Provenance Red Flags

For those of you who don’t follow David Gill’s Looting Matters blog, you should. He’s had a great series of posts this week, but in my view his most valuable contribution to heritage policy is his tireless focus on antiquities which are offered for sale with little legitimate provenance. The latest came three days ago:

The Bonham’s sale of antiquities on October 15, 2008 will include an Apulian volute-krater from the Robin Symes collection (lot 180). No other history has been provided.

Several antiquities associated with Robin Symes have been returned to Greece and Italy in recent years. So what is the previous history of this krater? Who is the present owner?

That’s exactly the kind of pressure and pointed questioning the antiquities trade needs to account for. Where was the object unearthed? Where did Symes acquire it? He may have acquired it legitimately, but as courts have noted in other similar contexts the “red flags” should be up.

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