Saturday 9 October 2021

Yandex Sleuthing by Collectors Reveals New Puzzles on UK Antiquities Market

Comparison (source Lodewijk
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Ancient Artifacts Group list member Lodewijk (the one who enlightened us about the possibilities of using the Russian-based Yandax for better image searches than Google for artefact provenance research) has made another discovery: Looks like the turquoise fell of the Scythian eagle! Whoops! (October 9th 2021). Whoops, indeed [punctuation and hyperlinks edited for clarity]:

Was just using Yandex for an image search and it looks like somewhere in a period of 2 months the turquoise fell off a gold Scythian eagle!
31-1-2019, Catawiki Artemision, unsold, with turquoise stones

Feb 28th 2019, Jasper52 auction, still has the turquoise stones... ; June 6th 2019, Jasper52 auction, unsold, still has the turquoise stones

Sept 7th 2019, TimeLine auction, OH NO ALL THE TURQUOISE FELL OFF!

That is the exact same artefact in my opinion. Went from 5[th century] BC to 5[the century] AD and all the turquoise has vanished. For reference I added an image with the 2 side by side for easy comparison. Left 7-9-2019 Timeline and on the right 31-1-2019 Artemission/Catawiki.

Doesnt say anything about authenticity but it surely was altered. Also no indication who did it, Since the images in the Jasper52 auction are the same as the Catawiki ones it's likely it was entered by Artemission there as well. It is unknown who owned it in that 2 month period between the last jasper52 auction and the TimeLine one.
One wonders why this was not picked up by all those experts both auction houses employ. It is interesting to compare the descriptions and condition reports. Catawiki/Artemission says
Scythian Gold and turquoise Plaque with Eagle c. 5th Century B.C.
Oval plaque decorated in repousse with an eagle, spread wings, eyes and wings inlaid with turquoise stones.
Size: 5.5 cm L - 2 3/16 inches
Material: Gold and turquoise, total weight=3.3 grms
Culture: Scythian, c. 5th Century B.C.
Condition: Two stones missing, stress crack and chip to the middle, otherwise intact
Provenance: Private UK collection, acquired prior to 1980.
The seller guarantees that this item has been legally acquired and will be legally exported, related documents seen by Catawiki.
Four photos from different angles are offered. Artemission is Antoine Karawani ("The leading antiquities gallery online, (Atticart Ltd.) is based in London, U.K. We specialise in authentic ancient art") and the office is in Earl's Court (SW10 9BS). Artemission has been written about on this blog a number of times, and is the source of many intrusive irritating pop-up adverts on my webfeed.

On the other hand the well-known and equally intrusively visible UK dealer Timeline (and Anonymous British collector/LiveAuctioneers) say:
Gothic Gold Plaque with Eagle
Estimate £300 - £400
Sep 07, 2019 Lot 2892
5th century AD. A gold repousse plaque of an eagle with its wings spread, head turned to the right with turquoise inlay for the eye, beaded collar to the neck, the wings and tail with triangular segments, spread legs beneath the wings.
2.82 grams, 55mm (2"). From a private UK collection; acquired prior to 1980. [No Reserve]
Fine condition.
Only one photo, en face, is offered as part of this description. Note the condition report is silent about the stress crack, or that the documentation of export that must have been seen surely would have mentioned the turquiose stones... that are now missing. In fact if you look at the earlier photos, they have the appearance of being polished chips pressed into some earth in the shallow holes, so not surprising they fell out. A small circular cabochon is still in the eye.

Why, actually, was this same loose object dated one thousand years apart by the sellers and assigned to two separately different cultures? The fact that it looks nothing like real excavated Scythian appliques, eagles or not, or Gothic eagles is beside the point. On what grounds are such attributions offered? More to the point since we are asked to believe that both sellers have satisfied themselves that the item has the proper export paperwork, which territory has BOTH 5th century BC Scythian presence as well as 5th century AD "Gothic" presence, allowing the switching of attributions on an item legally exported from a specific territory (prior to 1980)?  

Oh, and why would the second(?) seller be offering it with "no reserve"? 

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