The Priceless Hidden Antiquities in the Netherlands

The Netherlands, with its rich cultural heritage, has always been a haven for art enthusiasts and historians. Renowned institutions like the Rijksmuseum showcase an incredible assortment of artefacts, covering millennia of global history. Yet, sometimes, the most amazing pieces find themselves not in the grand halls of these museums, but in the most unassuming locations.

This is the story of how a 2,800 year-old Cypriot oinochoe, or wine jug, ended up in a small apartment in Eindhoven. Its journey from ancient Cyprus to a Dutch domestic environment is as intriguing as the archaeological importance of the vessel itself.

The saga begins nearly a century ago, far from both Cyprus and the Netherlands, in Sweden. During a significant archaeological expedition, in collaboration with Cypriot authorities, Sweden unearthed over 18,000 objects. Such expeditions were not uncommon in the 19th and 20th centuries, leading to the discovery and, occasionally, the misplacement of objets d’art from nations like Greece, Italy and Egypt.

Over time, the origins and significance of many of these misplaced artefacts was lost. This was particularly true for items from lesser-known cultures, like Cyprus. The Cypriot jug in question was lost to time, likely stored in someone’s attic. It resurfaced in the early 2000s when a Swedish collector, primarily focused on African art, happened to acquire it as part of a large purchase of art. Despite later recognizing its Cypriot roots, the collector relegated it to a storage room, where it remained forgotten for almost twenty years.

Fast forward to the present, this jug surfaced on his website amidst a collection of African artefacts. After a series of discussions, the Swedish collector agreed to sell it. The jug then made its way to Eindhoven, a city known for its technological innovation and now, unknowingly, a custodian of a piece of Cypriot antiquity.

The Netherlands is well known for its appreciation of contemporary art with Eindhoven hosting numerous art related festivals and displays. While it is somehow easy to accept that pieces of contemporary art end up within the homes of our local neighbours, it is intriguing to think about what other items, such as this incredible piece of pottery, might be just a few meters away from us.

This Cypriot jug’s unexpected journey to a Dutch city apartment underscores the often unpredictable path of historical artefacts and the Netherlands’ role in their preservation and appreciation. Who can tell where this artefact will go next? Perhaps it will go on display, but one thing is for sure, it will not be lost to history again. 

For now, this ancient wine jug will reside in my Eindhoven apartment, just a stone’s throw from a wine tasting room, where the locals savour contemporary flavours, oblivious to the presence of this artefact from a long forgotten era of wine making nearby.   Alexis Drakopoulos     February 2024