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Munich’s Gorny & Mosch Auctioning Hundreds of Antiquities lacking pre-1970 provenance June 2013

June 12, 2013
Greece, late 5th - 1 Half of the 4th century BC, finely crystalline marble. Under life-size, H 13cm. Estimate: €10,000

Lot 2. Greece, late 5th – 1 Half of the 4th century BC, finely crystalline marble. Under life-size, H 13cm.
Estimate: €10,000
Provenance: Swiss Private Collection 1975

The June 19, 2013, 784-lot auction at Munich-based Gorny & Mosch features hundreds of antiquities that lack a pre-1970 provenance. The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an international UNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times reported, ‘In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared “member museums should not acquire” any undocumented works “that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.”’ Numerous American museums – including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art and the Getty in Los Angeles – have been forced to return looted antiquities to their host countries.

In a bid to assuage any concerns bidders might have, the sale catalogue states: “Gorny & Mosch have retained the Art Loss Register to check all uniquely identifiable items offered for sale in this catalogue that are estimated at more than the equivalent of 1,000.– € against the Art Loss Register‘s computerized database of objects reported as stolen or lost.”  Unfortunately, most looted works have not previously been documented and reported as stolen, so this check is largely ceremonial.  All of these works may have been legally excavated and sold, but the auction house has not provided that information.

The sale include Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Pre-Columbian and other antiquities, including this “familiar face” – a pair Roman bronze attachments (one show, below) that appeared in a previous entry about auctions with antiquities lacking pre-1970 provenance.  The pair were at Christie’s in October 2012 and carried an estimate of £100,000 – £150,000 ($160,200 – $240,300). Bidding stopped at £65,000 and they failed to sell.

Lot. 11. Pair of Roman bronze chariot fittings in the form of two hunting pantheresses leaping forward and resting their forepaws on the heads of antelopes. Roman Imperial Period, 1st - 2nd century A.D. Large and heavy masterpieces with excellent green and auburn patina, intact. 44cm. Estimate: 85,000. Provenienz: Bei Christie´s 25.10.2012 Lot 117; ex Slg. G.O., London der 1990er Jahre.

Lot 11. Pair of Roman bronze chariot fittings in the form of two hunting pantheresses leaping forward and resting their forepaws on the heads of antelopes. Roman Imperial Period, 1st – 2nd century A.D. Large and heavy masterpieces with excellent green and auburn patina, intact. 44cm.
Estimate: €85,000.
Provenance: With Christie’s 25.10.2012 Lot 117; Ex. private collection G.O., London 1990s

Also noted in that same previous post – the New York Times reports collectors are having a harder time disposing of works – either through sale or donation – of non pre-1970 works:

Alan M. Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, is … [a]n antiquities collector … eager to sell an Egyptian sarcophagus he bought from Sotheby’s in the early 1990s. But he is stymied, he said, because auction houses are applying tighter policies to the items they accept for consignment.

Maybe he should try Gorny & Mosch.

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