Skip to main content

The Fano Athlete: Legal Case in Final Stages


Elisabetta Povoledo has covered the final stages of the legal wranglings over the Fano Athlete presently in the J. Paul Getty Museum ("Italy Presses Its Fight for a Statue at the Getty", New York Times January 16, 2010). The Italian legal team have been concentrating one one key questions: "Was the museum acting in good faith when it purchased the statue for a little less than $4 million in 1977?" Povoledo reports the Italian assertation that "the museum was willfully negligent in carrying out due diligence before buying the work".

Alfredo Gaito, one of the legal team representing the J. Paul Getty Museum is reported: "Consistent documentation suggests that the sale was done in good faith because the seller offered sufficient guarantees to overcome every doubt." Such claims of acquisitions made in "good faith" were also recorded by the Princeton University Art Museum and the private collector Shelby White (see my earlier comments on this phrase); in both those examples the objects have been handed over to Italy. Even James Cuno accepts "due diligence and good faith inquiries are no longer sufficient".

Revelations made by Jason Felch in the LA Times have reminded us of some of the issues surrounding the acquisition. Now Alberto Berardi who speaks for the return of the Fano Athlete is quoted: "No museum in the world should exhibit works whose provenance is clearly illegal".

The next stage in the legal tussle is for the Pesaro judge, Lorena Mussoni, to decide if the statue should be seized. A decision is expected in the next month.

Povoledo also notes the Italian praise for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in New York. There is an implicit acknowledgment that the MOU between the USA and Italy is helping to reduce the movement of recently looted archaeological material.

Image
From the J. Paul Getty Museum

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.