Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A gold wreath from Macedonia

The New York Times has reported that Marion True went on trial in Athens earlier this week. At the centre of the case is the acquisition by the J. Paul Getty Museum of "an ancient gold funerary wreath that Greek officials say was illegally removed from Greek soil about 15 years ago". It had been reported last year:
The Greek police said they now had evidence that the funerary wreath was dug up by a farmer in 1990 near Serres, in northern Greece, and passed on to the art market through Germany and Switzerland before being sold to the Getty in 1993.

The sum is said to have been in excess of US$1 million (BBC).

The story broke back in 2005 with a story by Ralph Frammolino and Jason Felch in the LA Times ("Greek officials demand the return of Getty antiquities", October 24, 2005)

The Getty's former chief antiquities curator, Marion True, acquired the wreath from a Swiss art dealer, Christoph Leon, for $1.15 million. Leon guaranteed that it came from a private Swiss collection. But a German police investigation later determined that Leon had acted as an intermediary for a Yugoslav and two Greeks, who had shopped the wreath around Europe in a cardboard box.

True first viewed it in a Zurich bank vault but walked away after she realized the men she was dealing with were impostors, according to internal Getty documents obtained by The Times. She went ahead with the deal anyway six months later, Getty records show.

When the Getty paid for the wreath, it forwarded funds to a Swiss bank account controlled by Leon and his partners, records show.


It seems likely that the wreath came from an elite grave in Macedonia though the precise archaeological context (and related finds) is probably now lost. The wreath itself was returned to Greece earlier this year.

1 comment:

advocatus diaboli said...

An now it will be displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Salonica instead of Amphipolis, where probably was found. It is a pitty.

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