Skip to main content

Greece and the return of antiquities

Greece has been stepping up its campaign for the return of recently looted antiquities. One of the most famous cases in recently years involved the Aidonia Treasure that had apparently been found in Mycenaean graves not far from Nemea in the Peloponnese. These gold items surfaced in a New York gallery in 1993.

Other objects include a marble funerary lekythos that was returned in the spring of 2008 from a dealer in Switzerland. A fragmentary marble funerary stele, from a rural cemetery in Attica, was returned to Greece in July 2008; the other part of it had been found during excavations. The repatriated upper section was returned by a North American collector. This same collector also handed over a bronze calyx-krater that is reported to have been found in a rich grave in northern Greece.

A gold funerary wreath is also likely to have been found in grave somewhere in Macedonia. This had been acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1993 after passing through Switzerland. Two other pieces were returned from the Getty at the same time: a Boeotian funerary stele of Athanias that was purchased from a North American gallery in 1993, and a marble kore purchased from Robin Symes in 1993.

A further notable piece that has been brought back to Greece is the bronze "Saarbrücken youth". This was seized in Germany back in 1998 and is thought to have been found off the coast near Preveza.

More recently Greek authorities have called for the return of three antiquities acquired by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in 2002 and 2006.

Greece has also been successful in reclaiming a number of objects that have been stolen from its collections, notably an Apollo from Gortyn on Crete, and some of the material raided from the archaeological museum in Corinth.

Photographic evidence is likely to play a major part in Greece's continuing search for its looted treasures. A set of images featuring antiquities were seized in 2006 on the island of Schinoussa: this photographic evidence has been handed over to a Greek state prosecutor. It is likely that a further series of returns are likely as the objects are identified. This future Hellenic "homecoming" could be as extensive as the one celebrated by Italy in the "Nostoi" exhibitions in Rome.

Comments

Helena said…
I wonder why a bunch of Slavs and Turks who happen to occupy the area once known as Hellas think they have a better right ot the patrimony of Western Europe than Great Britian or Germany or France, or the United States for that matter. The idea that a single Greek antiquity should be returned to that third world state is preposterous--look at the condition of the statuary and architecture Elgin left behind. If it had been left up to them the whole lot would be destroyed.

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 …

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…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…