mention here of Mr Walter if just a few months later (or before this publication) this very same scholar was writing long letters to CMA presenting a totally different version of events

How "thoroughly" have Michael Bennett, Katherine Reid and the entire board of trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art done their due diligence if they (a) have not spotted the discrepancy here and (b) totally fail even to mention it, let alone explain it away in their "exhaustive" publication which is intended to "settle" the matter of where that statue was before they bought it? If nothing else this is intellectual dishonesty not to even quote or mention this information, and typifies a totally superficial approach to the task in hand. Let us note that this is not some document secreted away in some locked filing cabinet as a "CMA curatorial document" like every single other piece of "evidence" for the CMA case. This is in a publication, it's actually in the first proper publication of this object. And it totally contradicts the story the CMA are trying to foist on us. I think the least the CMA could have done to attempt to attempt to untangle this conundrum is write to the DAI and get from them the dates when Dr Lucia Marinescu was on that visiting scholarship. Have they done that yet?

But one more thing.  Look at the last bit: "sachant que je suis à la fin de ma carrière  et que je participais à l'organization de ce congrès..." so, this is some kind or "reward"? Or this was because Marinescu was incapable for some reason of doing it herself? "Une de mes amies a obtenu...." so, despite what we are told by CMA (Bennett 2013, 62), even if she had known where the statue had gone since she last saw it,  she is specifically telling us here that she did not contact the dealer herself to ask for permission to present this piece at the conference. One of her friends put her up to it. The owner of the piece is not mentioned. The friend is not acknowledged. The source of the photograph used is not acknowledged, who supplied them, or are they her own from when she saw the object standing in a workshop in 1992?   Does "Collection privee - Allemagne" hide the fact that the author actually does not know where this statue even is now, nine years after she saw it during restoration somewhere in Germany and "at the end of her career", she's writing this praiseful fluff piece as a favour to a "friend"?

Why then, did she write something completely different to the CMA? Given the fact that there are two versions, what value does her testimony have for the CMA's case? I submit that in the circumstances as they currently stand, none at all. What she says here also casts severe doubt on the accuracy of the dates given in Mr Walter's testimony to the CMA too. At the very least, faulty memory seems to be in question. Mr Bennett says that he considers his museum has done all that is needed to "settle the matter" of the collecting history of this statue. I submit that in ten years of "research", the CMA has barely scratched the surface.



Dorothy King said...

Friends and colleagues who study the Classical Tradition assure me that my recollection is correct - no-one, not even the Germans, in the 18th and 19th centuries placed original ancient sculptures in gardens. Originals went indoors, copies in the garden.

Paul Barford said...

Basically I personally am of the opiinion that the (unexplained) fact that one of the two key eyewitnesses (a) wrote two separate accounts within a few weeks of each other and (b) more or less repeats a phrase from the other one's - supposedly independent - testimony has thrown a huge dollop of doubt whether there is any real proof that this thing stood in any Leutwitz garden.

The point is though that Walter wants us to believe that he sold the item and there is no trace of the transaction because he sold it cheaply, reportedly thinking it was a copy.

Thomas Burchell said...

Those plates are the Phoenix Soho photos printed. I received the same photos in 2002/2003 from the CMA. Lucia most certainly got them from the Aboutaams. Mr. Barford wrote an amazingly detail analysis here and I am so happy he tracked down the Director's papers because she was no where to be found during the CMA acquisition and I could not find a reliable source for her anywhere at the time.

The Aboutaams even had the guff to say she was "famous." Only in Rumania apparantly.

I have been researching this piece since 2003 and I hope to be the first to publish a real attribution, art historical interpretation, and evalution.

What is interesting about this example is that more information is being exchanged through blogs than traditional print media.

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