In one case, Cuno approved the purchase of more than 180 Greek vase fragments with unclear ownership histories. Cuno has said he inquired into their origins. With no clear evidence that they came from illicit excavations, Cuno said Tuesday, "we were satisfied these were appropriately acquired."Felch contacted Cuno who is quoted: "At the time I didn't know the extent of his reputation". (I presume this meant Hecht.)
In an interview, David Mitten, the retired Harvard curator and professor who recommended the purchase, has a slightly different account. He said he and Cuno knew that two antiquities dealers known to traffic in looted antiquities — Robert Hecht and Frieda Tchacos — were the source of some of the fragments.
More at stake is the fact about what we now know about Hecht and Tchacos, and what was known to Cuno when he wrote Who Owns Antiquity? (2008). Cuno made his position on the acquiisition of the fragments quite clear (see here).
Felch also raises the issues about Shelby White's acquisition of the Icklingham bronzes that are apparently derived from a Roman site in Suffolk, England.
In 1996, Cuno oversaw an exhibit of bronze statues that included objects with murky ownership histories on loan from private collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White and Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman.
Irene Winter, the chair of Harvard's fine arts department, filed a complaint with the university's then-president, Neil Rudenstine, requesting that the loans be barred under the school's loans and acquisitions policy. Dozens of objects from the two private collections have since been returned to Italy or Greece.
Rudenstine today is a Getty Trustee and a member of the committee that selected Cuno. In an interview, he said he was satisfied that Cuno had conducted the proper due diligence.
Will Cuno be toning down his position as he takes up his new role?