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Aphrodite statue of dubious provenance spotted at Christies Auction House

One more ancient statue that has passed through the warehouses of Robin Symes, convicted for dealing in illicit antiquities, has been spotted by archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis in the Christie's auction house catalogue: the torso of a draped goddess, believed to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic work that may represent Aphrodite (Venus).

Aphrodite statue of dubious provenance spotted at Christies
Torso of a draped goddess, believed to be a Roman copy of a Hellenistic work that 
probably represents Aphrodite [Credit: Ethnos]
Dr. Tsirogiannis, who works as a researcher at the University of Oxford, has sent a written report to Interpol and New York Police Department.

According to the report, the ancient sculpture, listed in the Christie's catalogue as lot number 92, appears to be identical to that found in the confiscated archives of Robin Symes.

The auction house has failed to list the "Symes collection" in the history of the statue's provenance, writes Tsirogianni in the report.

Instead the Christie's catalogue simply lists the statue as "property from a distinguished private collection", citing as its source "the Perpitch Gallery, Paris" from which it was "acquired by the current owner... before 1991."

The starting price has been set at USD 100,000-150,000.

"As over 93% of the antiquities sold by Symes were illegal, it would be useful to investigate the full collection history and true source of the sculpture, especially before 1991," concludes the report.

A photo taken from the seized Symes archive is attached to the report.

The Christies catalogue describes the sculpture "a spectacular example of the so-called "wet drapery" style. It was first used in the late 5th century B.C. and continued through to the Roman period. Wet drapery exhibits a remarkable tension in that it manages to depict a garment, whose function is to clothe the nude form but does more to reveal rather than conceal. In it, weighty stone seems effortlessly transformed into gossamer fabric. The result is masterful and unquestionably erotic."

"The present example is a Roman copy based on a Hellenistic original and likely depicts the goddess Venus. While wet drapery is common to other goddesses in the Greco-Roman pantheon such as Nike (best seen on the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre), Iris and Hebe, this piece finds its closest parallels in the goddess of love (see no. 204, in A. Delivorrias, et al., "Aphrodite" in LIMC, Vol. II). Additionally, the movement and fluidity of the pose recalls the figure of a dancer in Rome at Centrale Montemartini (accession no. MC2845)."

Christie's auction house has yet to respond to these allegations.

Source: Ethnos [October 14, 2016]

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