Friday, January 15, 2010

Italy: Looting decreased dramatically

The Carabinieri art squad (Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale) has released details of its activities during 2009 ("Roma - Rientrano in Italia reperti archeologici di inestimabile valore", Press Release January 14, 2010; see also "Italy recovers Euro165 million in stolen art, relics", AP January 14,2010). It is clear that Italy is addressing the threats to its cultural property. There were only 59 reports of looting on archaeological sites in 2009, a significant fall from 238 in 2008. (There were 40 such reports in 2006, but in the 1990s 1000s; see earlier comments.)

During 2009 39,584 looted archaeological objects were recovered. This surely reflects the looting of 1000s of archaeological sites in Italy over many years (or even decades). One of the personalities who has featured prominently in the Medici Conspiracy (and the return of antiquities to Italy) is Fritz Bürki of Zurich, Switzerland. 137 objects were returned to Italy from the conservators Fritz Bürki & Son. The Carabinieri are clearly trying to track down another 300 items handled by Bürki. Museum curators and collectors will, I suspect, be checking that his name is not associated with any recent (i.e. post-1970) acquisitions.

The Carabinieri also displayed a Roman wall-painting from Boscoreale and and a Corinthian krater seized from Christie's in New York.

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