Saturday, April 28, 2012

Becchina and Montreal

Roman janiform head in Becchina archive
Source: Christos Tsirogiannis
The Roman janiform marble head that has been returned to Italy is beginning to raise further questions and issues.

First, it was consigned to Christie's by Mr and Mrs Charles W. Newhall, III. A Charles W. Newhall, III is a trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art (and a significant financial benefactor). What sort of questions did the Newhalls ask before acquiring the head? What was the nature of their due diligence search?

Second, the Newhalls owned this janiform head for a short period of four years (2005-09). Was this acquired as an investment or out of love of owning a piece of the past?

Third, who is Walter Banko of Montreal? Is he a dealer? If he is a dealer, when did he acquire the head? How did he acquire the head? Has he received other antiquities from the same source?

Fourth, where does Gianfranco Becchina fit into this narrative? Does Becchina now have a link with Canada?

Fifth, what evidence did Christie's ask to see to demonstrate that the head had been in a Canadian private collection in the 1960s?

The return of this head to Italy reminds us that the acquisition of antiquities can be a risky investment. And potential investors would be wise to check out the authenticated documented collecting history of an object before it is purchased.

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