Saturday 17 January 2015

'Miami Vice Hermes' in Sivas

In Turkey, the Sivas Police Department Directorate of Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Branch announced that they'd seized a "large number of historical artifacts, including the head of a 2,000-year-old Hermes statue" earlier on this week ('Head of god Hermes seized in Anatolia', Hurriyet Daily News, 16 Jan 2015).
Following three months of preparation, the police department simultaneously raided various addresses in villages and districts of the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, as well as in Nevşehir, Adıyaman and Kayseri on Jan. 13, and discovered historical artifacts. A sculpted head in the image of the ancient Greek god Hermes [...], three rings, a plate, 23 coins, six Ottoman-language books, a metal ashtray, two column pieces and four stones inscribed with various motifs were also among the findings during the operation.
And they got pistols to play with during the raid, which they proudly show with the captured head of Hermes. At first sight it looked like another 'Attack of the Phantom Stock Photograph' of the type that frequently plagues antiquities stories. There right in the middle of the page - framed between the two pistols - was a plaster head looking like something made in the fourth form art class in a suburban Comprehensive school. Surely something wrong here, but no, this seems to be the item they've seized. It seems to be the item a foreign buyer has paid $1 million (eh?) for it three years ago and who then attempted to smuggle it abroad. It seems to be the chunk of something hard which local "Cumhuriyet University academics" said was an authentic ancient Greek head of Hermes (to be fair to them, this looks like a polytechnic and does not seem to have an archaeology department).One wonders just what is among the seized items ('three rings, a plate, 23 coins, six Ottoman-language books, a metal ashtray, two column pieces and four stones inscribed with various motifs').

We'll not be hearing any more about this. Nearly all antiquities seizure/repatriation stories function only as feelgood pieces. the police might not be having much success (anywhere) protecting us from various petty crime and annoyances, but 'at least' they can show they have some successes 'protecting our heritage'.  The news is there to make us sigh with relief that we are safe, not to tell us what really happened.

What seems to have happened is that they'd received a vague report a while back that in the region "[a statue] head had found a buyer for $1 million three years ago, who then attempted to smuggle it abroad, but operations at the time failed to find the head". Now they have "found a head" and want public prqise for it (the pistols perhaps intended to hint that it was a "dangerous operation").

Dorothy King has also discussed the fakeness of the head ('Introducing the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes', 17 Jan 2015). She says she has photos of the artist she labels 'the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes' at work. "The same seller also offered the contents of a real ancient tomb that was looted, so he mixes in real important pieces with the fakes". However Dorothy's faker is in Istanbul, not Sivas, and works in sophisticated resin, not crude plaster. And he is based not far from the Turkish eBay supplier of cartonnage". In case you were wondering she adds "yes I have seen that one big collector has a work by the Master of the Miami Vice Hermes in his collection, so they are fooling a few people, The reason is simple: you can't con an honest man, but an avaricious one will see what he wants to.". But then some antiquity collectors as we have seen are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. 

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