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Returns and Loans

In the aftermath of some of the returns to Italy (and remember that the Polaroids seized in Geneva show 1000s more items), some museum directors in North America have been calling for the creation of a "licit market"; for them "ownership" seems to be a key issue. (See also related observations from Paul Barford dealing with comments from some dealers.)

I prefer a move towards the loan of archaeological material along the lines of Maxwell L. Anderson's EUMILOP project back in the 1980s.

Loan material has of course started to move from Italy to North America. The February 2006 agreement over the Sarpedon (Euphronios) krater allowed for :
... long-term future loans—of up to four years each, as Italian law allows—of works of art of equivalent beauty and importance to the objects being returned. The loans will be chosen from a list of objects submitted by the Metropolitan or by others, with joint approval.
A Laconian cup from the Museo Nazionale, Cerveteri was placed on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 2006 (Randy Kennedy, "Italy Lends Antiquities to 2 Museums", New York Times November 29, 2006), and in January 2008 "Three Spectacular Vases" from Italy joined it (see further comments and images from Culturegrrl). Philippe de Montebello described the three as "extraordinary new loans" that would "illuminate the superb achievements of [Euphronios'] contemporaries". Indeed, "these masterpieces will expand significantly our visitors' experience of classical art".

The three further loans were:
  1. An Attic head oinochoe (jug) with the "signature" of Charinos on loan from the Museo Nazionale, Tarquinia.
  2. An Attic red-figured cup "signed" by Euxitheos as potter (see the Sarpedon krater) and Oltos as painter on loan from the Museo Nazionale, Tarquinia.
  3. A Paestan bell-krater attributed to Python on loan from the Museo Archeologico, Naples.


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I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.