Saturday, 9 May 2015

More on Coloured Glass at Bonhams

Comparison of Bonhams and Antinoupolis
inlays (screenshots from Roberta
 Mazza's blog) [UPDATE, I was so
  busy trying to get the length of the
slabs to match that I did not notice
 the difference in size of the faces]
Roberta Mazza suggests ("From Egypt to London Bonhams again?"  Faces and Voices - May 9, 2015 ) that "New resemblances have emerged between pieces excavated by the Italian mission directed by R. Pintaudi in Antinoupolis and items recently auctioned by Bonhams". See my earlier comments here.  Pintaudi has denounced both robberies from the mission’s storage and looting on the excavation site. Mazza draws attention to two similar glass inlay fragments, one from  the “Scheps Collection, Switzerland, formed in the 1930s-1960s”. It looks like it is being suggested that the Bonhams piece incorporates an element excavated by Pintaudi. Close comparison of the photos however does not support this, look at the eye, eyebrow and distribution of inclusions in the blue background. They may have been cut from the same glass cane and even from parts of the cane quite close together, but that does not make the Bonhams piece a find from Antinoupolis, still less a recently looted one. Professor Pintaudi also claims that a millefiori spindlewhorl sold  sold by Bonhams in April 2014 "[came] from the Antinoupolis material" (In this case the provenance given in the catalogue was “UK private collection, formed during the late 1950s and early 1960s”). It would be good to see documentation of this claim, and clarification whether he is saying this items was excavated by the Italian mission or was taken from the museum store.   Nevertheless, the rest of the points raised by Mazza about market transparency are important issues.

UPDATE 10th May 2015
on the left, excavated piece, on
the right, the Bonhams lot 101
right side reversed
Roberta Mazza has now updated her blog post to say that Professor Pintaudi had in fact suggested that the right side of the Bonhams piece was the one he was talking about (and his publication shows one side of the slab, while in the Bonhams piece it was the other side seen). In support he says there is a 'repair' in the place where the excavated one has a piece missing. First of all I am not convinced that the Bonhams piece actually is repaired in this position. The description says nothing about this, and it seems to me that the discolouration could have another explanation in the technology of manufacture of the glass canes - which of course Bonhams say nothing about.

Sadly, this does not save Professor Pintaudi's argument one bit. The two fragments are quite clearly not the same, the edge of the Bonhams piece is straight, the excavated piece has a concave chipped area. But above all, the face itself is differently positioned on the slab. They may be cut from the same cane, but they are not the same piece, and since the slab was trimmed differently, I would say the evidence is against them coming from the same object.  The Bonhams pieces could have been picked up from the desert surface anywhere before the 1960s (perhaps even from the glasshouse where they were made) and we need not evoke looting to explain where they came from. That of course does not mean that I necessarily believe the stated provennce for a moment - Bonhams give no indication that they have supporting documentation of that to pass on to the buyer who forked out £15,000 for a geegaw looking like a young Ringo Starr just for the hell of it.

*[The pathetically superficial descriptions given to clients by the three big auction houses dealing in antiquities has been remarked on in this blog before - it gives me the impression that those cataloguing the items really do not know all that much about what they are looking at, and what should be in the description - even when they are giving a 'condition report'.]

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