Saturday, 10 March 2018

Don't eat the Road-kill: Star-Gazer Kosher?

'you shall not eat any 
 flesh that is torn of beasts in 
 the field; you will cast it to the dogs'.

Sam Hardy has a go at unravelling the complicated and obscure collecting history of the Kiliya/tepegöz figurine/statuette, the so-called 'Guennol Star-Gazer' (The antiquity of the Guennol Stargazer – legal, looted, fake? 9th March 2018) which Turkey are trying to get back from Christie’s auction house and collector-seller Michael Steinhardt. After being found in Turkey (it's not clear where exactly, and possibly in a group with other objects) the object mysteriously surfaces in the USA.
 There, the stargazer passed from the family collection (the Guennol Collection) of tennis player Alastair Bradley Martin and embroiderer Edith Park Martin (also discussed as Alastair Martin and Edith Martin), to the Merrin Gallery, then to hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt.
Hardy attempts to work out whose hands it passed through and how in its shadowy past. Of course if collectors paid as much attention to preserving the legitimating paperwork as they did to the legitimating patina (excessive deposits on the surface), there would be no need for anyone to attempt any reconstruction or engage in speculation. 

The only kosher antiquities are those that have documentation leaving no reasonable doubt that they are clean, all the rest are nevelah by dint of being 'torn' from that context of fitness (trefne in Polish).

Note an interesting fact, the moment somebody says 'fake', even if that is followed by a question mark, and you see this odd, doll-like thing again after not looking at it a while, you do start to think it looks rather odd and doll-like and 'almost too good to be true', which on the unpapered-antiquities market often means that it is. Maybe that is why successive collectors sold it on. More fool the risk-taker that buys such a thing without the paperwork. 

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