More on the Roman cameo glass vase

The Antiquities Trade Gazette has an article on the Roman cameo glass vase that offers a few more details on its history. It’s all a little nebulous and should be taken with a grain of salt given the magazine’s pro-trade perspective, but I dutifully report nonetheless.

First of all, the primary source is Richard Falkiner, a coin expert, antiquities vetter and a correspondent for the Antiquities Trade Gazette. He’s also described in the article as an “antiquities consultant” to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum and to Bonhams. He has had the opportunity to inspect the vase in person at Bonhams.

The vase is thought to have resided in a private European collection for some time. The collector is a long-term client of Bonhams.

Mr Falkiner, a long-standing vetter of antiquities at the Grosvenor House fair, told ATG: “As far as I can see, the repairs make it look as though it has been out of the ground since at least the 18th century, possibly the 16th.”

Bonhams say that, in co-operation with leading experts in the field and with the present owner of the vase, they will be carrying out detailed research over the coming months into the historical background of the vase and its miraculous survival, as well as into its more recent history and chain of ownership.

Okaaay… So in other words, they have nothing concrete at all. I sure would love to know who this long-term client of Bonhams is and why he hasn’t been able to provide a verifiable ownership history of the piece. At the very least he should know who he got it from, no? How about just the length of time he’s actually owned it? Instead all we get is “private collection” and “for some time.”

Now, Falkiner has extensive experience in vetting antiquities, for sure. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades, as many experts who work for auctioneers, dealers and collectors have to be. In fact, he spotted one of the Greenhalgh family’s cuneiform fakes at Bonhams in 2006 after the British Museum had given the blatant fraud its seal of approval.

He’s not exactly a disinterested observer either, though. He contracts for Bonhams, he’s a vocal defender of the antiquities trade, his expertise is general — primarily in numismatics — and he hasn’t done any scientific analysis of the vase, just sort of given it a once over.

To sum up, the circumstances remain shady. Your trusty neighborhood cynic will stay on the story.


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Comment by LadyShea
2009-10-21 13:31:49

The antiquities industry is like a mystery novel! Stay on it, please.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-10-21 13:50:57

It really is. I’ve read two books tracing the ring of looters-dealers-auction houses-museums, and they were both like international greed and glamour Bond novels.

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