Salon Archive

Issue: 71

Weekly meeting report

At this week�s meeting, Dr Martin Henig, FSA, stoutly defended the reputation of Romano-British sculptors against Collingwood�s assertion that �there is hardly anything that rises above the level of dull mechanical imitation�. On the contrary, Dr Henig demonstrated that when Romano-British sculptors chose to work in the Roman idiom their work was as good as any in the Empire � but that much of their work is not Roman at all: instead, it is a fascinating fusion of Celtic and Roman, forming a continuum with the art of the pre- and post-Roman artisans.

A full report of the meeting held on 20 November is now available on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

27 November: The Berkeley Castle Muniments, by David Smith, FSA
4 December: The Restoration of Kelmscott Manor Gardens, by Hal Moggridge, OBE
11 December: A Miscellany of Papers

Tickets for 11 December meeting

As is traditional, the last meeting of the year will consist of a series of short communications on objects owned by the Society or objects offered by Fellows, and will be followed by a reception at which mulled wine and mince pies will be served. Fellows are welcome to bring guests.

Tickets for the reception cost �5 per person, and are always in great demand, so early application is advised. Cheques are to be made payable to �Society of Antiquaries of London� and sent with your name and address to Jayne Phenton, Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE. Applications will be treated strictly in order of receipt. The ticket price includes entry into the prize draw. Monies raised will go to the Library Fund.

Fellows� news

Fellows might be interested to know that the recent three-day exhibition of the Society�s painting, The Dream of the Virgin, by Simone dei Crocefissi, attracted 2,000 visitors during the 10.5 hours that it was on display. The newly restored painting was shown at the Royal Society of Chemistry to celebrate National Chemistry Week and was hailed by the press as �one of the wonders of the early Renaissance�.

Copies of Antiquaries Journal and Archaeologia available

Salon was recently able to help Mavis Bimson, FSA, find a new home for her collection of Antiquaries Journals and Archaeologias. Now Mrs Grimwade, widow of Arthur Grimwade, FSA, also wishes to dispose of Ant J 1953�97 and twelve volumes of Archaeologia from within the same period. Mrs Grimwade (020-7352-3217) is happy to give them to anyone willing to collect them from her Chelsea home.

Llandaff Cathedral

Apologies from the editor of Salon to anyone who was confused by last week�s Salon, which spoke of the western approach to Llandaff Cathedral rising upwards to the west door. The approach is of course DOWN to the west door, this being a Welsh cathedral, built in a hollow. The steps inside the west door lead further down still to the floor of the nave, a peculiarity dramatically exploited by Epstein's Majestas. Robin Simon, FSA, promises to let Fellows know if there are any further developments.

Obituaries

Ann Harrison, who became a fellow in 1972, died at Douglas, Isle of Man, on 14 November. Ann had been the Librarian and archivist of the Manx National Library and later the first Public Record Officer of the Island. She was a past president of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, on whose council she served for many years.

The Society has also been informed that David Roy MacGregor, FSA, of Bath, has also died recently, and we would be interested to hear from any Fellow who knows more.

More on the Haskins Review

As a follow up to the item on the Haskins Review in last week�s Salon, it is worth noting that Lord Haskins himself wrote to The Independent last week to say that those who have interpreted his report as punishing English Nature for its opposition to GM crops are �completely wrong�. �My report�, he wrote, �is more positive about the work of English Nature than any of the other agencies in the DEFRA world, and a key objective of the report is to strengthen and widen its remit, not to �abolish� it�. He adds that �I think there is a good case for using English Nature as the body on which to build the new agency�.

Talks to prevent ploughing at West Heslerton

Local papers in North Yorkshire reported last week that talks were taking place between English Heritage, DEFRA and local farmers to try and prevent the fields around West Heslerton, near Malton, from being ploughed up. The threat to this mainly pastoral region results from the pressure on farmers to grow potatoes for the nearby McCain oven-chips factory, now that the market for cattle is depressed following BSE and foot and mouth disease.

An English Heritage-funded geophysical survey of the area recently showed that an astonishingly well-preserved palimpsest of tracks, villages, fields and graves lie beneath the soil, dating back at least 6,000 years. Commenting on the threat, David Miles, FSA, English Heritage chief archaeologist said that: �This is the archaeological equivalent of finding the Domesday Book, then having it burned before your eyes before having a chance to open it�. West Heslerton project leader, Dominic Powlesland, said: �This is a vast untapped resource ... it would be tragic if this place was wrecked for a few potatoes�.

Ironbridge Gorge is sliding into the River Severn

The Ironbridge Gorge is in danger of sliding into the River Severn, according to a report produced by Jonathan Lloyd, co-ordinator of the World Heritage Site. It may not be possible to stop land movement, the report says, so the aim is to manage and contain the instability, at a cost of �1.2m. Jonathan Lloyd emphasised that there was no immediate danger, but that slippage had already caused damage to roads, walls and buildings, and that the potential impact of the instability is significant. �Not only are parts of the unique and irreplaceable historic environment directly affected, but also people's homes, businesses and the infrastructure of roads and services.�

The local authority has said that spending such a sum is beyond its means, and is expected to ask central government to help, on the grounds that �the responsibility for ensuring the long-term protection of individual World Heritage Sites rests with central government rather than with local communities�. The council is being asked to commit more than �200,000 for immediate survey works. It is recommended that the support not only of government but of Unesco, the United Nations' cultural organisation, should be sought in the long term. The Iron Bridge itself, dating from 1779, was stabilised with concrete at its foundations about 30 years ago and is not thought to be at risk.

Blue plaques to mark lottery-funded projects

Just before jetting off to watch the final of the Rugby World Cup last week, the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, visited the British Museum to unveil the first of thousands of blue plaques that will be used in future to mark lottery-funded projects and venues. The plaque features the lottery�s crossed fingers logo and the words �Awarded National Lottery Funding�. The aim of the plaques is to boost flagging ticket sales by increasing public awareness of the many projects funded by the lottery.

English Heritage, asked whether there was a danger that the dark blue oval lottery plaques would be confused with the commemorative blue plaques marking houses where distinguished people have lived, simply said: �It's quite flattering really. There's a number of other schemes that have copied blue plaques�.

Permission given for Renzo Piano�s 'shard of glass'

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has given permission for the construction of Europe�s tallest building above London Bridge station, despite advice from English Heritage that it will have an �oppressive� impact on London and spoil the views of St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London.

The 66-storey, 305-metre building, designed by the Genoese architect, Renzo Piano, will combine office, hotel and residential accommodation. Officially known as London Bridge Tower, it has been dubbed the �shard of glass�, because of its shape.

A letter explaining Mr Prescott's decision said that it did not signal a green light for other tall buildings: �All new cases will continue to be considered on their merits against the established policy framework�. The letter also stated that Mr Prescott would only approve skyscrapers of exceptional design. It said: �For a building of this size to be acceptable, the quality of its design is critical. He [Mr Prescott] is satisfied that the proposed tower is of the highest architectural quality�.

Is it by Raphael?

James Beck, a professor of art history at Columbia University in New York, has written to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to set out his reasons for believing that the Madonna of the Pinks is not Raphael�s work. Beck is one of several Renaissance scholars who believe that the provenance of the painting is difficult to determine. �I harbour serious reservations about an attribution of the painting to Raphael and am puzzled about the date and the place of the picture�s manufacture�, he said. �When I saw it originally I said, �I think it is a Flemish copy�. It is not totally impossible but very unlikely that the picture is a Raphael. If I were director of the National Gallery or the Getty, I would want to get to the bottom of this before I shelled out public money.�

Several reasons were given by Beck for doubting the attribution to Raphael: �the work appears to be painted on a panel of cherry wood, which is unheard of for a Raphael of that period, the hands and feet are out of proportion, and the Madonna�s face is poorly painted�, he says.

Other experts have also cast doubt on the attribution: some believe that the work was painted by an artist in Raphael�s workshop based on Raphael�s undersketch. The highest price paid for a painting from Raphael�s workshop is �40,000, for a Madonna sold in 1996.

Patricia Rubin, a Raphael scholar at the Courtauld Institute in London, believes the attribution of the Raphael is bona fide but says: �You would be hard pressed to find an Italian painting of the period which is entirely by one artist. There were examples where people did a drawing and got others to get on with painting it. There is no absolute proof of something being by someone. If you spend �20m you want a guarantee � but that guarantee cannot happen.�

The illicit trade in cultural property

Last week�s opening of the new British Museum exhibition, Buried Treasure, provoked considerable debate about the trade in antiquities � both legal and elicit. On the Today programme on Radio 4, Fellow Mark Horton argued that metal detecting was �privatising the past�, by treating antiquities, which belong to us all, as if they were private property. Fellow Roger Bland argued for pragmatism, and said that the Portable Antiquities Scheme, underpinned by the Treasure Act, meant that archaeologists were now being told about finds that previously had disappeared into underground networks, and that most metal detectorists tend to be law-abiding and declare their finds.

At the launch of the Buried Treasure exhibition, Richard Hobbs, the exhibition�s lead curator, put metal detecting in context by saying that �About half a million objects are found a year, and 90 per cent has no historical importance: mostly it consists of bits of old tractor or 1950s childrens� toys�. On the other hand he admitted that: �There is a thriving black market in antiquities, a lot of which end up in the United States. No one knows how big the black market is, although there have been several attempts to assess it. There could potentially be millions of pounds worth of material�.

At an unrelated event, the Arts Minister, Estelle Morris, called on UK museums and galleries to respond to the growing problem of illicit trade in cultural property by drawing up firmer guidelines on how they collect artefacts. Speaking at a seminar for museum directors, she said: �The international trade in illicit cultural artefacts is a growing problem, and one that was highlighted most recently by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The number of stolen, illicitly excavated or illegally exported items has increased considerably. The Government is determined to reduce this problem.� The Minister believes that museums themselves can assist by putting in place �robust procedures in place for assessing the legality of potential acquisitions and loans�.

Artefacts to be swapped for copies after Pompeii thefts

Meanwhile in Italy the problem of theft from Pompeii has reached such proportions that a plan is being drawn up to replace mosaics, wall paintings, storage jars, capitals and columns with copies to protect them from thieves operating out of the crime-ridden city of Naples. The plan was announced in response to the third serious theft in recent months, when thieves removed the stonework of a first-century AD Roman well. A fountain similar to the well was earlier stolen from the House of the Ceii, and two frescos from the House of the Chaste Lovers were stolen in April, though they were later recovered in a nearby building site, where they lay carefully packed, apparently ready for shipment abroad.

Archaeologists are far from happy with the proposal to remove architectural features, arguing that Pompeii�s antiquities should be protected in situ by tightening up on the city's �shambolic� security system. CCTV surveillance has been installed - but it has been out of order for nearly a year following a suspicious fire.

Pisa resembled Venice

As archaeologists continue to excavate the remains of twenty-one ancient ships at a site to the rear of Pisa�s railway station, a team led by Professor Stefano Bruni, of the University of Ferrara, has been reconstructing the topography of the ancient port. They now believe that Etruscan and Roman Pisa was much like Venice today, consisting of a series of low lagoon islands of silt and clay, intercut by meandering water channels, forming a delta located about 3.5km from the sea (Pisa is now 10km from the sea).

Announcing the results of recent research, Professor Angelo Bottini, the archaeological superintendent for Tuscany, said that ancient Pisa did not have a single port, but rather consisted of a �network of river and maritime landing places, in which the sea and the rivers were in dialogue�. The extraordinary state of preservation of the ships was due to what Professor Bottini called a �traumatic sequence� of floods in the fifth century AD, which �deposited sand in such a violent way that it didn't have time to oxidise the wood,� he said.

Once excavated, the ships, which span the period from 200 BC to AD 500, will be conserved and displayed at a new museum in Pisa's old shipyards

The future of Historic Environment Records

English Heritage has published its response to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport�s (DCMS) consultation on the future of Historic Environment Records (HERs), that being the name by which Sites and Monuments Records are now known. The main points of English Heritage�s response are: that DCMS should make it a statutory requirement of local authorities to maintain a HER to the minimum benchmark standard; that DCMS should lead discussions on funding for HERs, involving all parts of Government that benefit from the use of HERs data; and that action should be taken to provide seamless digital access to all records on a local, regional and national level through a Historic Environment Portal, with appropriate mediation and interpretative material for both specialists and the general public.

If implemented, these recommendations would lead to a situation where there was an online network of HERs covering the whole country, to which all local authorities with planning responsibility would have access, backed by an inclusive outreach programme and resources for future development.

Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said that: �The DCMS consultation on HERs is part of its wider review of Historic Environment Protection. There are clear links between the information on the historic environment contained in these records and the new unified national statutory List that is proposed. Our response urges the DCMS to ensure that the statutory status of HERs will be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper on protecting our historic environment.'

As reported in last week�s Salon, DCMS has just extended the deadline for responding to the consultation paper to 30 November 2003. Further information relating to the consultation can be found on the DCMS website.

Bronze Age �sky disk� found in Germany

News is slowly beginning to spread of the discovery in former East Germany of a remarkable bronze disk, embossed in gold leaf with intricate images of the sun, moon and thirty-two stars, dating from around 1500 BC. Just under 320mm in diameter and weighing 2kg, the disk has a representation of the Pleiades star cluster at its centre, the formation that appears in the sky around the autumnal equinox.

The Sangerhausener Sternenscheibe (�Sangerhausen Star Disk�), as it is known in Germany, was dug up illegally perhaps five years ago near the town of Nebra, in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. Only now has the find been made known to the public following a complex police operation to recover the disk. Those involved in the illegal dig gave themselves up to the police in July 2002, enabling the exact find site to be located.

Professional archaeologists began work at the find site in August 2002, uncovering a circular rampart of about 200 metres in diameter, surrounded by a complex system of trenches. Artefacts found at the site range in date from 1600 to 700 BC. Clearly visible from the hill is the landmark Brocken mountain, located 80km away, behind which the sun sets at the summer solstice.

The site is being hailed as Germany�s Stonehenge for its potential astronomical significance, and the sky disk is being called �the first accurate semi-realistic picture of the sky�. For further information about the find and its astronomical interpretation, see The Cosmic Mirror the English-language version of the online newsletter of the astronomy department at the University of Bonn. For a picture of the disk and further information in German, see www.archlsa.de/sterne/.

Academic study of the lunatic fringe

Fellows interested in the lunatic fringe of both history and archaeology may like to know that Bill Putnam, FSA, in co-operation with his colleague John Edwin Wood, has published a serious academic study of one of the most famous topics in this field, Rennes-le-Ch�teau.

It was in this small town in south-west France's beautiful Aude valley, that Berenger Sauni�re the parish priest in the 1890s, began to produce large sums of money, which he used to refurbish the local church and to build many structures in the area, such as his Tower of the Magdalene (Tour Magdala). Sauni�re himself started the rumour that he had found the lost treasure of the temple of Jerusalem, and further rumours mushroomed after his death in 1917. Theorists found clues everywhere and speculated that the lost treasure of the Templars was buried in the church vaults, or that of the Cathars, or of the Visigothic king, Dagobert II.

In 1972, Henry Lincoln introduced the story to English audiences in his film, The Lost Treasure of Jerusalem?, made for the BBC Chronicle series and, as recently as August 2003, excavations were conducted beneath the Tour Magdala to see what might lie buried beneath the foundations.

Nothing was found, of course: this book explains why by uncovering a major historical hoax. The authors reveal that the true source of the parish priest's treasure consisted simply of the donations of the gullible, whom he conned into believing that there was indeed a great and mysterious secret in the landscape. The hoax was one of the most elaborate and complex ever perpetrated and created an ever-deepening whirlpool of fantasy that has lasted for a century.

The Treasure of Rennes-le-Ch�teau: a mystery solved, is by Bill Putnam and John Edwin Wood, and is published by Sutton Publishing (ISBN 0-7509-3081-0).

Consultation on Treasure Trove in Scotland

Alan Saville, FSA, writes to inform Fellows that the Scottish Executive has launched a new consultation on Treasure Trove in Scotland following a major review undertaken by Andrew Normand, a former Queen�s & Lord Treasurer�s Remembrancer. The consultation was launched by the Culture Minister, Frank McAveety, at a ceremony in Edinburgh on 11 November, at which a detectorist who had found a particularly important silver penny of David I was presented with a new-style Treasure Trove finder�s certificate.

This is the first review of its kind and it follows on from a major seminar held in 2002 by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland at which all aspects of the current Treasure Trove system were scrutinised. The consultation offers the opportunity to raise all relevant issues and concerns, including the possibility of new antiquities legislation for Scotland and the development of a parallel system to the Finds Liaison Officers of the Portable Antiquities Scheme elsewhere in the UK. Responses to the consultation from beyond Scotland are very welcome.

There are two relevant publications: the review itself, called Review of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland, and the government response and call for consultation in The Reform of Treasure Trove Arrangements in Scotland. Both documents are available to download from the web, the former at www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/rott-00.asp, the latter at www.scotland.gov.uk/library5/education/rtts-00.asp.

Hard copies are available from Mr William Fox, Scottish Executive, Sport, Arts and Culture Division, 1A Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ, to whom all responses on the consultation should be sent by 6 February 2004.

RIBA acquires the Gilbert Scott archive

The RIBA has announced that it has recently acquired possession of the Gilbert Scott archive, thanks to the generosity of Richard Gilbert Scott, RIBA, who said: �It gives me great pleasure to know that the archive is now secured for posterity and will be readily accessible for research�. Much of the archive material has been placed on loan with the RIBA progressively since the late 1960s and is now converted into an outright gift, together with a final deposit.

The Scott family dynasty�s involvement in architecture began with Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811�78), the leading Gothic Revival architect and restorer of his day, and continued through five generations to the present. As well as sketchbooks, photographs and correspondence, the archive includes drawings for Sir George Gilbert Scott's innumerable restorations of churches and cathedrals all over Britain, as well as new churches, houses and public buildings, such as the Foreign Office and the Midland Hotel, at St Pancras in London. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and Bankside/Battersea Power Stations together with his Waterloo Bridge and the famous red GPO telephone boxes are also represented. Overall, the archive contains nearly 20,000 items.

Wallace Collection Seminar in the History of Collecting

On Wednesday 17 December 2003, at 4.30pm, Dr Irving Finkel, Assistant Keeper, Department of the Ancient Near East, at the The British Museum will lead a seminar on the topic of �What will happen later?� or �Why don�t children collect things like we used to?�. Irving Finkel has himself been an inveterate collector of all manner of things since boyhood. During a 1950s boyhood this was a common state of affairs, with the pursuit of things and their exchange a significant daily preoccupation. With many people this early passion has lasted into adult life, although naturally evolving and broadening. This happy state of affairs no longer seems to prevail today. Collecting in this sense no longer seems to be a mainstream activity for children. Has human behaviour shifted, or has the commercial world merely contrived to deflect this human tendency into less gratifying activities? If we are indeed changing, what does this mean for the future of collecting?

The seminar will finish by 6pm and will be followed by wine and mince pies. Participants are asked to book in advance by contacting Louisa Collins, Museum Assistant, The Wallace Collection.

Vacancies

Churches Conservation Trust, Conservation Manager (West Midlands and North West)
Salary �24,000 to �27,000, closing date 8 December 2003

To manage detailed repair programmes, to work with urban and rural regeneration agencies and to obtain funds from such bodies as the HLF. An appropriate professional qualification is required, as well as three years� relevant experience. The post can be based in London or in the region. Further details from dirsec@tcct.org.uk.

Council for Scottish Archaeology, Director
Salary �23,000 to �28,000, closing date 12 December 2003

Definitely a job that you would do for love rather than money, the CSA is looking for an enthusiastic and energetic leader with proven management experience, and a sound knowledge of Scottish archaeology. Further information from the CSA Honorary Secretary, Dr Simon Gilmour.

Resource, Chief Executive for Archives, Libraries and Museums in London
Salary up to �70,000, closing date 8 January 2004

The chief executive of this new regional agency will develop an encompassing vision for London�s archives, libraries and museums. Further information from the Veredus Executive Resourcing website (ref 6468).