As I have been looking into a set of sculptures attributed Oxyrhynchus (in previous posts here and here), some patterns have emerged in terms of acquisition. It seems that the best thing to do is to make a list of pieces that have been attributed to Oxyrhynchus (modern Bahnasa and its environs). This will not include all sculpture attributed to Oxyrhynchus–just the limestone pieces of adults or children in framed niches (or which appear to have been removed from framed niches). So, I’ll use this post to create a running inventory of such pieces, adding (when possible) dates of acquisition, the dealers from whom the pieces were purchased, and the precise stated provenance. Entries in bold have a secure archaeological provenance. A map below shows the locations. Items without a hyperlink are illustrated below the list. Additions and corrections are welcome.
Last updated 18 May 2018 (with thanks to Kathy Zurek-Doule of the Brooklyn Museum).
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1972.875, 1972, P.G. Sier, cemetery of Bahnasa
British Museum, EA1795, 1922, excavated by Flinders Petrie, Oxyrhynchus, Tomb 20
British Museum, EA1847, 1971, Karl Johan Möger, Oxyrhynchus
Brooklyn Museum, 70.132, 1970, Bodes & Bode Juweliers (Amsterdam), Oxyrhynchus
Brooklyn Museum, 71.39.2, 1971, Hessin Kamal Abdalla Hammouda (Cairo), Oxyrhynchus
Egyptian Museum, Cairo, 37677, 1907, excavated by Sobhi Effendi Arif, Kom el-Rahib
Egyptian Museum, Cairo, number unknown, before 1963, no dealer named, Oxyrhynchus
El-Ashmunein, Ashour Document 1, before 2010, no dealer named, Bahnasa
El-Ashmunein, 703 (Ashour Document 2), 1984-1985, excavated, Bahnasa
El-Ashmunein, Ashour Document 3, before 2010, no dealer named, Bahnasa
Graeco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, 23375, 1932, excavated by Breccia, Oxyrhynchus, northwest necropolis
Graeco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, 23377, 1932, excavated by Breccia, Oxyrhynchus, northwest necropolis
Hannover Museum August Kestner, 1965.29, 1965?, no dealer named, Oxyrhynchus
Harvard University Art Museums, 1977.197, 1977, Charles Dikran Kelekian, Oxyrhynchus
Musée du Louvre, Paris, E26928, 1971, no dealer named, Oxyrhynchus
Musée Royal de Mariemont, Ac. 72-1, 1972, Amsterdam (no dealer named), Bahnasa
Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, E.08239, date not known, no dealer named, Oxyrhynchus
Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, E.08243, 1971?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?National Museum of Scotland, A.1971.674, 1971, no dealer named, Oxyrhynchus
Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, 55-42, 1955, Paul Mallon (New York), Sheikh Abada
Private collection, Amsterdam, Schneider 12, after 1969?, no dealer named, Samallut
Private collection, Amsterdam, Schneider 13, after 1969?, no dealer named, Samallut
Private collection, Amsterdam, Schneider 14, after 1969?, no dealer named, Samallut
Private collection, Amsterdam, Schneider 15-16, after 1969?, no dealer named, Samallut
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1961/9.1, 1961?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1971/2.1, 1971?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1972/8.1, 1972?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1980/1.2, 1980?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1980/1.5, 1980?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1980/1.6, 1980?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, F 1980/1.7, 1980?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum von Oudheden, F 1980/1.9, 1980?, no dealer named, Bahnasa?
Rijksmuseum von Oudheden, F 1992/8.1, 1992?, no dealer named, Antinoë or Oxyrhynchus
Royal Ontario Museum, number unknown, no acquisition info., Oxyrhynchus
Sotheby’s 2010, Lot 78, 1965, Los Angeles (no dealer named), Oxyrhynchus
Unknown (Alexandria?), Breccia pl. XXVI 81, 1932, excavated by Breccia, Oxyrhynchus, northwest necropolis
Unknown (Alexandria?), Breccia pl. XXVI 82, 1932, excavated by Breccia, Oxyrhynchus, northwest necropolis
World Museum, Liverpool, 1970.160, 1972, Karl Johan Möger, Oxyrhynchus
World Museum, Liverpool, 1969.140, 1969, Karl Johan Möger, Bahnasa?
There was pretty clearly a glut of these pieces on the market in the very late 1960s and early 1970s. The presence of so many pieces in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden as well as a private collection in Amsterdam and the involvement of the Dutch dealers P.G. Sier,Bodes & Bode Juweliers, and Karl Johan Möger (the latter is well known as a dealer of Coptic manuscripts) all suggest that the whole of that lot probably passed through the Netherlands. The items listed above without links to images are illustrated below.
The four pieces from a private collection in Amsterdam were published by Hans D. Schneider in 1975. In his description of these pieces, Schneider mentioned an alleged discovery of tomb reliefs near Oxyrhynchus in 1969:
“They are part of a unique group of monuments which were up till 1969 only scarcely known in museums and private collections. In the course of that year local farmers discovered at El Behnesa, near the ancient Coptic village of Samallut, some 30 km north of El Minya, what might be an important section of the ancient necropolis of Oxyrhynchus. Any details of the discovery of the so-called Behnasa-finds are wanting. Their provenance is confirmed by the discovery of a similar tomb-relief nearby in Kom el-Rahib, in 1904. This piece shows a great standing figure of a man dressed as a traveller, cut in high relief in an arched niche.Together with at least four other reliefs all identical with the Behnasa ones, this monument has been an isolated example of this genre. On the basis of style, material and quality all Behnasa reliefs must have been part of the same mausoleum, out of which they were cut by unexperienced modern hands.”
The idea that many of these reliefs are the product of relatively recent plundering makes sense, but the claim that all the pieces come from “the same mausoleum” seems open to question. Even the archaeologically secure finds show a pretty wide geographic spread, from Petrie’s pieces (excavated from tombs in immediate proximity to the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus) to Kom el-Rahib to Samallut (See map below):
So, we can see that the evidence as it stands shows six pieces in varying states of preservation were certainly excavated from the immediate surroundings of Oxyrhynchus before 1940. One piece came from about 30 km away in the early twentieth century. The rest appear to be attributed to Oxyrhynchus on the basis of stylistic similarity to these pieces.
Arif, Sobhi. “Découverte d’une tombe chrétienne près de Samallout.” Annales du service des antiquités de l’Égypte 7 (1907), 111-114 and Table viii.
Ashour, Sobhi. “Unpublished Group of Bahnasa Reliefs.” Publications of The Archaeological Society of Alexandria: Archaeological & Historical Studies 13 (2010), 65-106.
Breccia, Evaristo. Le Musée gréco-romain 1931-1932. Instituto Italiano d’Arti Grafiche, 1933.
Parlasca, Klaus. “Grave-Reliefs and Architectural Sculpture.” Pages 91-103 in A.K. Bowman et al., eds., Oxyrhynchus: A City and its Texts. London: Egypt Exploration Society, 2007.
Petrie, William Matthew Flinders. Tombs of the Courtiers and Oxyrhynchos. London: British School of Archaeology in Egypt, 1925.
Schneider, Hans D. “Four Romano-Egyptian Tomb-Reliefs.” Bulletin Antieke Beschaving 50 (1975), 9-12, plates 12-16.
Thomas, Thelma K. Late Antique Egyptian Funerary Sculpture: Images for this World and for the Next. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000.
Wessel, Klaus. Koptische Kunst: Die Spätantike in Ägypten. Recklinghausen: Aurel Bongers, 1963.
Brent, what do you think is the significance of these figures? Do they represent a common form of belief? Three of the figures are carrying what looks like a rope. For the other figures, the area around the hands is not clear, but they could also be carrying a similar item.
It’s hard to say what the pieces signified in their ancient context. Several of the female pieces (pictured here: https://brentnongbri.com/2018/04/30/a-bit-more-on-sculpture-attributed-to-oxyrhynchus/ ) are regularly identified in scholarship as initiates or priestesses in Isis cults (the central knot on the front of the garment is typical of depictions of Isis, the left hand holding a container, and the right hand, visible in the Louvre piece, seems to be carrying a small situla, or bucket, also typical in depictions of Isis). Some of the male statues have a fairly standardized pose, although others carry certain implements (such as the scroll in the Edinburgh piece or the stylus and tablet in one of the Rijksmuseum pieces).