Skip to main content

"Their proper home is in Italy"

So, representatives of the Italian Ministry of Culture and the J. Paul Getty Museum today signed an agreement in Rome to return 40 antiquities (Press release). The understanding was reached in August.

Francesco Rutelli commented, “Today’s signing marks a new era ... a new season of clearness begins in the purchase trade of archaelogical goods."

Michael Brand, the director of the Getty acknowledged, "our scholarly research has shown that their proper home is in Italy".

But where does this leave the trial against Marion True and Robert Hecht?

Brand is reported to have said, "We certainly hope, on the Getty side, that this new spirit of collaboration will lead to the end of that case [sc. the True trial] and will allow the scholar to get back to her life, get back to her research".

I have already commented that looted material, wherever it resides, has lost its archaeological context. No agreement can return this information.

This may close a chapter for the Getty, but there are at least four other North American museums - and at least one in Europe - which are reported to have acquired material identified by the Polaroid photographs seized in Geneva.

The question is not, "will there be more signings?", but rather, "when will they take place?"


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.