Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present

Whether it s the discovery of 1.6 billion in Nazi looted art or the news that Syrian rebels are looting UNESCO archaeological sites to buy arms, art crime commands headlines Erin Thompson, America s only professor of art crime, explores the dark history of looting, smuggling, and forgery that lies at the heart of many private art collections and many of the world s mostWhether it s the discovery of 1.6 billion in Nazi looted art or the news that Syrian rebels are looting UNESCO archaeological sites to buy arms, art crime commands headlines Erin Thompson, America s only professor of art crime, explores the dark history of looting, smuggling, and forgery that lies at the heart of many private art collections and many of the world s most renowned museums Enlivened by fascinating personalities and scandalous events, Possession shows how collecting antiquities has been a way of creating identity, informed by a desire to annex the past while providing an illicit thrill along the way Thompson s accounts of history s most infamous collectors from the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who stole a life sized nude Greek statue for his bedroom, to Queen Christina of Sweden, who habitually pilfered small antiquities from her fellow aristocrats, to Sir William Hamilton, who forced his mistress to enact poses from his collection of Greek vases are as mesmerizing as they are revealing.
Possession The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present Whether it s the discovery of billion in Nazi looted art or the news that Syrian rebels are looting UNESCO archaeological sites to buy arms art crime commands headlines Erin Thompson America s o

  • Title: Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present
  • Author: Erin Thompson
  • ISBN: 9780300208528
  • Page: 199
  • Format: Hardcover
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    1 thought on “Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present”

    1. With its focus on private collectors of antiquities of Rome and Greece, Possession has provided a view into the world of private collectors over the centuries (millennia in some cases)--their motivations, apparent similarities, methods of acquisition of objet d'artes, and occasional eccentricities (sometimes it seems less than occasional). There is a Euro-centric feeling at times as the objects became so desirable at the time that "The Grand Tour" was also becoming "the" essential fact of the li [...]

    2. A slightly disappointing book on a fascinating subject. Thompson deliberately narrowed her scope, but even within her narrow boundaries I could think of examples she didn't mention. This is anecdotal and shallow. Still, there's not much about the question of why collectors collect, so I suppose I should be grateful this exists at all. I'd be interested in a deeper more comprehensive book about it though.

    3. A look at the many aspects of collecting antiquities--looting, restoration, forgery, etc which concludes with a brief discussion of the relationship between collectors and archaeologists and how the relationship could be altered to improve the treatment of antiquities. The chapter on restoration was both interesting and frightening as it shows the damage done, especially in the past, in the name of "restoration." Similarly the chapter on forgery is both interesting and frightening (and occasiona [...]

    4. I don’t typically read non-fiction. But the subject matter of this book grabbed me as I consider myself a minor collector of antiques. This book deals with collectors of antiquities, such as statues, engraved gems and coins. The author looks to expand the idea that the main reason people collect is to enhance their identity, to appear better than they are, to claim superiority over the rest of the population. She delves into the collectors’ “insatiable desire for ancient things” to quote [...]

    5. Somewhere between history, sociology, psychology, and a plea for change, this book is interesting though a bit dry and repetitive. It's at its best whenever it is able to delve more deeply into the human stories about individual collectors and historical figures (Lord Arundel, Emma Hamilton, and J. Paul Getty among them) and their relationships to art and antiquities, as opposed to the sections that make more broad generalizations and use multiple brief examples of different people whose cases m [...]

    6. Started this book for a work book club but we weren't able to finish it so I took my time in finishing it on my own.Very interesting book. It's a bit dry at times, but some of the stories about the collectors of history and how they obtained objects ranged from fascinating to scandalous to a bit of both. I'm an archivist and work with collectors from time to time and it is accurate to say they think about things quite differently from people without the inclination to collect. The justification [...]

    7. Very dry reading, on a very interesting topic. Lost interest in finishing and do not pick up if you are looking for in depth discussion

    8. Possession considers the motivations of collectors of Greek and Roman antiquities in order to help stop the looting and destruction of archeological sites. Queen Christina of Sweden, Henry Blundell, Thomas Howard (Earl of Arundel), and J. Paul Getty are a sampling of the collectors included in this well researched book. I was surprised to read of the extent of the restoration work done in collections—“the pervasive way in which the original collectors’ taste continues to shape the way we s [...]

    9. The author is, apparently, America’s only professor of art crime, and she’s certainly put her insider knowledge to good use in this very interesting exploration of collecting and collectors. Covering a broad time span, she explores the psychology of collecting, what motivates people to sometimes go to extreme lengths to add to their collections and tells of the equally extreme lengths that providers of art and antiques will go to in order to make their offerings collectable. She looks at for [...]

    10. This had a narrower focus than I expected, specifically about collectors of classical antiquities, a custom which started when some of Alexander's generals, after his death, used classic statuary to impress people and build their standing. Thompson sees our view of collecting (obsessive, greedy, cut-throat competitive) as shaped by Christian and Roman moralists, and largely inaccurate (she argues that collecting is often an emotional bonding experience rather than a game of one-upmanship). Inter [...]

    11. While it's depressing to learn about the abuses of our cultural heritage by private collectors, the anecdotes the author shares are fascinating and often surprisingly funny. My favorite is the one about Henry Blundell boasting that he bought a statue of Hermaphrodite and had its penis cut off to make it a sleeping Venus. *cringe*

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