Sunday 25 February 2018

Bennett Departs, Leaving Cleveland's 'Leutwitz' Apollo Questions Unanswered

Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett, the curator who advocated and defended the Cleveland Museum of Art's controversial purchase of an ancient Greek bronze statue of Apollo during his tenure there, has taken a new job at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida as its senior curator of early Western art  (Steven Litt, Curator who defended purchase of Apollo bronze leaves Cleveland Museum of Art for Florida job The Plain Dealer Feb 24th 2018, )

Bennett stirred controversy among art historians and archaeologists over the museum's 2004 purchase of the "Apollo Sauroktonos," or "Apollo the Lizard Slayer," now known as "Apollo the Python-Slayer."
No, it should be known as the Leutwitz Apollo from the estate owned by the collector in whose family it is claimed the object was for over a century. Credit where credit is due, surely. Unless of course you suspect that is a false collecting history...
Leading archaeologists and art historians opposed the purchase because the sculpture's provenance, or ownership history, could not be backed up with hard evidence [...] Although it lacked such proof, the museum said in 2004 that scientific analysis showed the sculpture had been out of the ground for at least a century and could not have been looted in violation of the UNESCO convention.
Hmm, yet the full results of those crucial pre-2013 lead isotope analyses have not been published, have they? One wonders why not, since the whole claim that this object 'belongs to' the old base plate which is the basis of this 'old collection' claim rests on the ratio of isotopes in the solder allegedly joining them. Bennett's book loosely skips over the precise details,

Bennett also, as far as I know, did not address the issue of the Romanian professor who was the quoted eye-witness who said she first saw the Apollo lying on a shed floor in pieces on a visit to Leutwitz - yet this conflicts with her own previously published account where she said she saw it being worked on in a restorer's workshop.

Just for those who missed it the first time around, here are my posts posing a few questions Cleveland Museum should be answering about Mr Bennett's purchase and the way he dealt with sceptical enquiry (Friday Retrospect: The First Sighting of the "Leutwitz Apollo"  PACHI Friday, 1 August 2014 ). There the importance of the isotopes and the Marinescu account are fully discussed.

Litt goes on to discuss other dodgy antiquities matters in which Cleveland Museum of Art was involved, some of it in Bennett's tenure. This includes the knocked-off head of a statue of Drusus Minor bought in 2012 which they'd believed had come from a collection in Algeria. In fact there was photographic evidence that it had been excavated in Sessa Aurunca near Naples in 1926 and stolen from the local museum in 1944 by occupying troops after defeat of the Nazis (see my post here).

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