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164 Antiquities with No Listed Provenance in Upcoming French Auction – UPDATED

May 13, 2012

Cover of June 1, 2012 Pierre Berge & Associates Antiquities sale catalogue

UPDATE – Here are the sale results.

Same old story, different venue — another auction of antiquities with vague or non-existent provenance, this time at Paris-based Pierre Berge & Associates.  Their June 1, 2012 sale opens with 139 lots of ancient Egyptian artifacts of which 89 collectively have no listed provenance or undated provenance (65 have no listed provenance and 24 have undated provenance); and, of the 303 lots offered in the entire sale, 196 collectively have no listed provenance or undated provenance (164 have no listed provenance whatsoever and 32 have undated provenance).

How is this possible? Given the attention to looting and the successful repatriation of antiquities to Italy, Egypt and elsewhere, why would any auction house offer antiquities for sale that have either no listed provenance or undated provenance? And why would any collector purchase such works?  It’s entirely possible that the 196 lots in this sale with non-existent or undated provenance are legit — but if that’s the case, why wasn’t the information published in the online catalogue and listed on the auction house’s Web site?

The following 164 lots have no listed provenance: 22, 23, 27, 28, 33, 37, 40, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 49, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 76, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 92, 96, 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 104, 106, 109, 110, 111, 113, 114, 120, 122, 123, 124, 126, 134, 137, 140, 141, 142, 143, 145, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 156, 159, 160, 161, 163, 164, 167, 169, 171, 173, 174, 175, 177, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 195, 196, 198, 202, 203, 204, 205, 208, 209, 210, 213, 219, 220, 222, 223, 224, 225, 227, 229, 230, 231, 236, 237, 238, 240, 242, 244, 249, 250, 252, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 268, 269, 270, 271, 273, 274, 275, 280, 281, 282, 283, 285, 286, 288, 290, 291, 292, 295, 296, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, and 303.

The following 32 lots have undated provenance: 19, 20, 24, 30, 34, 38, 44, 48, 65, 75, 77, 78, 79, 90, 98, 103, 108, 127, 130, 131, 132, 133, 136, 138, 200, 218, 221, 253, 255, 279, 287, and 289.

Here are 11 items in the sale with no listed provenance beginning with 6 Egyptian works:

Lot 67. Egyptian granodiorite right had from an over-life-size statue. Dynasties 25-26. 9.2 inches high. Estimate: EUR 15,000-16,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 70. Egyptian painted wood sarcophagus lid mask. Late Period. 29.1 inches high. Estimate: EUR 10,000-12,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 72. Egyptian granodiorite fragment statue of a kneeling dignitary. Late Period, Dynasty 26. 24 inches high. Estimate: EUR 20,000-30,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 100. Egyptian wood sarcophagus mask. Late Period. 8.7 inches high. Estimate; EUR 600-700. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 102. Egyptian statuette of Osiris. Late Period. 9.4 inches high. Estimate: EUR 5,000-6,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 134. Egyptian Mummy mask cartonage, Roman period, 2nd-3rd century, AD. 21.6 inches long. Estimate EUR 16,000-18,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Other works in the sale with no listed provenance:

Lot 140. Euphrates Valley black calcite plaque carved with two eye idols. Late 4th millennium BC. 3.2 by 2.4 inches. Estimate: EUR 3,000-4,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 169. Cananean bronze statuette of the god Baal. 14th-12th century BC. 11 inches high (without stand). Estimate: EUR 30,000-35,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 231. Etruscan terracotta votive head of a female. 3rd-2nd century BC. 8.9 inches high. Estimate: EUR 2,000-2,500. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 238. Roman bronze statuette of Athena. 1st century BC – 1st century AD. 7 inches high (without base). Estimate: EUR 15,000-20,000. NO PROVENANCE.

Lot 252. Roman mosaic depicting a woman. CA 4th century AD. 20.3 by 13.6 inches. Estimate: EUR 4,000-5,000. NO PROVENANCE.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 3:48 PM

    I attended a “Chasing Aphrodite” talk where the Director of the Walters Art Museum (who is generally sympathetic to repatriation) indicated that many minor artifacts do not have provenances, and that just comes with the territory. I would hope someone who purports to be knowledgeable in the area like yourself would not therefore imply that these artifacts must be the products of recent illicit digs. This certainly is the type of thing that one often hears from archaeologists who have an axe to grind against collecting, but its not a sentiment one often hears elsewhere. If you yourself are a collector of any sort, are you all that sure of the provenance of all your own holdings? Archaeologists may try to distinguish between archaeological objects and others, but that is not a distinction the law recognizes.

    • May 14, 2012 4:24 PM

      Sir – Thank you for your response. At no time did I say/imply, “these artifacts must be the products of recent illicit digs.” Indeed, my blog contained the following statement: “It’s entirely possible that the 196 lots in this sale with non-existent or undated provenance are legit — but if that’s the case, why wasn’t the information published in the catalogue and listed on the auction house’s Web site?” Provenance has become an important topic in the discussion of antiquities collecting and this blog merely points out that more than half the works on offer in this particular auction have no provenance listed in the online auction catalogue or on the auction house’s Web site.

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