Mo’ loot, mo’ troubles

Archaeoporn has an entry illus­trat­ing one of the prob­lems with buy­ing illi­cit antiquit­ies. It turns out that not all crim­in­als are trust­worthy people. Take for instance the Seal of Yzbl, it’s a seal of Queen Jezebel as men­tioned in the Bible™. At least it is if you don’t look at it too closely. If you do, then all sorts of oddit­ies appear — that’s not a prob­lem it was found at… umm… oh dear.

Archaeoporn also men­tions the Guennol Lion, which I haven’t because I know noth­ing about it. David Gill in con­trast knows as much about its find spot as any­one else.

David Gill has also talked about the Bolton Princess recently. If you don’t know this story, Bolton Council had the oppor­tun­ity to buy a statue of the Amarna Princess, a 3000+ year old statue from Egypt. There was no check on the proven­ance and the sellers wish to remain anonym­ous. This is par for the course in antiquit­ies sales so far. Nothing more would have been heard were it not for the fact that the same sellers tried to sell some wall reliefs to the British Museum and some spelling mis­takes were spot­ted. An invest­ig­a­tion fol­lowed and a search revealed three more Amarna Princesses which had been knocked up over a few weeks by a bloke in a shed.

It’s pos­sible the Bolton Armana Princess is a fake.

David Gill has a sens­ible and grown-up reac­tion to the news. Me, I’m reminded of the K Foundation and want to applaud. The case sug­gests that the sting was about art rather than money. The per­pet­rat­ors were described as liv­ing in “abject poverty.” If there were a scheme to ensure the proven­ance of arte­facts for sale then maybe this wouldn’t hap­pen. I’m sur­prised that reput­able col­lect­ors and auc­tion houses aren’t clam­our­ing for such a scheme.

— and an update before this post goes live —

I write quite a few posts in advance, and this is one of them, so I can include another Greenhalgh for­gery thanks to the Cranky Professor. The Art Institute of Chicago has a Greenhalgh Gaugin. These things could become col­lect­ible. If you can fake proven­ances, then how many unproven­anced antiquit­ies on dis­play are fake?


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

2 Responses

  1. thadd says:

    The Guennol Lion seems to have been writ­ten off by sellers and those involved as being of unknown ori­gin, but some­where in Iraq is a likely ori­gin, accord­ing at least to D. G. Youkhana.

  2. David Gill says:

    My quote was from the Sotheby’s cata­logue. And “said to be” is NOT the same as either “excav­ated at” or “found at”. Who said? How trust­worthy is the statement?