Skip to main content

Recovery of Italian Antiquities

Earlier this week the Italian Carabinieri announced the results of four successful operations. Some 33 antiquities were recovered; these had been either stolen from museums or looted from archaeological sites.

The four operations are:
  1. "Operazione on line" was launched in mid-July and employs some 20 staff who monitor internet sites for looted material. A member of the team spotted an Apulian red-figured plate that had been stolen from the Museo Bardini in Florence in December 1976. The piece had been offered by a dealer, Antonina in Rome.
  2. Herm of Silenus. This first century CE sculpture had been stolen from the Antiquarium at Santa Maria Capua Vetere in the late 1960s. It had apparently surfaced on the antiquities market in North America in 1987 when it was acquired by a now deceased private collector. The piece had been returned voluntarily by Sotheby's, New York in July 2007.
  3. Tivoli. A fourth century CE child's sarcophagus had been stolen from the store of the Tribunale of Tivoli in May 2004; it was in temporary storage due to the refurbishment of the building. It was then sold on the antiquities market.
  4. Parioli. The remaining thirty pieces were recovered from a tailor in Parioli, Rome. These appear to have been looted from archaeological sites in Campania and Puglia. Among them were two Subgeometric jars, and black-glossed cups. Some of the pieces had been used as window dressings. It brings a new meaning to the question, "would you like a classic cut to your suit, sir?"

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 …

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.