Friday 25 October 2013

Leutwitz Apollo (13) What was Not Done - Cleveland Visits Leutwitz

Mr Bennett in his 2013 account of the Cleveland Museum doing their "exhaustive" due diligence, mentions (pp 70-73) a trip he took with a German-speaking staff member to Leutwitz to "spend the day" with Mr Walter. Sadly, they got their timing rather bad, getting there at two in the afternoon of December 22nd (p. 71), so not really leaving much time for the tour of what is left of Mr Walter's great uncle's garden wth its terraces and fountains. That's why, no doubt we have no photos of the place in which the Leutwitz Apollo, according to Mr Walter's testimony the statue stood for many years. Our picture of this period in the object's history is very much impoverished as a result.

 So, it seems they stayed in Dresden (p. 71). This was an ideal opportunity to arrange to meet the staff of the Denkmalpflege offices and ask to see any archival material there about the 150-year old buildings, and perhaps formal gardens of the Leutwitz estate. Did Mr Bennett do that? There is no mention in the book. If he had, maybe Bennett would have a less-dismissive attitude towards the professionalism and ability to systematically inventorise historical remains of the East German heritage protection services.

Bennett would have done well to have conducted such archival enquiries for two reasons. First of all, if it turns out that the buildings had been inventorised and the statue included (whether as an eighteenth/ nineteenth century garden ornament or not) in any survey made after 1949, then export of the item in that national inventory could not take place legally, even within the EU, without an export licence. No mention is made anywhere in that entire book of the "Cleveland Apollo", an object documented in their collecting history as crossing a number of borders in recent times, having any sort of export licence.

Secondly, Mr Walter (p. 67) mentions that when he was a kid, and visiting his great uncle's estate there were other antiquities, classical statues and Greek vases on the estate. The archives in Dresden may share light on this reported collection, there may be records of what happened to it. Maybe even it would be possible through these means to identify other parts of the Apollo (like the missing hand, or parts of the tree) that were in this great uncle's collection and then as separate pieces have made their way into other. The possibility cannot be denied before checking out the facts.

Also it is surprising, isn't it, that Cleveland, apparently, made no attempt to find out who this great uncle - the collector [or at least collection owner] - was. Not a word in the book. Yet a visit to Dresden is the ideal opportunity. There will be the archives which would be the starting point of any such biographical search. Even if the Cleveland Museum cannot afford the time to do, for example, genealogical research on the Walter antecedants, there are many specialist firms here in central Europe who for a modest fee can do such research (many of their clients are indeed from the USA).

Mention is made of Leutwitz being in the frontline of fighting in 1944-5. One consequence of this is that there will be aerial coverage of enemy positions of both the Luftwaffe and Red Army. Having had occasion to use both in my archaeological work here, I can vouch for the high quality and usefulness of this kind of material. Although Mr Walter asserts that the statue he saw had been brought into the house in 1936 (so therefore there is no chance of it being on the aerial photos taken of the WW2 frontlines)  such photos could give a view of the garden, its terraces and fountains and presumably show the pedestal from which it had been removed, and perhaps the traces of the wooden pavilion that had housed it a decade earlier. One does not even have to reach out to Germany and Moscow for this. A lot of the Luftwaffe coverage of our region was carted off to Washington after the War and to examine it, we have to go there. Obviously Mr Bennett has a far shorter journey to the Washington archives.  So, why has no mention been made of this avenue of enquiry?

Why was the whole matter of investigating the Leutwitz history of the Leutwitz Apollo while actually in Leutwitz treated so superficially in 2003-4 and in subsequent years before publication of this supposedly-exhaustive book? Is it not supreme arrogance to assume that a few afternoon hours in December suffice to tick off "Leutwitz" and all its history on the CMA legal counsel's "to do" list? It is almost as if the museum is afraid that if it begins to dig around a bit more the charming superficial story they've reconstructed solely on the basis of post-fact reminiscences of just two 'eye-witnesse' will start to fall apart. Where in this book is there any evidence at all of scholarly rigour in the pursuit of the truth about and context of the history of their acquisition?

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