Most of Knoedler’s transactions were in paintings and sculpture, and rarely do we see antiquities. But as a Classicist, my ears perk up every time I come across a Greek or Roman artifact. I’ve only seen a handful of them in the six out of eleven books I’ve worked on so far, perhaps fewer than a dozen in total. But I found one the other day: a Roman lamp that was sold to a well-known WWII-era art collector of Jewish descent by the name of Alphonse Kann, whose collection was looted by the Nazis after he fled from France to England in 1938. Here's the record from the Getty's Dealer Stock Books:
The data above comes from a transcription from the stock books, and I include two screen caps below from the two sides of the page: the first shows us that Knoedler purchased a Roman lamp from Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodges (the name under which Sotheby's was known between 1864 and 1924) on January 22, 1913, for 1.8 pounds. Below that, the right side of the ledger records his sale of it to A[lphonse] Kann in June of 1913.
(below) Transaction record of Knoedler's sale of the lamp to A. Kann in June 1913 for 20 pounds
Where did the object go once Kann acquired it? Part of my interest in tracking antiquities provenance is building complete histories for an object from the time of their excavation to their current location. Seemingly, this can't be done in this case. Kann's name also stood out to me because the Getty owns a Roman sculpture object associated with his name: A portrait head of a Roman woman from the 2nd century AD.
There's no reason to link these two objects together, of course. But by showing you the Knoedler stock book of his sale to Kann of a Roman lamp, and diving into the provenance data of the Getty's collections pages, we can see two ways of tracing the histories of ancient objects. Neither is as complete as I would like. The Roman lamp is missing so much pertinent information - an archaeological context, previous ownership history before Sotheby's, its whereabouts after it entered Kann's collection (including to whom he may have sold it), and even its dimensions, material, and decoration, that it might be virtually impossible to trace. The next steps for me would be to delve into the auction catalogues associated with Kann's name: the one above for the Roman portrait from 1978 might be of some use, as well as later sales of works of art associated with his collection. I may not get very far with this, given the incomplete nature of the lamp's description, but we'll see. So, stay tuned!
ETA: See here for a second post on this topic!