Friday, 18 January 2008

Shelby White Returns Antiquities to Italy

It is reported that Shelby White handed over nine antiquities to the Italian authorities on January 16 and a tenth will follow in 2010 (Elisabetta Povoledo, "Collector Returns Art Italy Says Was Looted", New York Times, January 18, 2008; Adam Majendie, "Collector Shelby White Returns Antiquities to Italy, NYT Says",, January 18, 2008). Povoledo reports:
After 18 months of intense negotiations, the New York philanthropist Shelby White has ceded 10 classical antiquities from her private collection that Italy contends were looted from its soil, the Italian culture minister confirmed this week.

Nine of the 10 ancient Greek and Etruscan objects were delivered on Wednesday to the Italian Consulate on Park Avenue and will soon be crated and shipped to Italy, the minister, Francesco Rutelli, said in an interview in Rome. The remaining piece, a rare fifth-century B.C. Greek vessel, will go to Italy in 2010.

Mr. Rutelli said that Ms. White’s decision was “extraordinarily positive” as well as groundbreaking. “It is a generous and open-minded gesture,” he said.
The list has not yet been given but Povoledo notes:
The artifacts given back by Ms. White include some of the finest showpieces in any private collection of classical antiquities in the world. Until recently, some were on view at the Met in an extended loan, including a red-figured vessel depicting Herakles slaying Kyknos, signed by the celebrated fifth-century B.C. painter Euphronios, and a pot with scenes of Zeus and Herakles attributed to the fifth-century B.C. painter Eucharides.

Italian investigators say that they have traced the Eucharides and some of the other artifacts to be returned to an Italian dealer convicted in 2004 of trafficking in illegal antiquities. Polaroid photographs seized in 1995 in a raid on two Swiss warehouses used by the dealer, Giacomo Medici, showed works either encrusted with dirt or in pieces, as if recently unearthed. Ms. White and her husband bought some of those objects from Robin Symes, a London dealer.
I have had cause to comment on Shelby White's collection and anticipated this announcement. The return of a wall-painting (ex Flesichman collection) from the Getty had implications for Shelby White. White is being presented as co-operative; but remember that in April 2007 she was interviewed for the New Yorker in which she dismissed Gill and Chippindale's analysis of her collection. She had to come to an agreement before the opening of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World later this year.

Remember also that Italy was only a source for some of the antiquities. Pieces from Turkey and the UK have also passed through the collection. Will she be making arrangements with other countries?


David Gill said...

For Gill and Chippindale on the Shelby White collection see the material from the AIA website (with additional data) or JSTOR (Athens password needed).

The research page listed on the AIA website has now moved to

David Gill said...

ANSA has issued a release on this story:
"Italy seals deal with US collector:
Shelby White agrees to return ten antiquities
", January 18, 2007.

Thomas Hoving said...

You probably don't know that Connoisseur magazine which I edited for nine years first revealed the Herakles story and it was Melik Kaylan, one of my ablest investigative journalists who wrote the pieces. It was my idea to persuade the Turks to make a thin cast of the top of the legs of the statue and send it to Boston.

It fit the bottom of the top perfectly but still Boston and White dismissed the evidence.

The White collection also has a large bronze male statue from Bubon in Turkey, the famous ancient villa exposed when the side of a cliff fell away.

Thomas Hoving

David Gill said...

Dear Mr Hoving
Thank you for these comments. I remember the article, the cast and the excitement it caused. Why did White dismiss the evidence? She claims to have an interest in archaeology and the fit seemed compelling.
The bronze from Bubon is equally fascinating. The context was not a villa but a centre for the Roman imperial cult. The inscriptions remained but the portraits were dispersed on the antiquities market. Chippindale and Gill discussed this statue in AJA 2000.
Best wishes

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