Tuesday 23 November 2021

"So Many Horses": A Swastika is a Swastika


Collectors are becoming more savvy these days on how to look at online antiquities sales, online networking helps them to learn the pitfalls of buying unpapered artefacts, no matter how they are dressed up as 'kosher'. Tuppenny Tim's Ancient Artifacts Group.io now has a new member, ArtCrimeProf. She writes there (So Many Horses #95957 24 Nov 2021) that the algorithm of Live Auctioneers ("the world's best auctions for one-of-a-kind art, antiques & luxury goods") is revealing that they have offered for sale many versions of the same type of ancient Roman brooch over the years. 

Live Auctions via ArtCrimeProf (edited)

If you look deeper beyond the pictures, as she notes, they are mostly being put on the online market for inspection and appraisal and eventual purchase by a single UK dealer with vague British collecting  histories that do not properly explain how these items got on the market or from where. Checking it out, here are just a few examples of this phenomenon (note, all of them were sold after the PAS was set up to record metal detecting finds from the UK, so given the fact that all of them first "|surface" (from underground) as artefacts of British origin, the lack of a single one with a PAS record number is thought-provoking):

"UK art market, acquired prior to 1985".[Sept 2012]
"Provenance UK art market, acquired prior to 1980" [May 2015]
"From a Surrey, UK, collection; formed before 2000". [Feb 2016]
"UK art market, acquired prior to 2000" {May 2016]
"UK art market, acquired prior to 2000" (miscast) [Feb 2017]
"UK art market, acquired prior to 1980." Also Feb 2017 - Note: another model)
"Property of a North West London gallery; formerly in a 1980s collection" variation on a theme, it says this one is silver [Sep 2018]
"Property of a European gentleman living in London; acquired on the UK art market" [Sept 2019] 
Though the sellers can't seem to decide if they should be dated to the 2nd century AD or the third. 

And if you want one for your reference collection, though this time with a rather unattractive patina, here's one on sale by Live Auctioneers right now, get your bids in, sale ends in about a week: "Ex British collector; by repute found in the UK. [No Reserve]". Mind you, the aesthetics aside, "by repute" is not very secure, there is in fact no mention here of whether there is a protocol assigning title by the landowner or which specialists vetted this sale. 

There are lots more just a mouse click away. Apart from the archives of LiveAuctioneers, there may be others revealed by image research tools by other online showcases and aggregators, such as worthpoint, lot-art and lotsearch, (not to mention those annoying 'pinterest' duplicates often poorly referenced to source). And then there is always Yandex

It seems to me that there is a nice undergrad thesis topic here if someone is looking for one. Not least comparing the frequency and stated /implied origins of these items from the virtual saleroom as originating from British artefact collections and the actual data from the ground, where British Roman plate brooches with horses' heads are rather like hen's teeth. British 'horsey' plate brooches that are 'grounded' in the database of archaeological finds are of a different type entirely. So what's going on? 

And just out of interest, Roman swastika plate brooches seem to be quite favoured in the online antiquities market (where it can be used to reinforce the point that this symbol is "nothing to do with you-know-what but an ancient sun symbol!") yet if it comes to items stated to be derived from British collections, look how few there seem to be on an actual database of  33,559 Roman brooches

UPDATE 24 Non 2021
Anonymous Groups.io list member "Renate" (24.11.2012 10:57pm #95959) casually and somewhat condescendingly replies to ArtCrimeProf:

Hi, It's good that you bring up these brooches again. They were and are very popular, which explains the amount of genuine and fake pieces. [...] Petković (2018) writes about the type and distribution [...] Keep researching! Renate"
he/she forgets to give the link to where you can check the context of the quote taken out of context  [here it is] and the type is linked to "Sarmatians, namely, the Alans" in the Roman army at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 5th century. Petrović (2018, 82-4 ) says they are very frequently found in sites of the Danubian province Pannonia Secunda and in particular near the North Serbian town of Novi Banovci. If that is so, then have these items on sale in the UK in fact come from sites in Central Serbia (and incicidentally NE Croatia and NE Bosnia Herzegovina)?  If so, can the collecting histories offered by the sellers be related to any historical events in that area (like a civil war for example and the looting of sites with metal detectors during or after that)? 

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