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March 27, 2014

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis matches two objects up for auction in London with objects identified in the Medici and Becchina archives

Medici oinochoe (Medici)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Editor-in-Chief

University of Cambridge researcher Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis has reviewed the catalogues for three upcoming London auctions and identified two objects to photos in the archives of two art dealers, Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina, confiscated by Italian and Greek police who have used them to identify objects looted and smuggled from at least 1972 until 2006.

The three auctions of antiquities will be held at Bonhams on April 1; at Christie's on April 2; and again at Bonhams on April 3 

The first object is Lot 173 in Christie's Sale 1548 described as a Greek Core-Formed Glass Oinochoe from the Eastern Mediterranean, circa 2nd-1st century B.C., with an estimated bid at £4,000 - 6,000 (US $6,604 - $9,906). Christie's "Provenance" -- or what Dr. Tsirogiannis described in his email as the collecting history -- is described as:
"Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1988, lot 198".
"However, I identified the object from a Polaroid image from the Medici archive," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "We know that Medici consigned hundreds of antiquities to Sotheby's (Watson & Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy, 2007)."

The second object is Lot 22 in Bonhams April 3 sale (#21926) described as a Canosan polychrome painted lidded pottery pyxis, circa 3rd century B.C., with an estimated bid at £3,000 - 5,000 (US $5,000 - $8,300).  Bonhams' "Provenance" -- or collecting history -- of the oinochoe is:
"American private collection, New York, acquired from Ariadne Galleries, New York City in the late 1980s."
"However, I identified the pyxis in two Polaroid images from the Becchina archive (both attached, in the first the object is depicted broken and unclean, in the second the pyxis appears conserved and ready for sale)," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "I have also found documents which prove that the depicted broken pyxis IS THE SAME as the one put on sale by Bonhams. Also, the same documents prove that Becchina sold the object to Ariadne Galleries, who were involved in other cases of "unprovenanced" antiquities (e.g., see Gill 2013, Tsirogiannis 2013:10"

"Why do Christie's and Bonhams still fail to supply the full and correct collecting history of the objects, especially when they advertise their due diligence before the auctions?" Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote. "Why are these objects depicted in the Medici and the Becchina archives?"

Becchina pyxis in pieces
Becchina pyxis conserved