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AC Story Map Follows Court Decision on Claims of the Guennol Stargazer as its Case, Republic of Turkey v. Christie’s Inc. et al, Reaches a Conclusive Judgement

September 29, 2021

Traversing the globe from its Anatolian origins in the 3rd millennium BCE to its current state in 21st century New York, the Guennol Stargazer has recently experienced a tumultuous legal history having found itself in the middle of a court case involving the Republic of Turkey and Christie’s, a world-renowned auction house. Purchased by Michael Steinhardt in 1993 and sold by Christie’s for nearly $13 million in 2017, the Stargazer was claimed to have been stolen from the Republic of Turkey in violation of the 1906 patrimony law, as asserted by the Consul General of the nation. Though the legal battle was scheduled to proceed to a bench trial on April 27, 2020, the trial was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of September 7, 2021, the court has reached a decision.

The Guennol Stargazer is one of just fifteen similar figures in existence. Though it had been on display and exhibited for decades, Turkey did not allege that it had been looted and smuggled from Turkey, nor file claims on the figure, until its high-profile sale at Christie’s in 2017. This case has garnered significant public attention, calling for a narrative explanation of its history. The Antiquities Coalition has released and updated a story map to signify the fate of the famed Guennol Stargazer.

This is not the first occasion of Michael Steinhardt having been involved in controversial art deals – even so, the ruling led to the return of the Stargazer to Steinhardt’s possession. Based on Judge Nathan’s most recent judgement, inconclusive evidence of the Stargazer’s history prior to the 20th century has resulted in the court siding with the defendant.

However, the recognition of a 1906 decree made under the Ottoman Empire in the public court system shows promise for future cases of legal claims on looted antiquities. The court significantly ruled that if Turkey could have proven the presence of the famed antiquity in 20th century Turkey, a ruling could have been made in the country’s favor. Cases with more conclusive evidence may thus succeed in their attempts to have antiquities returned to Turkey.

To learn more about the legal outcome of the claims on the Guennol Stargazer and the legal impacts of Republic of Turkey v. Christie’s, Inc., view the Antiquities Coalition’s full story map here.