When Bonhams’ sale of the Geddes Collection made the news this summer it was because there was a superstar among the antiquities, namely Roman Elvis.
At the time, I said:
There was no mention that I could find on the Bonhams site or in the press about the ownership trail of these fantastical pieces. Mr. Geddes is Australian and has been collecting since the 70’s. Beyond that, who’s to know?
Well, with the auction scheduled for today, former Italian culture minister Francesco Rutelli started making noise a week ago about some of the lots having been looted from Italy.
There are many Apuglian vases for sale, most of them with no history prior to 1970, most likely indicating they were part of the explosion of looted Apuglian antiquities on the black market over the past few decades.
One of those Apuglian vases used to be in Robin Symes’ collection, and Robin Symes is one of those antiquities dealers from the Arsène Lupin school of “collecting”.
He was caught up in the great Medici case which is currently prosecuting former Getty curator Marion True. Although the Italian government hasn’t prosecuted him, a civil case brought by his late partner’s family has basically ruined him.
Anyway, the auction is going on as scheduled today, but Bonhams has withdrawn a number of lots, including almost all the Apuglian pottery, even the one the original press release called the most important item in the collection.