Sunday, 26 September 2021

Yandex Revelations (Careless Dealers Watch Out)

In a previous post I reported on the disturbing results of some work done by Ancient.Artifacts forum member 'Lodewijk' that revealed the untold part of the collection histories offered by a London dealer. It seems that we have here another case on the antiquities market of artefacts that are claimed to simultaneously be in two places at once, where a dealer says it was, and where documentation says it was. Lodewijk describes its use in the case of other dealers and shows how every collector can do the same. Incidentally, he forgets to mention that every dealer can too. Here's the method described in one of his posts (punctuation edited):

It's even easier than I thought. No need for extensions etc. Let's go "image hunting". And I'm pretty sure some sellers are going to get nervous now. You have Google image search etc. Forget about that one. Best one turns out to be Yandex image search, Russian based. Turns out I overlooked something. Sometimes you get to many results and it would take too long to go through. Hence the extensions IU used. I overlooked the option in Yandex that in the top left corner you can adjust the part of the image that Yandex looks for, its a sliding box.

Here is Yandex image search:
All you do is drag the image from the site to the image search field in Yandex (open a second tab) and it searches it Try yourself:
in the bottom right click on the results box so you get to see all results, and and already on the fifth line you already see this one imageview          
Turns out it was on a Russian auction site [sic, it is in fact Ukrainian: PMB], I can't say if the same seller first tried selling it there, or another seller did, or that it was bought there but it's just very awkward.

it's already in the first row of results rpt image view

Take a good look at the search results.....You just uncovered 3 Catawiki artefacts with highly questionable provenance since they show up on Russian sites.

Not only can you use this for trying to spot if it's Russian/Ukranian in origin, in general it will at least tell you a main direction to look for origin. If you can't make an exact match, at least you'll find a load of similar items... and trust me, the second you start looking for 'Medieval' or 'Viking', you'll end up in a  single part of this world... well in 75%..., if it's not fake...

So how good is this easy to use free online tool? It is crazy good. The one below showed up in google images when looking for gold buckles to compare [...]
Simple yandex search view, the exact same one is in the first 10 search results... it leads to a You Tube channel... And when you Google translate the comments under that image you'll see he tells he's the one who found it. And that's why it's also on V-kontakte (Russian Facebook).  Either the auction photo was posted mirrored or the V-Kontakte post.

Now what I actually hope is going to happen is that these auction houses are reading here as well and do the same I just did. Provenances are easy to fake by those who bring in the item to be auctioned and auction houses are easily duped.

Anyone anywhere in the world can do this.

OK. This is indeed the case. So, when will we see dealers asserting that they've searched for the object on the Art Loss Register and Yandex to prove that the story they were told by the person who offered it them would not collapse if it were looked into? Yandex is free. 

Yandex is a Russian multinational corporation providing a number of products and services, including search and information services, e-commerce. Based in Moscow, it was founded in 2000 and its CEO is Arkady Volozh. Obviously it is better for searching material in Russian-based internet resources than our familiar Google. Since it is Russia and Ukraine that are producing a lot of the artefacts that are (illegally) coming onto the market (including some that one may legitimately suspect have been handled by organised criminal groups), it seems especially important to be able to identify this material. 

Another list member has a useful tip for anyone wanting to duplicate this kind of provenance research (Renate, Sep 17 #95667):
Works great, much better than Google Image search indeed! Regarding translating, the most simple method is to install the Chrome browser. Chrome translates on a right mouse click, no need to install an extension. All you need to do is to choose your preferred language, see Chrome help page: Change Chrome languages and translate webpages. Every page you move from the translated one will be translated as well. This is easier than the most common way via and entering an URL there.

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