The antiquities market we deserve: 'Royal-Athena Galleries' (1942-2020)


  • Christos Tsirogiannis Aarhus institute of advanced studies. Aarhus University.



Royal-Athena Galleries (New York), Cultural property, provenance research, provenance narratives, illicit antiquities trade, illicit trafficking of cultural goods, conflict antiquities trade, looted antiquities, smuggle antiquities, stolen antiquities


On September 13, 2020 a quarter of a century had elapsed since the Swiss and Italian authorities raid in the Free Port of Geneva, on the warehouses of Giacomo Medici, later convicted of involvement in cases of trafficked antiquities. Since then, many other raids followed on properties of other notorious antiquities traffickers, thousands of antiquities were confiscated from them and their invaluable archives were discovered and seized. The research on these archives resulted in hundreds of notable repatriations so far, but mainly in the enrichment of our knowledge about the criminal way in which the so-called ‘reputable’ members of the international antiquities market have been acting since the 1970 UNESCO Convention, which they completely ignored in practice. Despite the numerous occasions on which these ‘reputable’ members were identified as involved, even today they continue to act in the same way, some without any (or known) legal sanctions. This chapter reviews the illicit associations of one of these ‘prominent’ members of the international antiquities market, the ‘Royal-Athena Galleries’ in New York, a gallery run by the antiquities dealer Jerome Eisenberg, who has repeatedly been found selling looted, smuggled and stolen antiquities. I then present seven antiquities, most of them identified in October 2019, one in March 2020, soon before the retirement of Jerome Eisenberg and the closure of ‘Royal-Athena Galleries’ on October 31, 2020. This piece lays out all the relevant evidence from the confiscated archives and combines everyone involved to illustrate the network that ‘circulated’ these seven objects. This case study also highlights all the problems that are ongoing in this research field, proving that essentially nothing has changed since 1995, or even 1970, and we indeed deserve the (illicit) antiquities market we still have.


On cover:
ANNIBALE CARRACCI (BOLOGNA 1560 - ROME 1609), An Allegory of Truth and Time c. 1584-1585.
Oil on canvas | 130,0 x 169,6 cm. (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404770
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.




How to Cite

Tsirogiannis, C. (2021) “The antiquities market we deserve: ’Royal-Athena Galleries’ (1942-2020)”, Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 32(18 N.S.), pp. 147–175. doi: 10.5617/acta.9024.