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The experts at the auction houses are not infallible!

Neither are museum academics.

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From portland

27th September 05


Bonhams have a piece of glass in auction described as 18th Dynasty with an incised cartouche of Amenhotep lll 14th century BC which they estimate at

Bonham's image is copyrighted but we have here a pic from the catalogue.


Even a moderately experienced ancient glass collector would know that 18th Dynasty glass is about as rare as it gets and intact 18th Dyn almost unseen and intact 18th Dyn with


Remember, you saw it first here!

Another quite famous fake that slipped through and was offered at auction by an entirely respectable source.




Some responses on the two yahoo discussion groups 

slightly edited so that  it should make some sense in this contect

September 2005


       From Andy


Sorry to disagree with you but this cup is absolutely authentic and of the stated  period. though, as stated in the listing, it is repaired and restored. 

You don't need anyone to search for you in catalogues, the description of Bonham's clearly states it was in their auction in November 2001.  

If we should judge items by the fact that they were previously in auctions, sold or unsold, then half of all antiquities in collections, museums and big galleries must be  also questionable.


You say you know of at least twenty of these cups showing up in the last 10 years?  I would put the number to 200, faience included. Does the number make them  fake?


Glass, not faience, faience cups are not that rare.



From Alexander


It was offered before, infact it was in theMay 2003 sale, lot 63, estimate 2,200 to 2,600 pounds:


All the best with your back; I hope you'll be upagain soon, and be able to go to Bond Street yourself to tell Chantelle what you thinka bout this piece.

Do spare Joanna a bit, she isexpecting a baby.


From Jason

As  Alexander  pointed out this jar was also listed in the May 2003 sale (it went unsold) which is NOT mentioned in the new auction listing. Credit goes to Alexander for the spot. 2001 listing in the description of the current lot. :-)


So, listed at least three times in four years through Bonhams alone.

Not scandalous, but interesting -- if no one was spotting a problem with it, I would be surprised to see such a high turnover on a piece that is uncommon and has been priced at reliably low estimates. I've never handled a similar piece, so I can't comment much on the authenticity myself.


Andy, don't confuse faience with glass. Faience, frits, and glass are all quartz-based materials, but different procedures are used to make all three and they differ physically in the amount of alkali in the mix. Very few glass objects are found in Egypt prior to the New Kingdom, and during Amenophis III's reign most raw glass would have probably still been an expensive import. According to Nicholson, glass making from scratch probably didn't occur in Egypt until Akhenaten's reign a few decades later.


From Alexander


I have not checked the object in 2003, so I only have the photograph to look at. When you zoom in on it the patina looks convincing (but then again, one cannot zoom in enough).

The inscription is not too clear either; what are the signs below the cartouche? I can think of two translations, but in both cases there is a wrong sign. Maybe there is more text than the image reveals.

Typically something to check with the object in hand.

I agree with you that - if authentic - it is a bargain at that price.

But I will stay away from it.



   From portland


I am glad to be able to stimulate such a discussion  as in the long run the collectors will benefit enormously. 

To deal with his points:

  • It certainly doesn't mention anything about repair or restoration in the current listing.  In the first listing in  Nov 2001 it did but by the time of the second listing in May 2003 it only says restored and by the time of the current listing no mention of any repair or restoration at all, which can't be an accident.  Also in each of the three listings the estimate has gone lower and lower and as Jason said "I would be surprised to see such a high turnover on a piece that is uncommon and has been priced at reliably low estimates" .
  • I think Andy missed the fact that we were talking about 2003 (unsold) and not 2001. Do you have a record of what it sold for or if it sold in 2001?, the results on Bonhams site don't appear to go back that far. I wonder if it did sell in 2001. My feeling is that it probably didn't.  In the description May 2003 it doesn't mention anything about it being in the 2001 sale . 
  • I knew it had been in the 2003 sale, when I said to you that it had been in an earlier sale, and thought I had told you that but now see I omitted to put in the date. Andy also fails to appreciate just what a huge difference there is between pure glass and faience.
  • Jason is correct that the earliest know 18th Dynasty vessels, as against beads, from archaeological excavations occur only from the time of Akhenaten. That is why, I repeat, such a  glass vessel with such Cartouche would be the earliest ever and would be unique and the price much much higher. Look at any other form of 18th Dyn glass sold at auction and you will get the picture, even for fragments and of later dates .
  • If  the piece were not a forgery I know a lot of major collectors and museums that would have bought it for a lot lot more than the estimate, including myself. How come the Metropolitan or Corning don't have one in their collections when 20 or so have been around in the last 10 years at bargain prices? The conclusion is obvious.
  • I am still waiting for someone to tell us how such a patina could be created on a modern object. Is it just calcium in this case?  In fact the subject of false patinas, of all kinds, and on all kinds of antiquities, is of vital interest to us all and I would like to see a wide ranging discussion on the subject. We need the input of chemists and scientists. It is through such knowledge and scientific process that they have recently been able to discredit inscriptions on major objects in Israel including the famous Ivory Pomegranate from the first temple period and also the Joseph Ossuary. Too often when I've asked people how false patinas are created they simply try to suggest it as some acid treatment but that is not an answer.



A copy of

BRITISH MUSEUM - Bimson and Freestone

Early Vitreous Materials. 1992 191 pages with numerous b/w illus, drawings, charts,maps and tables. This combines various papers on the subject of early vitreous materials and includes:Early Faience Glass and glazed materials Egyptian Blue  Minoan faience 18th Dynasty faience

For sale







From Alexander

September 29th 2005


Speaking of Bonhams, also look at their lot 359:

This is supposed to be a sandstone slab, inscribed with a "Greek", "Gnostic", "indecipherable" text from the "6th-4th century BC" ("or later").

Apart from the obvious question ("how do you know it is Gnostic if you cannot decipher it?") it is clear that their description is wrong.


  •  It is not a Greek text, but Coptic.
  •  This makes it a much younger stone, 1,000 years at least (more thantheir "or later" implies)
  •  It is not indecipherable at all (although the image provided makesit hard to read the lower part of the text; better light would help)
  • It is not Gnostic. It begins with "the day of commemoration for ourblessed brother, who is at rest ..."; his name escapes me, due to the poor lighting.
  • Note the 3 crosses in line 1, and inbetween two times two letters, ICand XC. This is an abbreviation for "Jesus Christ", a very commonphenomenon in Coptic Christian monuments and manuscrips. This alone makes it clear that the dating in the catalogue is wrong.



From Alexander

October 5th 2005



Hello all,

Just heard back from Bonhams about this. 

This is what they wrote:

Dear Mr Biesbroek,
Thank you for your email. The information about lot 359 is very interesting. We struggled to decipher this text and as it had some Greek letters in it, we and the British Museum (!) thought it must be Greek. I have emailed a copy of the picture to our Egyptian specialist and they have also confirmed that it is definately Coptic text, so I have changed the date and description and added it as a saleroom amendment on the website. Thank you for your help with this!
kind regards and thanks again
I wonder if they will review  their opinion of the glass cup?
Hello Joanna and Chantelle,
Good idea for you to keep up to date on this section of my website!
Your contributions to these and other discussions about antiquities would be most welcomed.


October 6th

Description changed to:

Lot Notice

This lot has been incorrectly catalogued and dated. The description should be as follows: A Coptic inscribed sandstone slab, circa 4th-7th Centuries  A.D., inscribed with eleven lines of Coptic text, possibly beginning with  "the day of commemoration for our blessed brother, who is at rest....", also  containing an abbreviation for "Jesus Christ" in line 1, composed of the letters IC and XC between three crosses.



They say that the text "possibly" translates as (etc)..............


Alexander teaches the language for goodness sakes!

The translations given to them are correct.

It isn't a complete tranlation simply because Alexander cannot see the lower half of the text properly in the image.





This is from Michel van Rijn (suitably edited to avoid legal problems!)



They didn't even bother to show this ring in the catalogue photos!


An Egyptian gold stirrup ring, New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, 1353-1335 BC

Sold for $354,700

December 2003

New York, Rockefeller Center



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