Saturday, 18 January 2020

Tel Brak Buyers Not Dismayed? Dealers Need to SFOP.

On its Twitter account, UNESCO urges End Trafficking, Save Culture ' with the tweet linking to the video of the cute "eye idol" from Syria. I've discussed this earlier on this blog, but there is no harm sharing it a second time, its as relevant now as it was two years ago:

Posted by UNESCO on You Tube 17 May 2017
As justification for that statement, just search for "Tel Brak" (the name of the site where the classic form of these objects was excavated by Max Mallowan) on the www (or "eye idol"). Like for example eBay. Over there you can find six unprovenenced/paperless Tel Brak  thingies from a single UK seller in Didcot Oxfordshire. The prices range from 13 to 300 quid (cheap if they are real). They are however all in a similar stone, with similar surface patination on them. They are quite a variety of aberrant shapes. Perhaps they'd appeal to collectors who have already got some examples of the more 'classic' forms?

Another seller ("Maklaiheung" (1189)) has one in alabaster "Purchased from a UK private collection; prior to 1990" [documentation?]. This one is a bit pricey for what it is, US $2,297.  The problem is where that unnamed 'private collector' got his from, because excavated TB eye idols have splaying bases, the double-headed ones have parallel-sided (rectangular ones), like the seller's. Also there's something not quite right about the setting and shaping of the eyes.  The seller claims (with no reference) that "The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a very similar example to this one dated to the period 3500-3100BCE", when in fact it is one in the British Museum that is closer [here]. This is the Met's one that I think the seller is referring to.

The little green idol from a US seller ('Damascus Antique', Beirut, United States) needs no comment. Some people obviously see the past like this. The other items this seller share the same qualities... The cuneiform tablet with the very rare 'dimplescript' writing form is particularly noteworthy [documents?].

Just as I was writing this, another little eye idol of variant form popped up on eBay, being sold by a French dealer (called 'masterpieces'). Oh, you really DO have to see his or her other stuff (my favourite is the so-called "Mesopotamian duck weight". See if you can spot the other object being sold by this person from the same factory... careless).  But the "Roman Marble Head" is just gross, and does not look like marble.

So UNESCO is saying don't buy these things if the prices seems low (Didcot, Paris) and there is no paperwork (all of them, one will give you their own 'signed COA') and eBay has nine on sale at this very moment. All of them at one time or another will enter collections, and then pass through other collections, masquerading as licit and authentic 'ancient artworks' ("my grandfather bought this in the 2020s on the UK art market"), and further muddy perceptions of the past.

This needs to STOP.

Stop Taking Our Past.
and maybe SFOP,
Stop Faking Our Past.

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