One of the eight items returning to Iraq, a Sumerian clay cone from the Eninnu temple complex at Girsu.

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Sumerian relics go back to Iraq

Eight Sumerian antiquities seized by the Metropolitan Police from a London dealer in 2003 are to be returned to Iraq after identification by the British Museum.

The assemblage of small Jemdet Nasr period objects – a marble bull pendant, a gypsum mace head, two stamp seals, an inscribed pebble and three clay cones bearing cuneiform script – has spent 15 years in the hands of the British state after the dealer (who has now ceased trading) failed to supply proof of ownership.

After years in police storage, the collection was taken to the museum for analysis earlier this year, and the objects were linked with the site of ancient Girsu (modern Tello) in southern Iraq.

Inscriptions linked the cones to the Eninnu temple complex, and with other items identical to objects known from the museum’s own excavations at the same site.

Celebrated tribal art up for auction

On October 30 items from the celebrated Stoclet tribal art collection are to be offered at auction by Christie’s in Paris.

Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949) made his fortune as a banker, heading the Société Générale de Belgique, which allowed him to indulge a passion for fine art and music.

Today his name is well known thanks to the Palais Stoclet, the Brussels home created for him between 1905-11 by the famous Wiener Werkstätte designer Josef Hoffmann. It is still owned by the family.


Yaka headrest from the Democratic Republic of Congo which is estimated at €300,000- 500,000 at Christie’s Paris.

The palace included a special Salon Africain reserved to display a collection of African sculpture. Pieces that were displayed in this room are for sale at Christie’s. They are making their first appearance on the market since they were acquired by Stoclet in the early decades of the 20th century, passing down by descent within the family.

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Islamic manuscript returns to Egypt

A rare Islamic manuscript consigned to a Bonhams auction in London has been returned to Egypt in the latest example of Egyptian authorities succeeding in retrieving artefacts from abroad.

The manuscript titled Summary of the science of history by Mohammed bin Sulaiman Masood Al Kafiji, known as Mohiuddin Al Kafiji, was formerly in the collection of the Egyptian National Library and Archives but disappeared in the 1970s.

Dating from the 14th century, it is considered an important and early study in historical theory.

The national library and archives reportedly spotted the manuscript online in a sale taking place in April. Contacting Bonhams through Egypt’s embassy in London, the library was able to show documents to prove it was the same manuscript that had previously been in its possession.

After talks with the vendor, a deal was secured to ensure the safe return of the item to the Cairo library.

While Bonhams would not reveal either how the vendor had acquired it or at what level it had been estimated, a spokesman said: “Bonhams was delighted to be of assistance in helping the owner restore this important manuscript to its rightful home.”

EU cultural import law change delay

The European Union’s plan to introduce new laws on the import of cultural goods, due to be voted on this summer, has been delayed until September.

In July, the European Commission in Brussels announced it will introduce new regulations on imports of cultural property. They are designed to stop imports to the EU of cultural goods illicitly exported from their country of origin.

US ‘library theft’ case postponed

The hearing in the case of Greg Priore and John Schulman, two men accused of a massive US library theft, has been postponed until October 12.

As reported last week (ATG No 2353), hundreds of stolen books and prints valued at millions of dollars that were taken from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh remain at large in the international market.

Schulman, a well-known Pittsburgh dealer, and Carnegie librarian Priore were charged last month with multiple offences connected with the theft.

■ A list of missing items compiled by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association can be seen at

Christie’s hits back at Leonardo claim

Christie’s has rejected the view expressed by Oxford academic Dr Matthew Landrus that Salvator Mundi should be attributed to Bernardino Luini, one of Leonardo’s assistants, rather than the master himself.

In a Guardian article, Dr Landus said similarities between Salvator Mundi and known works by Luini point to the majority of the work being painted by the latter, with only between 5-20% of the painting by Leonardo.

Christie’s said that the “broad consensus” of scholarly opinion that Salvator Mundi was a work fully ascribed to Leonardo remains unchanged.

A spokesman told ATG: “The attribution to Leonardo was established almost 10 years prior to sale by a panel of a dozen scholars, and was reconfirmed at the time of the auction in 2017.”

In Numbers


The reduction in Sotheby’s commission margin across the first half of 2018 caused by shortfalls on just two guaranteed paintings. One of the lots was Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), that sold for $139m in New York in May against an estimate ‘in excess of $150m’ – the highest auction price in Sotheby’s history.