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This 6in (14cm) c.8th century BC bronze is the subject of a dispute between Sotheby’s and the Greek ministry of culture.

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Writing to ATG in this week’s Letters page, Joanna van der Lande, chairman of the ADA, said: “We must work to ensure this attitude does not take hold this side of the Atlantic.” A New York court dispute between Sotheby’s and Greece’s ministry of culture over a Geometric period bronze is the latest in a trio of landmark legal cases demanding the return of ancient artefacts.

Court battles

Sotheby’s lodged a court filing on June 5 to “clarify the rights of legitimate owners” of the lot – one of more than 1000 known – after it was withdrawn from a May 14 auction following an 11th-hour claim by Greece’s ministry of culture that it was ‘stolen’. The estimate was $150,000 -250,000.

Sotheby’s has taken the court action alongside the object’s owners – the family of the late collectors Howard and Saretta Barnet – who bought it at auction in 1973. It was first sold at auction by Swiss firm Münzen und Medaillen in 1967.

This dispute follows an ongoing case in New York between Christie’s and the Republic of Turkey over an ancient Anatolian idol – the so-called Guennol Stargazer ‘sold’ at auction in April 2017 for $12.5m (£9.7m) – that has been on American soil for over half a century (ATG No 2307).

Also, a claim was brought by the District Attorney of New York’s office for the return of an artefact to Iran. It was seized from the stand of dealer Rupert Wace at TEFAF New York in October 2017 (ATG No 2345) after nearly 60 years in a Canadian museum.

The New York authorities have been leading a crackdown on the trade of antiquities with the formation of their first designated antiquities trafficking unit in December 2017.

See Letters, page 57.