Showing posts with label Marion True. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marion True. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Negotiating Culture: New Book Published

Laetitia La Follette, Vice President for Professional Responsibilities at the AIA, has edited a new book, Negotiating Culture: Heritage, Ownership and Intellectual Property (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013) [Publisher].
Rival claims of ownership or control over various aspects of culture are a regular feature of our twenty-first-century world. Such debates are shaping disciplines as diverse as anthropology and archaeology, art history and museum studies, linguistics and genetics. 
This provocative collection of essays—a series of case studies in cultural ownership by scholars from a range of fields—explores issues of cultural heritage and intellectual property in a variety of contexts, from contests over tangible artifacts as well as more abstract forms of culture such as language and oral traditions to current studies of DNA and genes that combine nature and culture, and even new, nonproprietary models for the sharing of digital technologies. Each chapter sets the debate in its historical and disciplinary context and suggests how the approaches to these issues are changing or should change. 
One of the most innovative aspects of the volume is the way each author recognizes the social dimensions of group ownership and demonstrates the need for negotiation and new models. The collection as a whole thus challenges the reader to reevaluate traditional ways of thinking about cultural ownership and to examine the broader social contexts within which negotiation over the ownership of culture is taking place.
La Folette's essay is on "The trial of Marion True and changing policies for Classical Antiquities in American Museums".

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Icklingham bronzes: looking back

I am reviewing the history of the Icklingham bronzes case. In 1991 the New York Times reported on the case raised by John Browning, the land owner (William H. Honan, "Peripatetic Roman Bronzes Trailed by Lawsuit", May 14, 1991). Browning claimed that 16 bronzes had been removed from his land in the winter of 1981-82, and that these bronzes were the ones being offered by Ariadne Galleries Inc.
Frances Dunkels, a spokesman for the British Museum, said in a telephone interview last week that in 1982 Dr. Ian Longworth, the keeper of Roman-British antiquities at the British Museum, was shown photographs of 16 bronzes said to be in the hands of a British dealer who indicated that they had come from the Brownings' farm. In 1988, Miss Dunkels said, Dr. Longworth said Ariadne Galleries had those bronzes.
One item to note is that Marion True would not touch the bronzes because she considered them to have been "stolen". Yet Shelby White seems to have been happy to acquire them no doubt to display alongside some of the objects now returned to Greece, Italy and Turkey.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: The Culture of Collecting

Ralph Frammolino, one of the authors of Chasing Aphrodite, has been interviewed on PBS news hour. There are informative comments on the purpose of the trial of Dr Marion True.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: now available

My printed copy of Chasing Aphrodite has now arrived. The focus is very much on the acquisition policy of the J. Paul Getty Museum. However other museums in North America, Europe and Australia that have thus far failed to feature in the list of returns to Italy now get featured.

Followers of LM will no doubt want to purchase a copy. The sections are:

  • Part I: Windfalls and cover-ups
  • Part II: The temptation of Marion True
  • Part III: "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?"

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Paolo Ferri on Marion True

Fabio Isman has published an interview with Paolo Ferri where Marion True is discussed ("Marion True: macché assoluzione, giudici troppo lenti", Il Giornale dell'Arte gennaio 2011). This is different to the one that appeared in The Art Newspaper ("Clandestine excavation is a crime that is hard to prove", January 2011), and contrasts with the statement by Marion True ("Neither condemned nor vindicated", The Art Newspaper January 2011). Ferri particularly commented on True's comments about the Getty board and their place in making acquisitions ("True affermava che l’intero board era consapevole degli acquisti").

He also reminds us that the case against Hecht continues and thus there was a limit to what can be said without compromising the judicial process ("La Corte non poteva dire di più: sta ancora processando Hecht, non può anticipare il giudizio").

The key bit about the report is that Isman also records the legal decisions. He notes the statement from Judge Aurora Cantilòlo: "Non è possibile procedere all’assoluzione per nessuno dei reati contestati". Cantilòlo is also reported to have written:
«Le acquisizioni probatorie non consentono una constatazione di tal tipo, nemmeno per il delitto di associazione a delinquere»; dagli «atti e testimonianze, emergono gravi indizi sull’esistenza di un’articolata organizzazione a livello transnazionale, dedita alla ricettazione e al traffico internazionale di opere d’arte provento di furto o scavo clandestino, esportate in modo clandestino e destinate in molti casi all’acquisto da parte dei più prestigiosi musei del mondo».

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Marion True: statement

Marion True has given a full statement to The Art Newspaper ("Neither condemned nor vindicated", January 5, 2010) in the wake of the discontinued trial in Rome. She talks about the creation of the acquisition policy for the J. Paul Getty Museum:
And from 1987, at the request of Getty president Harold Williams, I worked with legal counsel to formulate an acquisition policy for antiquities that called for direct notification of the ministries of Mediterranean countries when purchases were proposed, and requested any information or objections to acquisitions under consideration. The policy also demanded that the ministries have immediate notification of objects acquired and, most importantly, the return of any object that could be proven to be illicitly excavated or smuggled. At the time this policy was the most stringent among major US museums, and was strengthened in 1995 with the requirement that any object proposed for acquisition be published as something known to the scholarly world before 1995.
She links her trial directly with the desire for Italy to return the Morgantina Aphrodite.

True's statement reminds us that some images from the Medici Dossier were made available on the Carabinieri website in 1999.

She talks about Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman and their collection.
We were, in fact, competitors in the market. The Fleischmans built a fine collection with intelligence and passion—but it was not made for the Getty.
She draws attention to the way that North American museums returned objects to Italy and comments on the current allegations surrounding the Princeton University Art Museum:
The strategy worked extremely well. American museums chose not to join forces to challenge the Italian position, but silently went their separate ways, with directors travelling to Italy to make private deals to return objects in the hope of appeasing the prosecutor. There was even a sense of relief that I was the only target of the Italians. Yet, it now appears that I will not be the only victim. Six months ago, The New York Times announced that a second American curator, Michael Padgett of Princeton University Art Museum, is under investigation together with another group of dealers for charges very similar to those lodged against me. This too in spite of Princeton’s willingness to work with Italy to return disputed objects.
She is defiant and closes with this comment:
If the case against Princeton goes forward, perhaps American museums will stand together and not yield to intimidation.
Yet it is hard to escape the fact that over 130 recently-surfaced antiquities have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Marion True: "sacrificial victim”

The Rome case against Marion True was dropped, and now her lawyer Francesco Isolabella has spoken out (Gareth Harris, "Marion True's defence lawyer speaks out", The Art Newspaper 4 November 2010). Harris quotes extensively from Hugh Eakin's New Yorker commentary on True.

Lord Renfrew was asked to comment on the case and recognised, as True has asserted, that there was a wider institutional issue:
"It was unjust that senior figures at the Getty did not publicly share the responsibility with Marion True who was clearly not the principal decision maker".
The report finishes with a quote from Isolabella:
“It is worth considering how the Italian state orchestrated a major campaign to obtain works that are now in less committed and less organised environments than before. Considering the universality of these items [belonging to humanity], wouldn't it have been better to leave them in the museums where they were?”
There is no consideration of the wider issues. The recently-surfaced antiquities returned to Italy from the Getty had all lost their archaeological contexts. Why did the Getty acquire such much material? Is Isolabella suggesting that it is acceptable for archaeological material to be ripped from (say) Etruscan tombs so long as it ends up in "universal" museums? Would each of the North American museums that returned material to Italy have wanted all the evidence linked to their acquisition policies paraded in public (and through the press) as part of a legal claim? The Italian authorities have waged a successful campaign that has indeed changed the collecting habits of North American museums. And has that reduced the incentive to loot archaeological sites in Italy?

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Marion True: response

Hugh Eakin has posted a piece on "Marion True on her trial and ordeal" for the New Yorker (October 14, 2010). True comments:
My greatest sadness is that the Italians were able to intimidate the entire American art world, and especially museums, without having to produce any evidence at all. Why didn’t museums band together and say, “How are we going to deal with this?” They ran off instead to make their own deals—deals which may not exactly be very good in the long run. Why did we hand over all this stuff without asking for more documents? The trial was a gigantic threat that everyone reacted to. The message was, “You could be next.”
The answer appears to be that no museum wanted to have the evidence that the Italians were known to have presented in court, or given to the media. Museums have been able to get away without disclosing the collecting histories of the pieces: New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art have been silent.

True was forthright when asked about the Getty: "I have nothing but the greatest contempt for them in the world".

Eakin's post has now received a comment from "Anderson". There are frank comments about Italy but interestingly the suggestion that North American museums "have actually been really trying to help as best they can over the last couple of decades, as one would expect, dedicated as they are to the love of history, art and culture". In other words, "Anderson" would argue that since 1990 North American museums have been adopting an ethical position when it comes to acquisitions. Yet 27% of the pieces returned to Italy from five of the AAMD-linked museums were acquired AFTER 1990. Is "Anderson" missing a key lesson from the returns?

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Marion True Trial in Rome: some lessons

The news that the long-running Rome case against Marion True has been dropped was expected. The Italian authorities have demonstrated that they are unwilling to turn a blind eye to the acquisition of recently-surfaced antiquities that appear to have been removed from archaeological contexts in Italy. The parading of a curator from such a high profile museum must have sent an icy blast through many a museum with displays of antiquities. Torkom Demirjian of Ariadne Galleries in New York is likely to be right to interpret the case: "Don’t deal with Italian cultural patrimony or we’ll create a headache for you". And it is clear that raids on the Geneva Freeport provided the evidence to lay the trail from Italy to North America via Switzerland.

It would be inappropriate to ask how much True knew about such networks of suppliers and dealers. But it is worth considering if she ever considered the source (or collecting histories) of each of the items as they were offered to her. Why were these high profile objects previously unknown? Did she really believe that they had been residing in some private villa beside Lake Geneva? Did she ever wonder why a Greek pot could be reconstructed from a sequence of fragments ("orphans") that all seemed to surface over a few years?

The object by object consideration of each of the 35 pieces challenged by the Italian authorities would have provided an opportunity to lay bare the networks behind the trade in such items. And it needs to be stressed that the J. Paul Getty Museum had acted responsibly and released the full collecting histories; these have received a detailed discussion (details).

The case has also revealed information about the Barbara and Laurence Fleischman collection that was acquired by the Getty.

Has every North American museum co-operated with the Italian authorities? What about the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with its Attic red-figured krater? And what will happen over the Princeton University Art Museum? And then there are the European collections (such as Copenhagen) and the Miho Museum in Japan.

Yet has there been a change in the attitude of museum curators in North America towards acquisitions? The AAMD has adapted its position over acquiring archaeological material (in spite of criticisms from James Cuno who is now perceived as being "out of touch"). And with the return of over 120 antiquities from North America to Italy, Paolo Ferri is right to say: "Italy showed that it wanted to break with past practices".

The True case will serve as a reminder to any museum curator who is tempted to buy that one object that will make their gallery world famous.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marion True: press reactions

I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the reactions to the news that the case against Marion True has been dropped.

Nadja Brandt, "Italy Drops Conspiracy Charges Against Ex-Curator Marion True, Getty Says", OCtober 13, 2010.

Brandt quotes Torkom Demirjian of Ariadne Galleries in New York:
“It was a politically motivated trial just to send the message: Don’t deal with Italian cultural patrimony or we’ll create a headache for you ... This whole thing is a bureaucratic and ideological overreach. It’s a political decision to discourage private collecting of antiquities.”
The Ariande Galleries, it should be remembered, were reported to be linked to the Icklingham bronzes.

Elisabetta Povoledo writes on the New York Times blog ("Case Involving Former Curator Marion True Ends", October 13, 2010):
Paolo Ferri, the now-retired prosecutor who built the case against Ms. True, said on Wednesday that the trial had served as a signal to museums that buying objects without provenance “had to end.” With the trial, he said, “Italy showed that it wanted to break with past practices.”

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Marion True: charges dropped

Earlier today formal charges against Marion True, a former curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, were dropped due to the statute of limitations (Jason Felch, "Charges dismissed against ex-Getty curator Marion True by Italian judge", LA Times October 13, 2010). The trial has certainly been long-running.

Felch notes:
True had dealings with Medici and his business partner, Robert Hecht. The acquisition of the private collection of Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman in 1996 of more than 300 antiquities marked the peak of the Getty's collecting period, and would later form the core of the Italian prosecutor's charges.

There is a note about True's position on recently-surfaced antiquities:
She has since become an outspoken critic of the way museums used to acquire antiquities. In her one interview with the press, True told a reporter for the New Yorker that she was innocent and argued that she had done more to further the Italian cause than any other curator in America.
The December 2007 interview for the New Yorker did, however, reveal other issues including the flawed arguments of John H. Merryman.

This is not the end of all the legal cases. Felch notes:
True's co-defendant Giacomo Medici was convicted on related charges and his conviction was twice upheld on appeal. Robert Hecht, another co-defendant, remains on trial as the alleged head of the conspiracy, but the statute of limitations on his charges will expire in July.
Has the trial been a failure? The evidence presented during the Rome trials has been a reminder of how recently-surfaced antiquities enter the market and are acquired by major museums.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Giacomo Medici: conviction upheld

There was a press release this afternoon about the outcome of Giacomo Medici's appeal against his conviction for handling antiquities ("Italian art dealer's looting conviction upheld", AP July 15, 2009). The sentence has been reduced from 10 to 8 years.

The report continues:
Medici, who denies any wrongdoing, said after the closed-doors hearing that he would appeal the ruling to Italy's highest court. He remains free pending the appeal.

In a 1995 raid on Medici's offices in Switzerland, police found a trove of artifacts and photos of antiquities, many still in pieces and covered with mud, which authorities later traced to museums and collectors worldwide.

Authorities maintain thousands of Roman, Etruscan and Greek treasures were stolen or clandestinely dug up across Italy in the last decades, then smuggled out of the country and sold by dealers such as Medici.

Rome's campaign to recover the looted art has pushed top museums, including the J. Paul Getty in California and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to return dozens of pieces in exchange for long-term loans of other treasures.

The Medici probe also sparked other court cases, including the ongoing trial of former Getty curator Marion True and art dealer Robert Hecht, accused of knowingly acquiring dozens of allegedly looted ancient artifacts.

Both deny any wrongdoing.
Steve Scherer ("Rome Court Upholds Conviction of Antiquities Dealer", Bloomberg July 15, 2009) comments on a procedural error in the original trial that related to the Sarpedon krater.
The 2004 procedural error raised in Medici’s appeal was that the trial judge at first declared in a verbal sentencing that Medici was innocent of handling the Met objects, and then later said he had made a mistake. The judge pronounced him guilty when he submitted his written conviction.
Mike Boehm ("Dealer who sold antiquities to Getty loses looting appeal", LA Times July 15, 2009) extends the report to reflect on Marion True:
True has not denied that she bought works for the Getty from Medici and Hecht but says she acted in good faith, not knowing they had been dug and exported in violation of laws safeguarding Italy's ancient artifacts.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Marion True takes the stand

Elisabetta Povoledo ("Getty Ex-Curator Testifies in Rome Antiquities Trial", New York Times March 20,2009) has reported on the latest proceedings of the trial of Marion True in Rome.

True said:
If ever there was an indication of proof of an object coming from a certain place... we would deaccession it and return the object, regardless of the statute of limitations ... And we have shown that we would.
Certainly the series of returns to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum suggest that recently-surfaced antiquities had been acquired, including objects from the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. (See earlier comments.)

Povoledo notes:
The defense plans an object-by-object rebuttal of the prosecution’s case for each of the 35 artifacts that Ms. True approved for acquisition and that the Italians say were looted.
This can only shed further light on the network of dealers and agents handling the objects as they passed through the market on their way to their public display in California.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rome trial: il commercio clandestino

Last week I commented on the resumption of the continuing trial of Marion True and Robert Hecht in Rome. The judge is Gustavo Barbalinardo. According to the Italain press this is the sixth session of the hearing ("Getty: domani processo a True ed Hecht, rischio prescrizioni", ANSA January 22, 2009).

The report notes the continuing dispute with the J. Paul Getty Museum over the "Fano Athlete" ("Atleta di Lisippo"). The report also suggests that there remains a long list of "disputed objects" (oggetti contestati) which could be subject of a judicial order.

There are hints about the real targets for the trial: i tombaroli e il commercio clandestino.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rome Trial Resumes

Elisabetta Povoledo has noted the resumption of the Rome trial of Robert Hecht and Marion True ("Trial Resumes for Former Curator", New York Times January 23, 2009). This has now entered its fourth year.
Focus shifted to the dealer, Robert Hecht, who has been accused along with Ms. True of conspiracy to traffic in antiquities looted from Italian soil. Both defendants deny the charges. Daniela Rizzo, an archaeologist, presented documents and photographs of artifacts that prosecutors contend passed through Mr. Hecht’s hands. Mr. Hecht’s lawyer said his client disputed the case made by prosecutors for the provenance of each object.
Over 100 items have been returned from North American collections to Italy.

Will this herald renewed claims against museums in Denmark and Japan?

Friday, January 9, 2009

CPAC, Italy and Hindsight

On January 19, 2001, the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Italy signed an Agreement to protect pre-Classical, Classical and Imperial Roman archaeological material. (CPAC)
The background to the agreement was provided:
This U.S. action is in response to a request from the Government of Italy under Article 9 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Reports from the Carabinieri Nucleo Tutela del Patrimonio Artistico and in the Italian national and regional press indicate that looting is a current and severe problem, particularly in southern Italy, Sicily, and Etruria. The quantity and nature of Italian archaeological material on the market further indicate that the archaeological heritage of Italy is being pillaged to meet the demand for U.S. and international trade in artifacts. The Agreement offers the opportunity engage in a partnership to help protect the cultural heritage of Italy and to enrich American cultural life through research and educational programs and loans between Italian and American institutions.
On 12 October 1999 there was a public session of CPAC to gather views. We should be grateful to Peter K. Tompa for his eyewitness account of the proceedings ("State Department Advisory Committee Meets on Italian Request for Import Restrictions", Celator 13, 12 (December 1999) [available from ACCG]). He noted some of the contributors to the debate:
Jerome Eisenberg of Royal Athena Galleries showed slides of Italian auction catalogues selling archaeological items. ... he argued that it would be patently unfair to require importers of such items into the United States to prove more than their Italian counterparts.

Arielle Kozloff, a gallery owner, and Rena Moulopoulos, Sotheby’s Worldwide Director of Compliance, both made particularly eloquent statements. Ms. Kozloff charged that Italy was gripped with "Millennium Fever." She questioned the rights of the modern nation state of Italy to the cultural objects of the entire Roman Empire that encompassed most of Europe, parts of Africa, and parts of the Middle East. She also charged that there is a "dirty little secret" that archaeologists are afraid to speak against the claims of host governments for fear of losing permits to excavate. Ms. Moulopoulos indicated that Sotheby’s always seeks to confirm the provenance of items it auctions; however, most consignors do not want the provenance to be published due to concerns about confidentiality. ...

While the museum community is divided on the issue, the only museum representative that spoke, Marion True, agreed that museums should research provenance before procuring objects for their collections. Ms. True is the curator for antiquities at the Getty Museum. The Getty’s acquisitions policy for classical antiquities evidently states that the museum will only purchase items from established, well-documented (i.e., published) collections.
Since 1999 there have been a number of returns of antiquities to Italy:
CPAC was wise to sign the agreement given what we now know about the market in recently looted antiquities.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Robin Symes: Reflecting on Recent Returns

A picture is beginning to emerge from a study of the return of antiquities to Italy (and Greece). The view is not yet complete as full details about the dealers lying behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton, and Shelby White returns have yet to be released.

One of the more prominent dealers to feature among the returns was Robin Symes. Pieces that are said to have passed through his hands are:
In addition there was the ivory face from Tuscany. (At some point the issue of items that were seized in warehouses in London will be resolved.)

So museums, private collectors and dealers need to check that they are not holding items (or stock) that had passed through Symes' hands. They should also remember that one piece was recorded with the euphemism as coming from "a private collection in Great Britain". Or perhaps it would be recorded as the "R.S. European collection".

It is a reminder that museums need to do more to present full recorded histories for individual pieces (which is why I welcome the new policy of the American Association of Museums).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.

The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell 1986) was that the statue had "left Greece a half century ago" (i.e. 1930s) and was then "sent for sale from a private collection in Switzerland". The 1930s is an interesting decade as it coincides with the 1937 surfacing (and seizure) of the "Anavysos kouros" in Paris, and its return to Greece (where it is now displayed in the National Museum NM 3851). So if the "Anavysos kouros" had been smuggled out of Greece in the 1930s, why not another similar statue?

Documentation and Old Collections
The evidence that the Getty kouros had been known in the 1930s was based on supposed documentary evidence. Kimmelman (1991) presented the documentation:
The documents traced the work to the collection of a Geneva physician, Jean Lauffenberger, who had purportedly bought it around 1930 from a Greek dealer. A letter in German, dated March 12, 1952, to Lauffenberger from the late Ernst Langlotz, an eminent scholar of archaic sculpture, linked the kouros stylistically to the so-called Anavysos youth, a famous archaic sculpture in the National Museum in Athens. A second letter to Lauffenberger, in French, dated March 20, 1952, is from a Herman Rosenberg, who writes that Langlotz had repeated to him that the kouros was "a masterpiece of Greek archaic sculpture of the greatest rarity." Yet another letter, dated 1955, was from a Basel artisan named A. E. Bigenwald, whom Lauffenberger supposedly consulted about repairs on the kouros.
Only photocopies were made available to the Getty (True 1993: 13).
Then, when these photocopies were subject to the scrutiny of a German expert in typewriters, postal codes and other means of verification, they proved to be cleverly manufactured composites. The Langlotz letter in particular could be shown to be a forgery because, though the letter is dated 1952, the postal code on the letter head did not come into existence until 1972. The association with the Lauffenberger collections thus appears to have been a clever hoax, and the real modern history of the statue prior to 1983 remains a mystery.
Moreover the bank account printed on the (1955) letter head relating to Bigenwald was not opened until 1963 (noted in Kimmelman 1991).

The use of the "Lauffenbruger collection" is not dissimilar to the attribution of some of the pieces returned to Italy to "old" collections (Gill and Chippindale 2006: 314; Gill and Chippindale 2007: 216). Here are four examples:
  • Formerly Boston, MFA 1979.40. Attic red-figured pelike, attributed to the Nausicaa painter. Phineus with the sons of Boreas. Collecting history: said to have been in the Karl Haug collection, Basel since 1936; by 1971 with Palladion Antike Kunst, Basel; sold 1979. Bibl. Gill and Chippindale 2006: 325, appendix 1, no. 7.
  • Formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 79.AE.139. Attic red-figured amphora. Herakles and Apollo struggle for the tripod. Collecting history: said to have been in the Rycroft collection, England in 1890; sold by "a company owned by Gianfranco Becchina"; purchased in 1979 from Palladion Antike Kunst, Basel. Bibl. Watson and Todeschini 2006: 345-46.
  • Formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 83.AE.203. Collecting history: said to be from the S. Schweitzer collection in 1940; gift of Vasek Polak, Canada. Etruscan red-figured plastic duck askos. Bibl. Gill and Chippindale 2007: 229, no. 23.
  • Rome Villa Guilia 121110; formerly Malibu, the J. Paul Getty Museum 83.AE.362, 84.AE.8, 85.AE.385. Attic red-figured cup, Onesimos; Euphronios as "potter". Ilioupersis. Collecting history: tondo said by Frida Tchacos-Nussberger of Galerie Nefer, Zurich, to have been acquired from Nino Savoca, Munich; other fragments said to have come from the S. Schweitzer collection, Arlesheim; other fragments said by Christian Boursaud to have been in the Zbinden collection and acquired in 1985 from the Hydra Gallery; cup returned to Italy in 1999; two further fragments donated by Giacomo Medici in 2005; new fragment seized at Cerveteri in 2008. Bibl. Gill, review of Getty Masterpieces in BMCR (1998); Watson and Todeschini 2006: 94-95.
These four examples suggest that from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s it was possible for acquisitions to be "falsely historied". Such "old" collections were believable even if there does not appear to have been reliable documentation. And such fabrications continue, such as the "Silverton Park" history for the "Amarna Princess" acquired by the Bolton Museum.

The Dealer
The Getty kouros is reported to have been purchased from the Sicilian Gianfranco Becchina based in Basel (Kimmelman 1991). Papers relating to the sale were reviewed by a court in Rome in April 2006 (see Povoledo 2006).
Mr. Putrino also testified about documents related to the sale of a marble kouros, or naked youth, by Mr. Becchina to the Getty for $10 million in 1983, when Jiri Frel was curator of antiquities.
Becchina's Basel Gallery, run by his wife "Rosie", is Palladion Antike Kunst (Watson and Todeschini 2006: 290-91). Three of the pieces returned from Boston to Italy came from this gallery (Gill and Chippindale 2006: 317-319, 324-25, nos. 3, 7, and 10).

The Fragmentary Kouros
The authenticity of the Getty kouros was brought into sharp focus in early 1990. Jeffrey Spier was given access to photographic evidence of a companion piece (Spier 1990: 630):
Early in 1990 I was shown a photograph of a fragmentary kouros; the head, one hand, and both legs below the knee were missing. It rested on a wooden pallet and was said to be in storage in Switzerland. The resemblance to the Getty kouros was striking, and after making this observation, I was told that the piece was indeed its 'brother', made by the same workshop in Rome in the early 1980s. Elaborate stories followed about how an ancient marble block was taken from a Sicilian site to Rome, cut into two pieces (one larger than the other) and carved into two kouroi, the larger going to the Getty Museum and the smaller to Switzerland.
Spier and Marion True went to inspect the torso in Basel and drew the conclusion that it was indeed a fake (True 1993: 13-14). It was purchased by the Getty in August 1990 "for study purposes".

The missing head from the torso was donated to the Getty by "a dealer in Geneva" (True 1993: 14). This second "kouros" is said "to have been made in Rome around 1984-1985, reportedly by a man named Fernando Onore". The helpful Geneva dealer is reported to have been Giacomo Medici (Watson and Todeschini 2006: 99, 198).

The Desire to Acquire
Any museum that wished to develop its archaeological holdings in the late 20th century (or now in the early 21st century) was faced with the issue of establishing the history (or "provenance") of the object. Chippindale (1996) asked this question in his review of the volume that emerged from the Getty kouros conference in Athens.
Where is the stuff to come from? Not from existing great museums because they do not sell. Not from Greece or Turkey, because those countries of origin feel the acquisitive museums do not have a record of honorable behavior; so they are in no mood to relax their frontiers. That leaves the Getty to fish in the shrinking private pool. In it there swim, alongside the pieces known to have left their Mediterranean countries of origin long ago, alluring items that have simply "surfaced" in dealers' hands or in private possession; some of these will be "good," emerging silently from old collections, others may be recently looted or fakes.
In the past some archaeological material has reached museums through the system of partage. Think of the material from the British excavations at Phylakopi on Melos in university museums such as the Ashmolean or Fitzwilliam. However, pieces that are offered for sale either have no disclosed recorded history or are stated to come from old collections; it is rare, but not unknown, for excavated pieces to appear on the market.

This is where "due diligence" steps in. Can the museum establish that the proposed acquisition was known prior to 1970? Is such an "old collection" known? Is there any reason to be suspicious?

In the case of the Getty kouros, the statue appeared to have documentation that suggested that it had been known in the 1930s.

The Acquisition that is "Too Good To Be True"
The case of the Getty kouros is not unlike the acquisition of the "Fitzwilliam Goddess", which was said to have been found in the 1920s near Knossos (see Butcher and Gill 1993), the "Amarna Princess", or the "James Ossuary". Chippindale concluded his review relating to the Getty kouros with the following statement about the intellectual consequences (and try replacing "Archaic Greece" with "Bronze Age Crete" or "First Century CE Jerusalem"):
If he is fake, he has wrongly altered our perception of Archaic Greece. If he is genuine, then his murky story prevents our vision of Archaic Greece being informed by full acknowledgment of a supreme sculpture.
The acquisition of unhistoried antiquities (is that better than "unprovenanced"?), whether they are ancient or of modern manufacture, has an intellectual consequence.

Butcher, K., and D. W. J. Gill. 1993. "The director, the dealer, the goddess and her champions: the acquisition of the Fitzwilliam goddess." American Journal of Archaeology 97: 383-401. [JSTOR]
Chippindale, C. 1996. Review of The Getty kouros colloquium: Athens, 25-27 May 1992: 11-15 (Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art) in American Journal of Archaeology 100, 1 (1996) 185 [JSTOR]
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2006. "From Boston to Rome: reflections on returning antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 13: 311-31. [link]
—. 2007. "From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 14: 205-40. [link]
Kimmelman, M. 1991. "Absolutely real? Absolutely fake?" New York Times August 4, 1991: 1.
Povoledo, E. 2006. "Focus in Getty trial shifts to a Sicilian antiquities dealer." New York Times April 27, 2006: 3.
Russell, J. 1986. "Disputed Greek statue to go on exhibition." New York Times August 12, 1986: 1.
Spier, J. 1990. "Blinded with science: the abuse of science in the detection of false antiquities." Burlington Magazine 132: 623-31. [JSTOR]
True, M. 1987. "A kouros at the Getty Museum." Burlington Magazine 129: 3-11. [JSTOR]
True, M. 1993. "The Getty kouros: background on the problem." In The Getty kouros colloquium: Athens, 25-27 May 1992: 11-15. Athens: Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation / Museum of Cycladic Art.


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