Skip to main content

Following the Trail of Robin Symes

Lee Rosenbaum has drawn attention to a long review by Francesco Rutelli ("20 mesi di cultura in Italia"). In a section on "Cultural diplomacy" he states:
Un altro argomento centrale nelle recenti politiche del nostro Ministero è quello del recupero degli oggetti d’arte e soprattutto archeologici trafugati. Su questo delicatissimo fronte abbiamo intrapreso un’importante battaglia e la stiamo vincendo, come dimostra l’accordo per la restituzione dei 40 capolavori che erano conservati nel Getty Museum di Malibu. La forza etica degli argomenti e soprattutto l’impegno intransigente del Governo sono riusciti a ribaltare in poco tempo quel che non si muoveva da decenni: prevedo che nell’arco dei prossimi anni altre centinaia di opere rubate al nostro patrimonio nazionale e portate all’estero torneranno in Italia: l’accordo che ho stipulato con il Ministro della Cultura inglese per fare luce sulla collezione Symes ospitata a Londra ha aperto nuove, considerevoli opportunità.
By my reckoning around 100 antiquities have been returned to Italy (from Boston, Malibu, New York, Princeton; University of Virginia Art Museum at Charlottesville; Shelby White and Jerome Eisenberg). So the prospects of "hundreds" of other capolavori returning "home" is an interesting one.

What are they?

My hunch is that Rutelli will not be revisiting any of the above collections (with the possible exception of the J. Paul Getty Museum for the Fano athlete) unless there are new and spectacular revelations. He has negotiated and agreements have been reached.

He has already indicated that three museums are in his sights: the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek in Copenhagen, the Miho Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. But will they yield a mere 20 or 30 pieces between them?

So why the expected "hundreds"?

The fact that the "Symes collection" is under discussion is significant. P. Watson and C. Todeschini in The Medici Conspiracy (ch. 17) have noted that the "holding company" for Symes' private collection was "Xoilan Trader" (with an administrative address in Geneva, Switzerland). (Note that the Attic red-figured krater sold to the Minneapolis Institute of Art by Symes was published as having been in "private collections" in Great Britain and Switzerland.)

The Medici Conspiracy also maps Symes' assets:
In his thirty-three warehouses ... Symes had 17,000 objects worth an estimated £125 million ($210 million).
Are these objects the subject of Rutelli's discussions with Margaret Hodge, the Minister in the UK's Department of Culture, Media and Sport?

Comments

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 …

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…