Sunday 19 November 2023

New York Gallery Mosaics Sent to Lebanon, but there's a Catch [Updated]

Dalya Alberge, 'US accused of sending fake Roman mosaics back to Lebanon. Guardian 19/11/2023.

Authorities in New York have been accused by leading academics in France and Britain of repatriating fake Roman artefacts to Lebanon. Eight out of nine mosaic panels that the US authorities recently returned to the Middle Eastern country are not what they seem, according to claims made by Djamila Fellague of the University of Grenoble. She claims to have uncovered proof that forgers had copied designs from original mosaics in archaeological sites or museums in Sicily, Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey. “Eight of the nine ‘returned’ mosaic panels were fakes that [are] relatively easy to detect because the models used are famous mosaics,” says Fellague.
Oh how embarrassing if they were not aware of that. The nine mosaics were sent to Lebanon on 7 September were part of a lot of 22 that  reportedly had been seized in July 2021 from Georges Lotfi a Lebanese antiquities trafficker. It now seems however that there was no scientific justification to prove that the mosaics were Roman, looted and plundered precisely in Lebanon.
Before being seized by the US authorities in 2021, one of the mosaic panels was offered for sale in 2018 in a New York gallery, with an estimate of less than $20,000.

Fellague suspects that a forgers’ mosaic workshop was located somewhere in the Middle East, probably in the 1970s and 1980s, judging from other pieces that have surfaced on the art market.

A DA spokesman denied the accusations. “In order for these antiquities to be repatriated a court had to evaluate our evidence, which included expert analysis about their authenticity and significant details about how they were illegally trafficked. The court found based on the evidence – which these individuals do not have – that the pieces are authentic.”
This expertizse would not happen to be from a New York Gallery would it?

Is that expert willing to come forward? [UPDATE Jason Felch notes the DA says: “We also recognize C. Brian Rose, Amr Al-Azm and Isber Sabrine for their expertise and assistance throughout these complex investigations.”"]

hat tip Dave Coward.  

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