Thursday 17 October 2013

"A Sceptical view" of the "Leutwitz Apollo" - too right I have

Professor David Gill notes ( A sceptical view of the Cleveland Apollo:
It appears that others are beginning to think about the contents of Cleveland's new volume on the Apollo (see Paul Barford here). The collecting history needs probing in key places. 
Past posts on this blog show that I have been sceptical of that collecting history for some time (in particular the bit of it that places it in a rural farmyard in Saxony before the 1930s), and thus I will read the newly-published book with that in mind. My first post was just a few initial thoughts, there are other problems with what Bennett writes (and how and what he does not write) requiring exploration and academic - and other - discussion. That after all is the reason why the book was published, no? In particular these issues for me concern that shadowy first dealerw ho bought it in Saxony, the "accidental" involvement of the Romanian scholar, the skipping over of any details of the extensive conservation and restoration of the piece at some stage between 1994 and 2004, then this ten-year gap in that collecting history. I will almost certainly be discussing these in later posts.

My main reason for buying the book however is the presentation of the much-vaunted "scientific tests" which (according to previous accounts) serve to "prove" various things. For those who have seen my academic bibliography, it is clear that metal corrosion products on archaeological artefacts were/are my first love, so that is the chapter of the new book I devoured first. I was (or maybe was not) disappointed by what I found. The lightweight book not only fails to present the case for the physical evidence (actually) "supporting the collecting history" (a note on the methodological position that this represents is also on the cards), it is either ambiguious (due to the absence of iother information) or - to my mind - (the solder under the 'tree', the patina on the base) actually goes dead against it. And frankly I think the presentation has been slanted to skip over these problems (I find it inconceivable that those doing the tests did not present the results to Museum trustees and curatorial staff with certain caveats, so why are they missing from the art-historian's account?).

At the moment though I have a major (anonymous - shh) review to do (yes, archaeology) and should not really be spending time fretting about the ins and outs of the antiquities' trade at least until Monday. But then the text I am reviewing is boring and from time to time I have to take a break from its turgid 390 pages of poorly-translated academo-administratese, so....

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