Jerome M. Eisenberg, an expert in both genuine and counterfeit antiques, dies at the age of 92

Jerome M. Eisenberg, a leading antiques dealer in New York who, in the sinister world of grave educators and smugglers, stood up as a guardian against the illegal import and sale of ancient art, died on July 6, his 92nd birthday, in Manhattan.

His son, Alan, said his death in a hospital was caused by complications of pneumonia.

Mr. Eisenberg started a mail order business with old coins with his father when he was 12, and over the years he sold an estimated 40,000 old artifacts – he insisted that he never knowingly sold anyone of suspicious descent – and considered countless others for potential buyers and insurance adjusters. He testified as an expert witness in numerous lawsuits about the value and source of antiquities.

As the founding editor of Minerva, an archaeological journal, he challenged the authenticity of several prominent relics. One was the Phaistos disk, a clay artifact, six inches in diameter and adorned with mysterious symbols discovered in 1908 in Crete; another was the Serpent Goddess of Knossos, which was found at about the same time and like the Disc exhibited in Crete at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

Sir. Eisenberg, an expert on counterfeiting, wrote in 2008 that the Phaistos disk and its uncoded symbols, which are not associated with any known writing, were forged by Luigi Pernier, the archaeologist who said he had discovered it in an excavation at Knossos. the palace 100 years earlier. His analysis is still being discussed.

Often described in the press as the dean of antique dealers in New York, Mr. Eisenberg founded the Royal-Athena Galleries in Manhattan, specializing in classical Greek, Roman and Egyptian art, in 1954 after being discharged from the Army. In 1970, he established Collector’s Cabinet, a natural history gallery with minerals, seashells, fossils and butterflies. He later expanded Royal Athena and opened branches in Beverly Hills, California and London.

He retired and closed Royal-Athena in 2020 when he was 90.

Jerome Martin Eisenberg was born on July 6, 1930 in Philadelphia to Gertrude (Roberts) Eisenberg, a teacher, and Samuel Eisenberg, a printer. Growing up in Revere, Massachusetts, he was captivated by the ancient world during a childhood visit to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

He returned to Philadelphia as a teenager to attend prestigious Central High School and lived in the city with an uncle. He took a bachelor’s degree in geology from Boston University and later took master’s courses in art history at Columbia University and Pennsylvania State University.

In 1953 he married Betty Weiner; she died in 2018. In addition to his son, he leaves a daughter, Chelsea Roberts, and two grandchildren.

An archeology student (he studied under the Czech curator Jiri Frel, who was later fired from the J. Paul Getty Museum in a tax evasion scheme), Mr. Eisenberg specialized in Etruscan bronzes and Roman sculptures.

He was editor of Minerva from its founding in 1990 to 2009. In 1993, he was a founding member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art. In 2012, he was awarded the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity for his contribution to the promotion of Italian culture.

Mr. Eisenberg condemned the unauthorized excavators that looted ancient artifacts, smuggled them to other countries, and sold them on the black market or camouflaged their ancestry.

He went so far as to leave the antiques business for a while and turn to natural history artifacts, his son said, because he no longer believed it could be done ethically. He wrote “A Collector’s Guide to Seashells of the World” in 1981.

When he returned to the company, Alan Eisenberg said that what mattered most to him was “making it ethical and persuading others to make it ethical.” He described himself in his antique catalogs as “a leader for several years in promoting the ethical acquisition of antiques by museums and collectors.”

But while proud of his ethics, Mr. Eisenberg understood that when different countries changed their standards and laws, the definition of ethical behavior could become blurred.

“I have tried,” he wrote, “to zealously abide by all the American rules and international treaties governing objects of cultural importance. in England, Germany, France and Switzerland, which were once exported illegally from their country. “

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