Friday 25 October 2013

Leutwitz Apollo (10): "Out of the Sea"

One puzzling feature of the Bennett presentation of the collecting history of the Leutwitz Apollo is that two-thirds of the way through the book he starts going on about how his museum's "tests" about the time it was acquired in 2004 - more of those later - showed conclusively that the object "had never been beneath the sea". Yet nowhere before that does he say where anyone had said it had. Or why that is important. I guess he assumes we all know the story. So the story is this.

Steven Litt, 'God of mystery: Gaps in Apollo statue's history make it a focus of debate', The Plain Dealer February 16, 2008, 2:19 PM:

Greeks claim Apollo was sold illegally  Greek authorities told Agence France-Presse last February that the Apollo had been fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy in the 1990s, and then probably sold illegally to intermediaries before coming to Cleveland. But Bennett said Greece never produced evidence to back up its claim. On the contrary, he said, analysis of the Apollo shows that it lacks the "patina," or surface chemistry, that bronze sculptures acquire through exposure to seawater. By blocking the exhibition of the Apollo at the Louvre, Greece prevented scholars from comparing the Cleveland bronze with other works such as two large, Roman marble versions of Apollo as the lizard-slayer. Some specialists say the Louvre episode shows how source countries are using the media and political pressure unfairly to force art museums to kowtow or to risk losing the ability to borrow artworks for blockbuster exhibitions. Writing in Apollo, a collectors magazine, Guy Weill Goudchaux called the Louvre incident "cultural blackmail" and part of a "cultural patrimony witch-hunt." Harvard art historian David Mitten, who studied the Cleveland Apollo before the Cleveland museum acquired the work, called the actions of Greece "a kind of cultural terrorism," which "has to be resolutely resisted and fought."
Oh, wow. He said THAT?

Steven Litt, 'Cleveland Museum of Art's Apollo sculpture is a star with intriguing past', The Plain Dealer June 20, 2010:
 Yet another report, that the sculpture was fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy, was circulated by Agence France-Presse in 2007, though the unnamed Greek officials who made the claim have never presented any evidence or contacted the museum.
Steven Litt, ' The Cleveland Museum of Art wades into global controversy over antiquities collecting with exhibition and catalog on its ancient bronze Apollo', The Plain Dealer September 27, 2013:
In 2007, Agence France-Presse reported that unnamed Greek officials stated that the Apollo was fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy. Greece never presented evidence, but in response to the country’s claims that the work was stolen, the Louvre canceled plans to exhibit the Cleveland sculpture in an exhibition. Franklin said Friday that research by the museum proves conclusively that the Apollo "was not recently pulled out of the ocean but has been on dry land for some time."
It is interesting, isn't it that the museum was paying especial interest to this seawater patina question three years before the accusations were actually made by Greece.

 Just so there is no misunderstanding, though I am highly sceptical of the interpretations placed on the metal analyses, I find no reason to question the information that the condition of the interior of the statue gives no grounds for believing it was ever under the sea for any time.

I do not know on what grounds the Greeks made the claim in February 2007, perhaps it really was just to block the Louvre exhibition, or maybe there was another statue still missing. Whatever the case, in my opinion it is not directly relevant to the collecting history of the Leutwitz Apollo.

In which case though, it is notable how many times this motif crops up in Bennett's book. Almost like it is a straw man argument employed to deflect attention from the awkward question of where it really came from. 

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