Friday 19 August 2022

In a Parallel Universe, Buy A Cylinder Seal from London Dealer, Get a Fuzzy Photo of a 'Lambert Note' for Free.

"The seller guarantees and can prove that the object was
obtained legally. The seller was informed by Catawiki that they
had to provide the documentation required by the
laws and regulations in their country of residence. The seller
guarantees and is entitled to sell/export this object. The seller will  provide
all provenance information known about the object to the buyer".

Sold by dealer PaxRomana 'Ancient Art, Antiquities and Coins', Bury Place, Bloomsbury, London (Dr. Ivan Bonchev). Sale overseen by auction provider's "Expert", Peter Reynaers":
No. 61156833 Neo-Assyrian Cylinder Seal. with document of Prof. Lambert.

Circa 800-650 BC. Upper portion of a cylinder seal formed of black stone. The design, which was put between upper and lower bands of chevron, shows in the middle of a winged solar disc above a stylised sacred tree, and to each side a worshipping divine figure of human form with wings. They are kneeling and extending one hand while holding out the other with palm cupped. A rosette serves as a terminal. This is a seal in the Neo-Assyrian tradition, but from North Syria or Anatolia. 27 x 13.5mm. The seal is accompanied by a copy of a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert, Professor of Assyriology at the University of Birmingham, 1970-1993.

Size: L:27mm / W:15mm ; 14.2g

Provenance: From the important collection of a London doctor A.R; passed by descent to his son; formerly acquired between 1970-2000. Big parts of the collection were studied/published by Professor Lambert in the early 1990s.

All Items sold by Pax Romana Auctions come with a professional Certificate of Authenticity.
estimate € 550 - € 750 - sold for € 600

This 'copy' of "a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" is precisely that, a fuzzy photocopy of a photo of a carbon copy of a text about a cylinder seal labelled in pencil "U-165". Where is the original note, and why is the buyer of an object that it "accompanies" not getting the original? What use is - on the one hand - an object with a fuzzy unnotarised copy of a photo of some note, or (on the other hand), the original note to the seller without the object? Why have they been separated? 

Things get even more bonkers, however, when you put together this "note" and the cylinder seal being sold:

As David Knell observes, this "a note" in the sales offer is a random photo of a Lambert note of another cylinder seal (compare signature with handwriting here). In other words, this random photo of a random carbon copy is absolutely no guarantee for the buyer (or the person who will later be considering acquiring it from their collection) that this object was out of the ground and out of the source country (Syria, you say?) before "the early 1990s". To be fair, the sales offer does say " a copy of a scientific note typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" and not "the scientific note about this object typed and signed by Professor WG Lambert" so there is no falsehood there. And it is caveat emptor, any fool can compare what they read and what they see, and when it comes to antiquities more fool them that don't. Obviously, the 600 euro-spender here does not care that much about any discrepancy they noted. 

My question however is, if Dr Bonchev's people mixed up this documentation, what other documentation do PaxRomana actually have that can be firmly associated with the excavation and export of this item (and why don't they tell the prospective buyers)? Or do they just have poorly-done copies of photographs of copies of documents?

But then, it goes further... the description of the object being sold by Pax Romana is copied off the Lambert note and does not correspond with the actual object being sold in any respect (the item is not broken, its not linear style, its not between chevrons, there is no winged solar disc above a sacred tree in the middle, flanked by kneeling divine figures of human form with wings extending their hands, nor any rosette. The description, in general, is a false one. Which bits are true? Any of them? Will the buyer get the object in the picture or the one in the verbal description, because they cannot receive both (it's an either/or situation), unless we are entangled in a parallel-universe situation, one of them is a false representation of the object of sale. Which one of them will be on the "Pax Romana Auctions  professional Certificate of Authenticity"? 

What is going on, Mr Bonchev, Mr Reynaers? What role does an in-house "expert" fulfil who fails to spot the difference between the object shown and the accompanying note (to be fair, "a note") and the seller's description?

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