Monday 28 January 2008

Will the Cleveland Museum of Art be Next?

It has been worth picking up on the hints in the media in the unfolding saga of the return of antiquities from North American public and private collections to Italy .

Take, for example, the note in the June 2007 press that four named North American private collections were going to receive attention. And by January 2008 material from each of the four named collections had been handed over to Italy:
John Hooper ("The long journey home", Guardian Unlimited, January 24, 2008) recently noted, "Talks are continuing with the Cleveland Museum of Art." As the Sarpedon krater went on display last week, Italian officials were saying that negotiations would focus on three museums: and the North American one was the Cleveland Museum of Art.

These negotiations with the Cleveland Museum of Art have been going on for some time and were mentioned in press statements linked to the return of antiquities from Princeton University Art Museums (October 2007) and Jerome Eisenberg (November 2007).

Details of the Cleveland material have been mentioned in the trial of Robert Hecht and Marion true in Rome. In November 2005 Cleveland's Plain Dealer ("Trial in Rome promises to expose looters’ veiled world") reported:
In Cleveland’s case, the object mentioned in court documents is an ancient Greek lekythos, a slender, long-necked oil jar painted with figures in black.
The Cleveland museum bought eight works from Hecht between 1951 and 1990. The works include a lekythos purchased in 1985, the period under investigation in the case against True and Hecht.
Suzan Mazur has identified some of the pieces ("Italy Will Contest Medea Vase At Cleveland Museum",, October 9, 2006; "Mazur: Italy's List Of Ancient Treasures At Cleveland",, April 22, 2007; see also further published comments by D. Gill and Christopher Chippindale). Among the items is a Paestan black-figured lekythos, and, if Mazur is correct, an Apulian krater attributed to the Darius painter.

Following Mazur's report I posted this message (April 26, 2007) [and which I slightly modify here]:
Further to Susan Mazur's most useful list of material from Cleveland, I note that the bronze Victory with cornucopia appears in my discussion of material from the Getty which appeared in my review article of the Getty Masterpieces in Bryn Mawr Classical Review (1998):

One of my favourite provenances relates to the bronze relief of "Two Togate Magistrates" (85.AB.109) (p. 115) which although without even an alleged find-spot, "traveled through the art market and [was] conceivably found with [three other bronzes]" (The Gods Delight, no. 63). In fact two of the associated pieces are fellow Masterpieces, a Roma (or Virtus) (84.AB.671) (p. 113), and a goddess (either Venus, Ceres or Juno) (84.AB.670) (p. 112), and the third, a Victory with a Cornucopia, is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art (The Gods Delight nos. 64-66). Perhaps scholarship will never know if these pieces were found together, or merely shared the same packing-case as they crossed an international frontier.

If a winged Victory flew across international frontiers to land in Cleveland, where does this leave the three pieces in the Getty?

The four pieces are:
1. Cleveland 1984.25
2. Malibu 85.AB.109
3. Malibu 84.AB.671
4. Malibu 84.AB.670
The Getty pieces do not appear in the August 1, 2007 list of objects due to be returned to Italy.

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