The antiquity of the Guennol Stargazer – legal, looted, fake?

(The posting of the series was interrupted by a system error in Microsoft Edge, then the deliberate deletion of the lost data by Microsoft Support. It will continue next week…)

Last year, I noted the incomplete collecting history of a marble Kilia idol (also discussed as a Kiliya/tepegöz figurine/statuette), the Guennol Stargazer. The lawsuit, brought by the Republic of Turkey against Christie’s auction house and collector-seller Michael Steinhardt, continues. I make no judgement.

Few of these images have been recovered during systematic excavation’, art historian Pat Getz-Preziosi (later, Pat Getz-Gentle) observed (as I learned from Looting Matters).

According to Getz-Preziosi (though she was discussing another object from the six-piece group), the Guennol Stargazer is ‘said to have been part of a group found at [or near] Kirşehir in central Anatolia’. Journalist Özgen Acar dismissed their attribution to Kirşehir as ‘mistaken [false] information’, which was ‘invented by Turkish smugglers in order to hide their sources’.

Either way, as archaeologist David Gill asked, how did Getz-Preziosi know that the six figures had been ‘found together’, when their collecting history could not be documented back to their country of origin, Turkey? ‘Did they pass through common hands?’

Acar, who has long reported on the illicit trade (and whose reports I have long used in my work), specified that the Guennol Stargazer (and, so, the group) had been found in Balıkburnu neighbourhood, Kulaksızlar village, Akhisar district, Manisa province (western Anatolia). It was then ‘smuggled’ from Turkey to the United States.

There, the stargazer passed from the family collection (the Guennol Collection) of tennis player Alastair Bradley Martin and embroiderer Edith Park Martin (also discussed as Alastair Martin and Edith Martin), to the Merrin Gallery, then to hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. Steinhardt, who confesses to being “attracted” to “speculation”, “risk”, “danger”, sold it through Christie’s New York auction house to an unknown buyer.

John Klejman

Journalist Suzan Mazur, who has also long reported on the illicit trade (and whose reports I have also long used in my work), considered who had sold the stargazer to the Martins, art dealer John Jacob Klejman (also discussed as John J. Klejman or John Klejman) or antiquities dealer Robert Hecht (also known as Bob Hecht).

Mazur noted that Turkey implied that Klejman had been the intermediary for the Guennol Stargazer. It had surfaced when it was loaned by the Martin family to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1966. Acar noted that Klejman had sold an electrum (mixed gold-and-silver) idol of the same type in New York in 1966.

Klejman had also bought the Lydian Hoard (also known as the Karun Treasures) from Izmir-based antiquities dealer Ali Bayırlar, smuggled it from Turkey to the United States, then sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966. [Those who ‘mediated [aracılık etmişlerdi]’ the sales, between 1966 and 1968, included not only John Klejman and Robert Hecht, but also Iranian Muhammed Yegani (also transliterated as Muhammed Yoganah).] (The Met was forced to restitute the hoard in 1993.)

(Karun Hazineleri hikayesi burada okunabilir.)

Moreover, as documented by Getz-Preziosi, the six-piece group comprised the image in the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection, ‘a small marble figure and a diminutive electrum one in the Schindler collection, New York; a small figure in the Schimmel collection, New York; one similar in size to the Levy example, formerly in the Nelson A. Rockefeller collection (Masterpieces of Cycladic Art, Edward H. Merrin Gallery, New York, 1990, no. 7); and the Guennol figure, the largest known example of the type’.

According to architecture critic Carter Horsley, the two pieces in the Collection of Gustave and Franyo Schindler were ‘in an exhibition of the Schindler collection at the Museum of Primitive Art in New York in 1966‘. Not just the electrum one, but also the marble one had definitely emerged from ‘the collection of J. J. Klejman of New York’. So, it seems that the group had emerged through Klejman.

Aydın Dikmen?

Naturally, Mazur then considered who had sold the Guennol Stargazer to Klejman. She also raised another possibility for its origins. She observed that, first, the style did not correspond with the narrative of the object (which, in other circumstances, would have undermined the interpretation rather than the authenticity of the object); second, the patina was ‘particularly excessive’; and third, archaeologist Sedat Alp had recorded a stylistically similar ‘”disc-head” idol’ in the inventory of Munich-based antiquities dealer Aydın Dikmen.

Looted antiquities

Originally from Konya (south-western central Anatolia), he is a citizen of both Turkey and northern Cyprus who is resident in Germany. (fn1) As noted in the previous post, Dikmen has long been associated with the smuggling of drugs from Turkey, as well as antiquities and fakes from Turkey and Cyprus. He sometimes laundered antiquities from Cyprus as antiquities from Turkey.

Dikmen was perhaps first ‘arrested [tutuklanmıştı]’ in relation to looting at Çatalhöyük and Hacılar in 1966. When the police raided his home in Konya and seized 296 cultural objects on 18th October 1966, ‘they also seized “some forged documents that related to the sale of ancient objects” [“eski eser satısına ilişkin bazı sahte belgeler” de ele geçiyordu]’.

According to then general secretary (and Famagusta representative) of a social democratic movement (then in government coalition), Ferdi Sabit Soyer of the Republican Turkish Party (of northern Cyprus), by 1997, Dikmen had been ‘convicted of these crimes many times in Turkey [Türkiyede bir çok kez bu suçlardan dolayı mahkum edilen]’.

According to his legal representative, Ercan Canımoğlu, Dikmen has ‘not been convicted of antiquities smuggling either in the country [Turkey] or abroad [ne yurtdışında ne ülkesinde Eski Eser Kaçakçılığı suçundan hüküm giymemiştir]’.

He may not have been convicted of antiquities smuggling because, on at least one occasion, in 1977, even though he was named as the owner of icons from Cyprus that were intercepted while they were being smuggled through Turkey, he (and his wife) ‘escaped the hands of the police [polisin elinden kaçmışlardır]’.

On at least one other occasion, in 1998, the key witness received death threats and refused to testify and, due to the statute of limitations, the period for prosecution timed out.

He has been convicted of evading taxes (Steuerhinterziehung) while trading antiquities in Germany. Regardless of the legal technicalities of the various investigations, he is a ‘world-famous antiquities smuggler [Dünyaca ünlü eski eser kaçakçısı]’ and he has been ‘convicted‘; he does have some kind of ‘criminal record for antiquities trading [Eski eser ticaretinden dolayı sabıkası]’.

Forged antiquities

Dikmen has certainly manufactured and handled fakes. In the 1960s, his workshop for forgery, even his production of forgeries, was witnessed by multiple cultural heritage professionals. His skill in forgery was attested by another Munich-based antiquities dealer, Fuat Üzülmez. Evidently, he made ‘the best fakes’.

For example, as (more recently) demonstrated by Giampaolo Graziadio and Elisabetta Pezzi, he (probably) produced the “Konya Mask” to resemble Agamemnon’s Mask. By the 1980s, he was known as a “forger” (sahteci) by locals in Konya, numismatists in Munich and antiquities dealers (namely, Robert Hecht) in New York.


Still, as noted by Gill, while it is difficult to authenticate such objects due to the lack of evidence of their origins, ‘some of these “Stargazers” could indeed be ancient’. Regardless of the (potential in)authenticity of the Guennol Stargazer, as observed by Alp, Dikmen was handling disc-headed idols and other ‘marble idols from southwest[ern] Anatolia’ in 1965. Furthermore, Dikmen features alongside Bayırlar and Klejman in Acar’s reports on the Karun Treasures, ‘Ali Baba’s buried treasure [Ali Baba’nın hazinesi]’.

Fuat Üzülmez?

There is one more interesting coincidence. As noted, Dikmen and Üzülmez have been known associates since the 1960s; and Üzülmez is an honorary “uncle” to Hecht’s daughter. (According to journalist John Hess, Hecht himself later became ‘persona non grata in Turkey’, for unlicensed export of ancient coins.)

The Financial Police ‘conducted a raid on a house that belong[ed] to an individual named Fuat Üzülmez, who trade[d] antiquities [antikacılık yapan Fuat Üzülmez adında bir şahsa ait olan eve baskın yapılmıştır]’, and found ‘marble historic artefacts that [were] understood to have come out from underground, on which there was mud that was not even dry [toprak altından çıktığı anlaşılan ve üzerindeki çamurları dahi kurumamış, mermer tarihi eserler]’, which Üzülmez attributed to ‘a peasant in Antalya [Antalya’daki bir köylü]’, in 1966.

fn1: Aydın Dikmen – suspicions of drug trafficking and citizenship of northern Cyprus

In 1986, in the parliament of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the Kyrenia representative of a social democratic movement (then in opposition), Fadıl Çağda of the Republican Turkish Party, asked:

Who, when they smelled money, arrested Aydin Dikmen, who came from Konya to Cyprus with the aim of establishing a business in Kyrenia, with the fabricated accusation that he had drugs in his possession; and, when Aydın Dikmen was released and went to London, who followed behind Aydın Dikmen and, in London, requested a 500,000 Turkish lira bribe for themselves to end the matter?

[Girne’de iş kurmak amacıyla Kıbrıs’a gelen Konya’lı Aydın Dikmen de para kokusu alınca tasarrufunda uyuşturucu madde bulundurdu diye uydurma bir ithamla Aydın Dikmen’i kim tutukladı ve daha sonra serbest kalınca Londra’ya giden Aydın Dikmen’in peşinden gidip Londra’da kendisinden bu meseleyi kapatmak için 500,000 Türk lirası rüşvet isteyen kimdi?]

By 1989, the direction of the questions had changed, as the Famagusta representative of a left-wing movement (then in opposition), Çetin Veziroğlu of the Communal Liberation Party, demonstrated:

1. Is it true that Aydin Dikmen, whose name is mixed up in the incidents of smuggling, has been given citizenship of the TRNC? 2. If it has been given, when was it given? 3. Is there a decision of the Council of Ministers on this subject? If not: was it given with another disposition? 4. If there is a decision of the Council of Ministers, what is the date and number of this decision?

[1. Adı kaçakçılık olaylarına karışan Aydın Dikmen’in KKTC yurttaşlığına alındığı doğru mudur? 2. Alındıysa ne zaman alınmıştır? 3. Bu konuda Bakanlar Kurulu kararı var mıdır? Yoksa: başka tasarrufla mı alındı? 4. Bakanlar Kurulu Kararı varsa bu kararın tarih ve sayısı nedir?]

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, Village Affairs and the Environment confirmed: ‘It is true that Aydın Dikmen has received citizenship. The named person was given citizenship of the TRNC with citizenship certificate number 21807 on the day of 24th July 1981, according to decision number Ç-543-81 of the Council of Ministers on the date of 22nd June 1981. [Aydın Dikmen’in KKTC yurttaşlığına alındığı doğrudur. Adı edilen şahıs, Bakanlar Kurulu’nun 22 Haziran, 1981 tarih ve Ç-543-81 sayılı kararına atfen, 24 Haziran, 1981 gün ve 21807 sayılı yurttaşlık belgesiyle KKTC yurttaşlığına alınmıştır.]’

3 Responses to “The antiquity of the Guennol Stargazer – legal, looted, fake?”

  1. Reblogged this on HARN Weblog.



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