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Friday, 7 August 2015

Cycladic Harpists: Questions of Authenticity, Context, Chronology and Archaeological Provenance

Just came across this article of interest - Bo Lawergren, in Source, 
Notes in the History of Art, Fall 2000

Book Cover Art by Mary Frank, Cycladic Harpist No 1, 1997

"The Keros Hoard has been the subject of debate in the past, and discussion has been renewed with the publication of my monograph on the assemblage. The controversy stems from the fact that it consists largely—or as a whole—of material of questionable provenance and authenticity. The suggested date of its looting has also been disputed." Peggy Sotirakopoulou.

In his lecture on the artist John Craxton and his time in Greece, Ian Collins said, at the Dorset County Museum (18 September 2015), that John Craxton once offered to introduce Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew, Professor Renfrew) to "the man who made" one of the most famous Cycladic harpists (such as the specimen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?). The man had allegedly mastered a technique of aging and weathering his little "Cycladic" carved marble figurines by leaving them in a stream for six months to gather limescale...who knows. Have these Cycladic masterpieces ever been subjected to thermoluminescence testing or radio carbon dating, if appropriate?

For more information, see "John Craxton", by Ian Collins, Lund Humphries, page 87.

For more on this controversy, see Peter Landesman, New York Times Magazine, March 18, 2001

An excerpt:

"The Metropolitan has weathered some similar storms. Recently, Oscar White Muscarella, a senior research fellow there, accused his own institution of keeping a sensational forgery, the famed "Cycladic Harp Player," an 11 1/2-inch-high stone carving believed to be more than 4,000 years old. Long regarded as one of the world's greatest ancient art treasures, the "Harp Player" has iconic status, staring out from museum posters and the cover of catalogs on Roman and Greek antiquities. "I've always felt uneasy about the work," Muscarella says. "For a start, the harp is not an ancient harp." Also, some of the work's features, like the musculature of its limbs and the treatment of its hands, seem too modern to Muscarella's eye. Finally, in December, the British artist John Craxton claimed in The Times of London to have met the man who faked the carving in the late 1940's, a Greek shepherd named Angelos Koutsoupis. Craxton says that Koutsoupis told him how he had modeled the work on a figure of a harp player from the national museum in Athens, then submerged it in a river for six months until it became encrusted in limescale to "age" it."

See also Artnet, 1 November 2001



'British Royal Academy painter John Craxton is challenging the authenticity of a $3 million Cycladic stone figure of a harp player dated ca. 2800-2700 B.C. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, reports London's Sunday Times. Craxton, an honorary British consul in Crete, claims Greek shepherd Angelos Koutsoupis told him he carved the figure in the 1940s and submerged it in a river for six months to age it. Koutsoupis allegedly said the figurine had been commissioned by an antiquities dealer namedZoumboulaki, who sent him photographs of a carved harp player from the National Museum in Athens. According to the newspaper, the museum confirms that the piece was acquired from the dealer in 1947 but adds that it has "sound technical evidence for believing the harpist to be genuine."'

See the article by Maurice Chittenden, Sunday Times, 31 December 2000, re Angelos Koutsoupis' alleged sculptural activities on the island of Ios.

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