Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sevso Treasure: New Developments

All's been quiet on the Sevso front since it went on show at Bonhams a few years ago - the consensus guess was that the auction house were exhibiting the Hoard to see if the heat was off, and the items could be put up for sale ... or not. I know of no evidence for it's origins but like most scholars am dubious about it, assuming it was smuggled out of somewhere at some point.

Sevso Treasure - Bonhams Auction House - Report - New York Times (with a good slide-show of photos)

Several countries have claimed the Hoard over the years, and whilst I am dubious about their claims - I wonder if the "Hoard" was put together by a dealer to increase it's value - I am aware that people whose judgement I respect have supported some of those claims, particularly the one made by Hungary.

Then this news broke today:

Sevso Treasure, “Hungary's family silverware,” returned | The Budapest Business Journal on the web | bbj.hu

I am a little unclear about what exactly Hungary bought as the article says seven (7) items, and the Sevso Hoard is made up of 14 items:



It seems a bit odd if Hungary bought half the Hoard - let alone bought it if they felt they had a solid claim.



The Hungarian claim has two main points that I know of:

1) the name "Pelso" engraved on the Hunting Plate, which they say is the ancient name for Lake Balaton (photo source):



The other name inscribed, Sevso, may either be the owner or a deity: 
Hec Sevso tibi durent per saecula multa
Posteris ut prosint vascula digna tuis
2) the similarity to a 'tripod' - in fact a quadripod - excavated at Polgárdi in the 19th century:


I don't know enough about Late Antique silver to be certain, but the Hungarians feel that the 4th century stand is close to at least one item from the Hoard, and made by the same craftsman.

As an aside, the items that 'make up' the Sevso Hoard are mostly 4th and 5th century AD, and need not have all been made at the same time - in fact, such sets of silver were more likely to have been put together over the years, just as pre-Victorian silver tea services tended to be made up of items of differing designs and dates. And yes, there are rumours of spoons and other items from the Hoard around ... but again, these are rumours.


Update:

BUDAPES, Hungary: Hungary buys back 7 Roman-era silver trays, jugs | Entertainment News | Idahostatesman.com:
Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday that the artifacts were brought back to Hungary from London a few days ago after long negotiations with unidentified sellers.
So they presumably bought some of the pieces off Northampton or the Trust that owns them, not other newly surfaced items.

And this would be their unveiling in Hungary?


15 million Euros for the larger pieces of the Hoard sounds like a very good compromise - in theory they would be worth a lot more on the open market if anyone would buy them, but if Hungary couldn't substantiate their claim ... I assume the price is a reimbursement of the owner's cost?

For Hungarian speakers - or Google Translate users ;-) - this article gives more information -
Itthon: Magyarorsz�g visszaszerezte a Seuso-kincset - HVG.hu - including the fact that 15m Euros is a third of the asking price for the whole Hoard in 1990, that the items will be on display at the Parliament for three months, and the refusal to say whom they were bought off.

This Reuters photo shows the little box with a lid was amongst the 7 items:


A view of all the items now back in Hungary (the box is in the cabinet on the right? - photo source), which seem to be seven silver items (six seen in this photo plus the box) and the cauldron they were found in:


The silver items are shown one to a case, although there is also the cauldron and a (?) rhyton in the case with the vase on the left below (photo below):



BTW - this photo (source) to me clearly illustrates why I rather doubt that all the pieces could ever have fitted into the cauldron ....



re the Seller:
Lord Northampton did not own the Sevso Treasure, but rather a Trust did; the Trust in turn held no other assets, so presumably someone was paying it's legal fees ... One interesting detail is that after Lebanon abandoned it's claim, and the Croatian and Hungarian ones failed in New York too, according to the Hungarian Ministry of Culture (link dead, but copied here):
Although the trust now indisputably owned the treasure, it could not be sold even if a buyer came forward because Sotheby’s was demanding its costs, legal and otherwise, of GBP 7 million and placed a lien on it.

Presumably this issue was resolved as in 2006 it was at Bonhams, in whose vaults the items are said to have been since. And the Time Team special on the Sevso Treasure ...

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