Cultural Postcards + [UK]

Southern Europe: Bonhams withdraws ancient Hermes head from auction
According to an announcement released today by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, Bonhams auctions house withdrew an ancient, Hermes head from an auction scheduled for October 2, following a request by the Greek Ministry, which has reasons to believe that the artefact was illegally exported from Greece.

Bonhams withdraws ancient Hermes head from auction
Bonhams withdraws ancient Hermes head from auction

More specifically, following the review of the electronic catalogue of the auction by the Directorate of Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property, it was discovered that among the items to be auctioned was a marble Hermes head, which appeared in seized photographs that indicate it was illegally exported from Greece. The Ministry contacted immediately Bonhams auction house asking for more details on the origin of the object.

“Αfter further investigation and documentation, the Directorate for Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property asked for the immediate withdrawal of the object,” the Ministry’s announcement states, adding that Bonhams eventually had to withdraw the head from the auction and for the first time referred the Greek government to get in direct contact with the alleged owner.

Bonhams withdraws ancient Hermes head from auction
Bonhams auctions house withdrew the ancient Hermes head 
from an auction scheduled for the 2nd of October
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]

The sculpture was evidently purchased by Nicholaos Koutoulakis, a Geneva resident in 1965 and then was inherited upon his death by the current vendor.

According to earlier reports by a Greek newspaper, Nicholaos Koutoulakis was an art collector and an antiquities dealer whose name was connected in 1951 with a “case of acquisition of antiquities that were stolen in 1915 and in 1931 from the Cairo Museum in Egypt.”

However, it should be noted that, as the Ministry’s announcements says, “an auction can be suspended only if there are compelling legal arguments that prove an illegal act was committed.”

Therefore, the Directorate for Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property and the Culture Ministry always deal with such issues with proper consideration to avoid claims for damages against the Greek state.

German auction house to sell Macedonian coins allegedly from Amphipolis

A forthcoming auction of ancient Macedonian coins by the German auction house Gorny and Μosch has raised eyebrows in the art world. The 15 ancient coins, dating from the era of Alexander the Great and his father Philip II of Macedon, are all said to derive from the area immediately surrounding Amphipolis, Greece.

German Auction House to sell Macedonian coins allegedly from Amphipolis
Some of the Greek coins slated for auction by the German auction house 
[Credit: Gorny and Mosch]

It is believed that the coins were looted by Nazi soldiers passing through the area during the German Occupation of Greece in the Second World War.

First came the Brits…

Artefacts at the British Museum dating back to the 6th century B.C. are believed to have been stolen by British soldiers fighting Bulgarians in and around Amphipolis between 1916-1918. Some of the antiquities were subsequently donated to the museum by the soldiers.

Amphipolis artefacts in the British Museum

Amphipolis artefacts in the British Museum
Selection of artefacts from Amphipolis held by the British Museum 
[Credit: British Museum]

There has been no official request by the Ministry of Culture for the return of the smuggled antiquities as had been the case with the Parthenon Marbles.

Source: Protothema [October 01, 2914]