Friday 25 October 2013

Leutwitz Apollo (15)Two Hypotheses

In a later post (Monday) I will examine the "evidence" for the object having been broken up by soldiers of the Red Army in 1944 (Bennett 2013, 14 etc.) and say why I have found it lacking. If we reject that version of the story, we have to question the hypothetical reconstruction of events by Cleveland Museum of Art ("Hypothesis A"). Marinescu's testimony of September 2003 is called into question by her own information in a ten-year old publication of a paper she herself delivered in Bucharest where she discusses this object. Since they are very much in conflict with each other, obviously one or the other testimony must be rejected. If we decide that the less reliable information is that one (further from the reported events) of September 2003, there emerges a second hypothesis not discussed by Cleveland. Let us, in the spirit of academic enquiry (Cleveland too!), explore that second hypothesis.

Before looking at that, let us consider again Mr Walter's testimony supporting Cleveland's Hypothesis A. Mr Walter sold the broken bits of a statue from his great aunt's estate. He was sure at the time (when he had it in his possession) that it was an eighteenth or nineteenth century garden ornament. Now Mr Walter is a collector of antiques and beautiful things, so how could he be mistaken on this? He sold it to a Dutch dealer and that object passes from everybody's view, nobody knows what happened to it after 1994. Mr Walter was aged 73 when he sold the statue.

Some time around 2003 (?) a statue arrive in the Geneva gallery, in Switzerland. What happened then is unknown, or at least not reported. Somehow (how?) the proprietors of the gallery learn of Mr Walter (is he a client of theirs?) and/or somehow Mr Walter learns (how?) of the statue in the gallery. He is by this time an 82-year old man. Mr Walter is "sure" that this ancient statue is the same one as he sold nine years earlier in pieces and is willing to testify to that. We do not know how he learnt what this statue looks like. Did he travel, an 82-year old man - to Geneva to see it, has he seen it up close? Is his memory of the pieces he sold nine years earlier, apparently without a second thought, really precise enough that he can be 100% certain that the complete, cleaned, reconstructed statue under the black cloth in Geneva is the same? 

Again (after a decade when this could be established) there is nothing written about any of this in Bennett's book, just that Mr Walter is "sure" that the two statues are the same. After all, isn't that an interesting "human interest" story, how Mr Walter learnt of the Cleveland statue and recognised in it his great aunt's old discarded property? Would he not have told Bennett that story at over tea at Leutwitz? Why does Bennett not pass on that (rather crucial one would have thought) information in his anecdotal account? Let us examine the consequences for Hypothesis A if we remove the doubtful corroboration of Dr Marinescu's (unpublished) account of September 2003 because it is in conflict with her other (published) statement). There is no information how, in the circumstances presented, we can accept that an old man (however active his memory is stated to be) being "sure" of something is in fact "proof" of anything. At the moment, stripping Cleveland's case to its bare bones, it is hearsay evidence. Academic rigour would require testing any hypothesis based on hearsay evidence to be tested against other evidence.

If we assume that the statue Walter sold does not have to be the one that appeared in Geneva (the sellers refusing to say who they bought it from), we are free to consider Marinescu's other testimony, delivered at a conference in Bucharest in May 2003 and subsequently published. Let's call this Hypothesis B. Where does that lead us? Unfortunately it does not get us very far either, it just increases the total uncertainty.

First of all the lack of any scholarly acknowledgements means we do not know who took the photos she used, when and where they were taken, and who supplied them to her. She says she saw the object in a restorer's workshop (we may provisionally infer, in Germany) in 1992. The photos are not very professional, they lighting is a bit bad and show foreshortening from the camera angle (the object perhaps was standing on the floor and the photographs were taken from eye-level), the object is shown as more vertical than it in fact is. Were these Dr Marinescu's own photos taken in the workshop in 1992? Or were they supplied by a "friend"? If the latter, as in the case of Walter, how can Marinescu (in May 2003) then be sure that this is the same statue as she saw in 1992? I suspect that, despite the lack of that information in the paper,*  these are in fact her own photographs, the description of the characteristics of the statue she included in her May 2003 paper certainly suggests that she had been looking at the Cleveland Apollo in its complete, restored form, and she tells us that the last time she saw it was in 1992. But how can we be sure that the two are the same?

But is we accept that they are (Hypothesis B), if the x-rays of the Cleveland Apollo show it is reconstructed from fragments, and the object was already in one piece after reconstruction in 1992 (rather than after 1994), what does that tell us? Why was it in fragments if the Red Army were not responsible for breaking it up at Leutwitz? Where was it broken up, by whom, how and why?
What compelling reasons are there for Cleveland Museum of Art accepting Hypothesis A without question, while silently ignoring Hypothesis B without even exploring it?

Cleveland Museum waited a decade before trying to re-launch their Apollo. They consider that the work they did ten years earlier was enough to "settle the matter" of where the object came from and how it came onto the market. There is no evidence from their publication that they utilised this intervening decade to gather more information verifying their reconstruction of the collecting history, or examined and re-examined the evidence for anything (like Marinescu's Bucharest paper) which potentially falsifies it. Their account of the research done to establish the legitimacy of the spending of other people's money on this item is far from being rigorous and exhaustive in the meaning of the words the rest of us would apply. What they have produced is an arrogant and ineffective fob-off job, an argument full of holes. 

* remember that at this time she'd probably been asked by Cleveland Museum to supply any photos she may have of the item in pieces which she allegedly saw in Leutwitz two years later.

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