Skip to main content

Returning antiquities to Italy: next moves?

There has been a pattern of approaches to North American museums for the return of antiquities to Italy:
a. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art: 2006, February [press release]
b. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts: 2006, September [press release]
c. Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum: 2007, August [press release]
d. Princeton, University Art Museums: 2007, October [press release]

Then there are the pieces in the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville.

But where do the Italian investigations go from here?

The New York Times reports:
"Negotiations continue with private collectors of antiquities in the United States, as well as museums in Europe."

Material formerly owned by Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman has been returned from the Getty. And one of the significant North American private collectors is Shelby White.

Other news reports are more specific. Maurizio Fiorilli ("Italy, Princeton museum reach deal to return disputed antiquities") is quoted as saying that talks are now concentrating on "the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Miho Museum in Shiga, western Japan".

The Cleveland Museum of Art holds disputed material. This includes an Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Darius painter. James Kopniske is quoted as saying that Cleveland "had received a request for the return of a number of objects and has been conducting research on the artifacts".

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen appears to have purchased material from Robert Hecht. Bloomberg reported back in November 2005:
the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen has six allegedly looted items, all of which came through Medici, including the decorations of an Etruscan chariot for which Hecht is also charged ...

The Miho Museum may contain, according to one 2007 report ("Is Japan a Cultural Looter?"), some 50 items which are reported to be under investigation. Japanese press reports have suggested that some of the material may have come via Gianfranco Becchina ("Records Tie Japanese Dealer to Looted Antiquities").

With thousands of Polaroids to study it is likely that there will plenty more revelations.


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.