Monday 1 August 2011

The Kaloterna (sic) and Jelinek Antiquity Collections in Croatia

The provenance supplied for the Ka Nefer Nefer mask now in St Louis Art Museum by the Aboutaams includes passing through the private collections of two Croatian collectors. It might be of interest then to examine the context of this information. As the story goes:
in the early 1960s when the museum reports that “the Mask was a part of the Kaloterna (or Kaliterna) private collection, during which time it was purchased by Ms. Zuzi Jelinek (‘Jelinek’), a Croatian collector in Switzerland. In or around 1995, Jelinek sold the Mask to Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. of Geneva (‘Phoenix’). On or about April 3, 1998, the Museum purchased the Mask from Phoenix.”
See also Kea Johnston's Egyptology Geek and Gay, Malcolm. "Out of Egypt." St. Louis News [St. Louis] 15 Feb. 2006. Riverfront Times.

The Kaloterna CollectionSo, according to the seller, the mummy mask was part of the collection of one Kaloterna family until the early 1960s. Several people have noted that "Kaloterna" may be a misspelling of Kaliterna, a common Croatian name (Gay, 2006). Now, interestingly there is a webpage dedicated to the question of ancient Egyptian artefacts held in collections in Croatia, in museums, major and minor, as well as private collections. By law in Croatia every private collection has to be reported, examined, and evaluated. If the Kaloterna/Kaliterna collection has not been, it was/is an illegal collection. It is therefore significant that the only object which seems to have been noted as having been in this otherwise unknown collection is one which is now of disputed legality. Where did Mr/Mrs Kaloterna/Kaliterna then in Tito's Yugoslavia obtain such an important artefact from? We recall that the story is that in the early 1950s (1952) is was reputedly in a Brussels gallery, so where was it between then and the early 1960s and how did it end up in Yugoslavia? If one looks at the lists of Egyptian artefacts in the collections of Croatian museums, this mummy mask is quite atypical compared with the rest of the artefacts reaching these collections which are far less ostentatious. It would be useful to conduct more research into this (former?) collection and determine just what else was in it and what happened to the rest of the material.

The Jelinek Collection
There is some confusion here in the story. Initially the information given was that the mask was obtained by a Swiss collector named "Zuzi Jelinek" whose address and phone number were on a provenance letter given to SLAM (Gay, 2006). This turned out to be the address for Suzana Jelinek-Ronkuline, who was once a landlady for the Aboutaam brothers but according to her son she has never collected antiquities (Gay, 2006). Gay had a US dealer search for information on an antiquity collector named Jelinek, but none was found. No information was given how an object of this magnitude allegedly left Yugoslavia and entered Switzerland in the 1960s.

Phoenix Ancient Art however directed Gay to a collector in Zagreb, Croatia named Suzana Jelinek who when asked claimed "I bought the mask many many years ago, and I sold it many many years ago [...] I have so many things in my collection that my children don't know what all I have" (Gay, 2006). It is not at all clear whether the two Jelineks are the same person, in 2006 the Riverfront Times suggests that Suzana Jelinek-Ronkuline still lived in Switzerland.

Concerning this collection of "so many things that my children do not know what I have" (ie a collection so large and rich that an entire gilded mummy mask could simply not be noticed among the other items), if they were held in Croatia in the 1960s, Suzana Jelinek was legally obliged to report them. Where is the official inventory of this collection if it was legal? Where is the export documentation for this object leaving Croatia in the 1990s for Switzerland? Again, it seems that the only information about this otherwise undocumented collection is that it contained an Egyptian mummy mask of questioned legality. How could the Croatian
Suzana Jelinek acquire so many objects from the early 1960s onwards, without appearing on the New York dealer's database of 18 000 names of museums, collectors and antiquity sellers? It should be noted that this collection was apparently still existing in 2006. It would be useful to conduct more research into this (former?) collection and determine just what else was in it and what happened to the rest of the material.

The Aboutaams seem to have a propensity for tracking down exceptional artefacts that are assigned a provenance to a collection behind the Iron Curtain and then finding somebody by chance who is able to witness an early sighting, we may recall the odd "findspot" of the Cleveland Apollo in the farmyard of the home of
Ernst-Ulrich Walter in Lusatia.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.