Monday, 29 October 2018

A Sippar Cunie in MOB: Collecting History Issues

Remarkably awful fuzzy photo of
the MOB's Sippar Cunie cylinder
The Museum of the Bible (MOB) has begun to put online what they know about the collecting histories of the objects they have acquired. Michael Press has been taking a look at it. So far there only 38 objects, most of them medieval or modern manuscripts and books. But they've got up a token archaeological artefact, the first of many that were bought on the antiquities market that have passed to them from the controversial Green (Hobby Lobby) Collection.

They have started the ball rolling with a cuneiform cylinder with a building inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II, c. 600 BCE that comes from the temple of Shamash in Sippar. The MOB's 'provenance' record says that the object had been
'acquired by 1969 by Elias S. David (1891-1969), New York;[1] Via death in 1969 to descendants; Purchased in June 2015 by David Sofer, London; Privately purchased in 2017 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Notes: [1] Census records from New York indicate that Elias S. David arrived in the US in 1927 from "Mesopotamia" and listed his profession as "importer." It is likely that he brought his antiquities with him.
Or he could have 'imported' the object at any time between 1927 and 1969. Or any of his descenedants  may have acquired the object between 1969 and 2015, saying it was in their 'dead dad's collection'. Note that the MOB fail to admit that this 'importer' was in fact a prominent dealer in antiquities, including from the Middle East. In any case, as Press points out, the object would have had to be taken out of Iraq by 1936 for its removal without a proper permit to be legal. But then nobody has documented that the object actually was outside Iraq before this date - the MOB only invites us to assume that this "might" be the case - but then again, it might not. By this time material reputedly owned by David was stored in a house in Florida. In connection with the sale, I posted at the time my questions about the story that these objects had been sitting around since David's death in 1969.

Regardless of these doubts, the London-based Israeli collector David Sofer then bought it. Although the MOB do not say so, as Michael Press mentioned, the object was bought by Sofer at the June 2015 Christie's sale.  (Price realised USD 32,500 Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000) . Sofer has been mentioned on this blog before (two osts in February 2015, just before the David sale  here and here) for his ownership of the so-called Al-Yahudu tablets that seem to have 'surfaced' on the market during recent looting.

The 'collector' Sofer resold this 'biblical' artefact to Green in 2017. The Greens had been on the market for other cunies, having bought a controversial batch of several hundred in 2011 from an Israeli antiquities dealer and they were seized as an attempt was made to ship them to the Green complex in Oklahoma City listed as “hand-crafted clay tiles” - they were seized by U.S. Customs agents in Memphis, Tenn., and eventually repatriated. The object from the Green Collection then passed to the MOB, who now find themselves in te awkward position of having to explain how they got it and how it really (not assumedly) entered the antiquities market.

Press also draws attention to a scroll purchased by the Green Collection at an auction in 2015 and "donated in 2017 to the National Christian Foundation (later The Signatry) under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible". Why was that done?

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.