Showing posts with label Orpheus mosaic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orpheus mosaic. Show all posts

August 6, 2013

David Gill on "Dallas Museum of Art Takes the Initiative" in "Context Matters" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

David Gill
Professor David Gill writes on "Dallas Museum of Art Takes the Initiative" in his column Context Matters in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:
The reporting and commentary on the so-called "Medici Conspiracy" has exposed the way that major North American museums acquired recently-surfaced antiquities (Watson and Todeschini 2006; Silver 2009; Felch and Frammolino 2011). This was in spite of the 1970 UNESCO on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the 1973 Declaration by the Archaeological Institute of America, the 1983 acceptance of the UNESCO convention by the US, and the varied acquisition policies of individual museums. Museums overlooked and ignored the ethical issues related to the damage of archaeological sites and, instead, emphasized the fact that they acquired objects in good faith and by legal means. Objects purchased through Switzerland, Paris, London, or New York were not considered to be problematic. The items had passed from their countries of origin to the international antiquities market. The release of the Medici Dossier photographs, seized in the Geneva Freeport, brought a sequence of major museums agreeing to hand over significant numbers of items: Boston's Museum of Fine Art, the Cleveland Museum of Arts, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Toledo Museum of Art (Gill and Chippindale 2006; 2007a; Gill 2009a; 2010). And it is clear that material in other major North American museums has been identified and that this shameful list will expand.
Professor David Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, England. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and was a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was previously a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University (where he also chaired the university's e-learning sub-committee). He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. he is the holder of the 2012 Archeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award, and the 2012 SAFE Beacon Award. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He wrote a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War in Sifting the Soil of Greece: The Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886 - 1919) (Bulletin of the Institute of Classics Studies, Supplement 111; London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2011), xiv + 474 pp.

Here's an excerpt from Professor Gill's column:
Are all the apples in the North American museum barrel rotten (Gill and Chippendale 2007b)? There is one clear exception that suggests that there is at lest one sensible voice of concern and reform. In January 2012, Maxwell Anderson, the newly appointed Director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA), became concerned about the museum's holding of material derived from Almagià. He clearly wanted to pre-empt any external investigation that could reveal embarrassing and potentially damaging information about the museum. Anderson decided to post details of the objects, along with their stated collecting histories, on the Association of Art Museum's Director's (AAMD) object register website. This website, hosted by Anderson's former institution, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, had been intended to be used for displaying information about new acquisitions, rather than reviewing the cases of older ones. Such a move indicated a major change in attitude toward the issue of toxic antiquities that were potentially lurking in the collections of North American museums.
This column is included in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA, (available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com.) The Associate Editor is Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), Graduate Teaching Fellow, Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

Restitution: Mosaic of Orpheus Returned to Turkey on Display at Istanbul's Archaeological Museum

The Mosaic of Orpheus on display in a
 room at the Istanbul Arcaeological Museum.
(Photo by C. Sezgin)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The Mosaic of Orpheus, returned to Turkey by the Dallas Museum of Art in 2012, has a room of its own at  the Istanbul Archaeological Museum to celebrate the Roman artwork's return to "the lands where it belongs to".

Information at the Istanbul museum introducing the piece to visitors omits any mention of the collecting history of this object. The mosaic is described as showing the poet Orpheus taming wild beasts with his lyre. To the left of his head, an inscription in Assyrian identifies the artist as Bărsaged, a mosaic master. At the bottom next to his feet, a second inscription in Assyrian is from 'Păpa, the son of Păpa,' who in April 505 (according to the Selevkos calendar used in Edessa in 194 AD) ‘made this resting room for me and for my children and for my successors. Let him be blessed who sees it and preys’, according to the printed sign on display in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The ‘signature’ of the mosaic master Bărsaged is the only example found amongst the group of mosaics found in Edessa (Şanliurfa in southeastern Turkey).

Side view of the Mosaic of Orpheus
The marble mosaic from the Eastern Roman Empire was purchased by the Dallas Museum of Art from Christie's in New York on December 9, 1999. The Dallas Art Museum has a long explanation on its website for the deaccessioning of "Orpheus Taming Wild Animals"
CRITERIA FOR DEACCESSIONING: A request from the Turkish government for restitution, with compelling evidence, including photographs of the mosaic in situ, that the object was looted and/or illegally exported 
EVIDENCE: 
A. Two newly recovered in situ photos of the mosaic showing it being removed by the smugglers. The photographs also show the full work with its decorative borders intact, prior to it being removed from the ground. The photographs were printed by a local photo shop in Sanliurfa and are currently evidence in a criminal investigation being carried out by the Sanliurfa Head Prosecutor in order to identify everyone involved in the crime.
B. Expertise reports prepared by various scientists, art historians, and archaeologists offering comparisons to other mosaics from Edessa (modern city of Sanliurfa) and arguing that various stylistic and iconographic similarities prove it was smuggled from the region.
a. Assistant Professor Dr. Baris Salman, Ahi Evran University, Faculty of Art and Science, Department of Archaeology:
Mosaic close-up: Orpheus with his lyre

i. Stylistically and iconographically similar to other Edessa mosaics. Specifically, the inscription is similar both in style and content to other Edessa mosaics. The Syriac script used originated in Edessa. Other features typical of the area include the absence of depth, the light colors, and the expression and facial features. The date indicated in the inscription falls within the period of mosaic construction in Edessa.
b. Hakki Alhan, Archaeologist, and Taner Atalay, Analyst, Gaziantep Museum, Turkey:
i. Concluded that the composition style, animal figures, and especially the Syriac inscription have features of the Assyrian Kingdom, appearing in Sanliurfa precincts in the 3rd century A.D., and was smuggled from the region.
c. Eyüp Bucak, Archaeologist, and Hamza Güllüce, Archaeologist from the Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Was not one of the documented mosaics in the area, but concluded that the composition, the figures, and the tesserae’s dark lines reflect features of Assyrian mosaics appearing in the region during the 3rd century A.D.
d. L. Zoroglu, Selcuk University, Faculty of Science and Art, Department of Archaeology, Konya:
i. Compared it to another Edessa mosaic and concluded it was smuggled from the region because they both include Chaldean inscriptions indicating the date of the artifact, showing that they were created around the same time. It also has a common subject of the region.
e. Müslüm Ercan, Archaeologist, and Bülent Üçdag, Art Historian, Sanliurfa Museum:
i. Cites the Syriac inscription, the figure and his clothing, and the in situ photographs as evidence of being from Edessa. It was made by the same artist as another Edessa mosaic (name is included in the inscription) and have identified it as belonging to a rock tomb located in Kalkan District in Sanliurfa.
f. Assistant Professor Dr. Mehmet TOP, Yusuneu Yil University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Art History:
i. Concluded that the mosaic is an artifact from Sanliurfa based on the early Assyrian inscription and its similarity with the other Orpheus mosaic from Edessa.
deacc_orpheus-additional
Photo from Dallas Museum of Art
Orpheus mosaic in situ. This photograph was provided by the Sanliurfa Prosecutor's Office. It is evidence in a criminal prosecution within Turkey against looters. The mosaic's border is visible in this photograph; it was missing when the DMA purchased the mosaic, presumably removed by looters because it was incomplete. The canister visible in the lower right contains a Turkish brand of glue, which looters--not archaeologists--would have used to make repairs.