Tuesday 29 October 2013

Analysing the Leutwitz Apollo: Hypothesis C

In concluding (?) this series of thoughts on reading and re-reading the Cleveland Art Museum's not-so "exhaustive and rigorous" definitive publication on the Leutwitz Apollo, let me formulate one other hypothesis that seems not to have been considered by CMA.

Hypothesis C suggests that the square baseplate on which the Apollo now stands was not originally made for that statue. That is why the tree does not fit on. It is perfectly possible that to an antique sculpture has been added in very recent times (such as the 1990s) an old statue base obtained from salvage. The base had been used for another statue (traced foot outline) but not this one. I expect many restorers have such things round the back of their workshop, taken off another statue - now mounted nicely - and kept "in case use can be made of it". The base and its patina would be genuine, its association with the Leutwitz statue would not be.

This is a trick used in the past to give false pedigrees to objects of "dubious" origins. One thinks of Tokely-Parry the restorer, who fixed objects to old-looking bases with tea-stained and tattered labels from the fictional "Thomas Alcock collection" to make them look as if they were "out of Egypt" long ago. Exactly the same idea as behind hypothesis C. Marinescu says she first saw the object in  a restorer's workshop in 1992, well before it reached the Aboutaams. Her photos (if they are hers from this viewing) show it standing on the present base then. 

In order to make it "match", one could not simply solder or braze the plate onto the Apollo, it would be seen this was a new joint. So the two are presented separately (sending everyone off track by a story about how it was "in pieces when found"). But the base plate has some solder marks made by some jiggery-pokery to match the base of the statue, and they are also nicely "corroded". But then as I showed above that corrosion does not match the story of Hypothesis A.

Bennett challenges the proponents of hypotheses opposed to his to account for all the physical characteristics of the object. In fact all one needs to do is address that base and its solder, the statue is genuine enough. Yesterday, driving across Warsaw (always a good occasion for a deep think) I came up with a method of putting solder onto that plate to duplicate the facts as presented by Bennett. It is actually quite simple and a restorer with a metal-object-restorer's tools could do it. I am loathe to present it here as all that would happen is that CMA would retort "yes, but it does not take into account..." and then present an additional piece of information not in Bennett's skimpy coverage. I am perfectly willing however to discuss how I think (I am pretty sure) one could put that solder on the plate to make an association between a modern plate and ancient statue, but only after CMA have placed their cards on the table. Let them first in detail present all their evidence that this is not one big fake-up, and then we can discuss whether Hypothesis C has any merit or not.

I sincerely doubt that this statue was out of the source country in the 1930s. I sincerely doubt that it stood for any length of time in Leutwitz. On the light of what I have learnt, I speculate that we are looking at an object that was removed from the source country about 1990 (maybe in the decade previously?) and that at some stage - during its restoration - by jiggery-pokery a base has been deceptively added to it. The eye-witnesses who testify otherwise are, in my opinion, unreliable testimony as they could so easily have been mistaken.

I think CMA need to go back to the drawing board. They need to properly publish (in full) the evidence which they say documents their claims. They need to supplement it by further research, including at last going through those German archives. They should do the job properly this time, leave no stone unturned, not to prove their rightful ownership, but to see if there is nothing that challenges it (like the second Marinescu testimony). Finally I think there are some questions the Museum's trustees might like to ask Mr Bennett  (on behalf of the person who forked out five million dollars of their money on the basis of what the Museum told them) about what he omits to discuss. There seem to be some key elements of the discussion missing from his recent account.

Now look at the photo from the back cover of the recent publication, in the light of what we know, does not what we see today on that inadequate base simply reek of being a pastiche?

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