Trading antiquities in early 20th-Century Europe. The John Marshall Archive Research Project Colloquium 2016.

On 22 January 2016 the John Marshall Archive Research Project (JMARP) organised a one-day colloquium at the BSR on John Marshall and the trade of antiquities in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century (on the JMARP Colloquium; on the November 2014 workshop).

The research team presented some case studies of objects in John Marshall’s archive as evidence of the ways in which the art trade affected the reception of classical (and post-classical) traditions in 20th-century Europe and North America.

 

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Stephen Dyson portrayed the career of John Marshall, from his beginnings with Edward Perry Warren to his agency for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Marshall, who put together the core of the Metropolitan’s collection of classical art with the support of Edward Robinson and Gisela Richter, was influential in promoting and shaping the reception of classical culture by the wider American public.

The intriguing case of three statuettes of female and male deities offered to Marshall in the 1920s was presented by Athena Hadji, who explored the ways in which archaeological artefacts of dubious authenticity were used as evidence to substantiate debatable scholarly theories behind the still-popular myths of the Minoan Mother Goddess and her divine son.

much too archaeological

Vinnie Nørskov giving her paper at the conference. Photo by Guido Petruccioli.

Vinnie Nørskov evaluated the very eclectic corpus of pottery that was offered to Marshall, which ranges from large Geometric amphorae to red-figure and black-figure vases signed by Greek artists to Arretine bowls and moulds.

More than 80% of sculpted Roman portraits purchased by Marshall are still on display in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Although a lack of contextual information for most pieces has recently been lamented, as Susan Walker demonstrated in her paper, Marshall’s curatorial standards and criteria are still considered well-founded.

Although Marshall was appointed as official European agent for the Department of Classical Art, many are the art objects (other than antiquities) that have been offered to him. Roberto Cobianchi, who is studying the ‘post-antique’ section of John Marshall’s archive, reported on his discoveries and in particular on the reliance of Marshall and Warren on the attributions and expertise of Bernard Berenson and Wilhelm von Bode.

Bronze portrait-head of a man and fragments of a cuirass. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg, Glyptotek. BSR Photographic Archive, John Marshall Collection.

Mette Moltesen talked about Paul Arndt, Wolfgang Helbig and Paul Hartwig – three very important scholars who dealt with antiquities between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Trained in German universities as classical archaeologists, they were responsible for having discovered many remarkable antiquities that were floating on the market at the time. They were close friends of Marshall but economic interests sometimes interfered with their friendship.

At the end of the 19th century, the Canessa brothers (Cesare, Ercole and Amedeo) made a name for themselves as trans-European couriers for antiquities from the Bay of Naples, which they sold on the French market – a task that they sometimes executed in the most creative ways. Rumour has it that in 1895 the Canessas brought the Boscoreale treasure – a hoard of more than one hundred pieces of Roman silver banquet ware – to France, eluding border checks by organising a fictitious transalpine amateur bicycle race from San Remo in Italy to Nice in France, giving to their many accomplices in the large crowd of participants one piece of silverware each to hide in their clothing, bags, and even water bottles. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

At the end of the 19th century, the Canessa brothers (Cesare, Ercole and Amedeo) made a name for themselves as trans-European couriers for antiquities from the Bay of Naples, which they sold on the French market – a task that they sometimes executed in the most creative ways. Rumour has it that in 1895 the Canessas brought the Boscoreale treasure – a hoard of more than one hundred pieces of Roman silver banquet ware – to France, eluding border checks by organising a fictitious transalpine amateur bicycle race from Sanremo in Italy to Nice in France, giving to their many accomplices in the large crowd of participants one piece of silverware each to hide in their clothing, bags, and even water bottles. (Photo by Antonio Palmieri).

Analysing the flow of antiquities in John Marshall’s archive through the art market, Guido Petruccioli presented a quantitative snapshot of the antiquities trade in Italy during the first three decades of the 20th century, using the history of the Canessa brothers as a paradigm of the adaptation of trading practices in a fluid, rapidly changing and very competitive art market.

Stefano Baia Curioni and Laura Forti presented their preliminary report on their economic analysis of the John Marshall Archive, delineating potential lines of further enquiry on John Marshall’s flows of relations.

JM 10-0719_FotoCiol©

Marble portrait statue of a young man. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. (BSR Photographic Archive, John Marshall Collection). Offered to Marshall in April 1914 by the Greek dealer Georges Yannacopoulos (most probably the man in the photograph), it was eventually bought in 1919 by Carl Jacobsen of Copenhagen for his sculpture museum.

Starting from two objects said to have originated from Palestrina that were offered to Marshall, Sandra Gatti presented a brief history of the excavations and the commerce of antiquities in Praeneste and its environs, against the backdrop of the rising interest of Italian governmental institutions in the preservation of national archaeological heritage.

Francesca de Tomasi delineated the essential moments in the institutional history of post-unification Italy that culminated in 1909 with the formulation of a new law to preserve Italy’s archaeological and artistic patrimony. The story of two statues found in Rome and sent by Marshall to the Metropolitan Museum of Art before 1909 show that the implementation of stricter laws and limiting export conditions were an attempt to control the large-scale departure of Italy’s archaeological past that had been happening in the previous fifty years.

Until 5 February 2016, there will be a small exhibition of photographs and documents from John Marshall’s archive on display in the foyer of the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre at the British School at Rome. For the occasion, we have also put on display an original forgery – an ‘Archaic’ sculpture by the famous forger Alceo Dossena, formerly owned by John Marshall.

 

Guido Petruccioli (JMARP Director & BSR Research Fellow)

Slideshow images courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive, John Marshall Collection.


The John Marshall Archive Research Project is co-sponsored by the British Academy (BASIS Strategic Development Programme) and Mr Christian Levett.
Additional support for the exhibition was given by Professor Peter and Mrs Anne Wiseman.

Researchers of the John Marshall Archive Research Project. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

The research team for the John Marshall Archive Research Project. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Research team

Stefano Baia Curoni (Milan); Marcello Barbanera (Rome); Beryl Barr-Sharrar (New York); Roberto Cobianchi (Messina); Stephen L. Dyson (Buffalo, NY); Laura Forti (Milan); Sandra Gatti (Rome); Athena Hadji (Rhodes); Mette Moltesen (Copenhagen); Vinnie Nørskov (Aarhus); Francesca de Tomasi (Rome); Susan Walker (Oxford).

British School at Rome Library and Archive

Valerie Scott; Alessandra Giovenco; Patrizio Gianferro; Beatrice Gelosia.

IT Consultant

Angela di Iorio

Digital Images and Prints

Stefano Ciol


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