Wednesday 31 July 2013

Scattered in Private Collections

Detail of cup. Centre piece in Villa Giulia; outer
fragments from Bothmer collection.
Identification: Christos Tsirogiannis.
In March 2013 David Gill noted that the ever-diligent Christos Tsirogiannis had linked fragments of an Attic red-figured cup  from the Bothmer collection in the Metropolitan Museum to a vessel attributed to the Euaion painter in the Villa Giulia in Rome. The images of the Bothmer fragments were removed from the MMA website in June. Gill correctly assumed that this was because "an announcement was likely in the near future". Earlier today it was announced that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be returning the cup fragments identified by Tsirogiannis to be reunited with the known tondo fragment   (David Gill, 'New York to return further Bothmer cup fragments' July 31, 2013).

The composite picture provided on looting matters is an excellent illustration of the damage to knowledge that is caused by the scattering of evidence  through the illicit market and private collections. The Bothmer collection was put together before the 1970s and 1980s donations to the Met. All that time the connection was not made between the scattered fragments. So what about all this guff about private collectors of dugup antiquities "studying" the objects they hoard and thereby "enriching our knowledge of the past"? It certainly enriches nothing at all if greedy selfish oiks simply sit on the stuff which they've acquired no questions asked. The Bothmer collection numbered over ten thousand sherds like this. What on earth would a collector do with that amount of hoarded stuff, except brag about it and gloat over it?

See also: Chasing Aphrodite blog, 'The Met’s Von Bothmer Collection May Be Evidence In Princeton Criminal Case', January 26, 2012.

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