Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The generosity of Giacomo Medici

The hand of Giacomo Medici is sometimes hard to discern. The Medici Conspiracy (see the review article by Gill & Chippindale) has demonstrated the way that the route from the Etruscan grave to a display case in some North American museum has been obscured.

But a browse through the 'vase' catalogue of the San Antonio Museum of Art presents two fragmentary Greek pots as gifts of Giacomo Medici.

The first is a Rhodian oinochoe fragment in the Middle 'Wild Goat Style' (inv. 88.18.2; cat. no. 177) and the second is the fragment from an Athenian black-figured cup showing a charioteer (inv. 88.18.1; cat. no. 179).

It is important to stress that there is nothing suspect about their histories. Both came from the distinguished collection of the Comtesse de Behague. And both were auctioned at Sotheby's in Monaco on 5 December 1987 (lot 142, a and b).

I understand (from the present curator in San Antonio) that both pieces were handed over to Carlos Pícon, the then curator, in Monaco on 6 December 1987, i.e. the day after the sale.

In a recent interview for The New Yorker (April 9, 2007) it was noted that Pícon only knew Medici 'glancingly'.

Pícon speaks about the meeting:
'I saw Medici at the end of the auction. A friend of mine was with me and said, "You bought that fragment that Carlos wanted for San Antonio," and he said, "I will give it to him." I thought it was rather touching. He put it in my hands and said, "Give it to your museum." He had never been to Texas. He had never seen my museum.'
Medici's generosity is indeed touching.

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