Thursday, 27 November 2014

Mixantik and his 'Connections' with Christies

Roberta Mazza ('Provenance issues: Information with thoughts to follow', Faces and Voices November 26, 2014) has some interesting information on the acquisition history of the newly-surfaced (5th-6th century AD?) papyrus fragment (GC.MS.000462) from a codex page containing lines from Galatians 2 in Sahidic Coptic. The story of the collecting history is almost as much of a cracker as the Sappho-from-a-book story.
The Galatians 2 Coptic fragment (GC.MS.000462) was purchased in 2013 by Steven Green from a trusted dealer; the Museum of the Bible/Green Collection archives do have files attesting that the papyrus was part of the David Robinson papyrus lot sold at a Christie’s auction in London in November 2011. The files do not explain what happened to the manuscript between November 2011 and October 2012, when it was on sale on eBay. The only person who would be able to explain how a papyrus legally acquired at a Christie’s auction in London went on sale on an eBay account located in Turkey at this point would be the above mentioned trusted dealer, whose identity remains undisclosed.
This same fragment was being sold (he wanted $14,000) by 'Mixantik' on eBay in 2012: Brice Jones, ' A Coptic New Testament Papyrus Fragment (Galatians 2) For Sale on eBay', Quartarion Monday, October 29, 2012. Note here that in the seller's description, it is specifically noted that these are dugup artefacts, not the selling of an old collection bought by the Istanbul seller through a major London auction house. See also Dorothy King's ' The Tale of the Very Dodgy Papyri ... ' PhDiva blog Friday, December 14, 2012. The notion that 'Mixantik' in involved in the resale of material obtained in high-end auction houses looks a little absurd if seen in the context of all the other material (range, quality and presentation) he has dealt with over the same period. The assemblage as a whole gives an entirely different picture - which is why several bloggers (and, if we are to believe it, the Turkish authorities) have taken an interest in him.

Here's just a selection of recent texts where you can find out more on the seller MixAntik and what he's offering:
' Mixantik Papyri Online Again (Would You Buy Kiswa From this Man?)' PACHI Friday, 14 December 2012
'Introducing: Mr MixAntik' PhDiva Tuesday, February 5, 2013,
'RIP MixAntik aka ebuyerrrrr?' Sunday, February 24, 2013   
at the moment he's selling two ancient Egyptian wooden falcons (that's what he says they are, look like sparrows to me) - no mention there of them recently being through a prestigious London auction house.

What 'documentation' links papyri from this November 2011 sale with 'Mixantik'? I bet Christie's would like to see it too.

The London sale 28 November 2011 conveniently lists "59 packets of papyri fragments, approximately 20 x 45mm to 300 x 100mm, the majority in Greek, from various manuscripts containing texts in a variety of hands and including documentary, petitionary and literary excerpts, receipts, contracts and accounts". If Mixantik bought the whole lot of 59 packets  for £7,500, then 13 months later asking for $14,000 for one fragment from one packet represents the makings of a nice profit.

More to the point, if 'Mixantik' had bought some papyri with secure and documented 1960s provenance from London, he would have had no problem obtaining a Turkish export licence for them when they were re-exported. Can we see Mr Green's copy of that export licence?

Vignette: Screenshot from eBay sale (Brice Jones).

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