Skip to main content

Albania: Overview of Butrint Returns

During the 1990s a number of antiquities were stolen from museums in Albania (details here). The recovered pieces are:
a. Portrait of Livia (BAM inv 9). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; said to have been in Greece and then Switzerland; by 1995 said to be in the possession of Robert Hecht and appeared in From a North American Collection of Ancient Art; allegedly offered to the Glypothek in Munich; portrait returned by dealer in 2000.
b-d. Three heads: Agrippa (BAM inv. 583); young woman (BAM inv. 50); head from Herculaneum type figure (BAM inv. 584). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece). Heads returned in 2003.
e. A female figure possibly of Artemis. Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece); returned in 2008.
f. A fragmentary statue of Apollo (1.2 m) (BAM inv. 4). Stolen from Butrint in 1991; seized at Koropi, Attica (Greece); returned in 2008.
g. Head of Asklepios (BAM inv. 60). Stolen 1991; sold at Christie's in London at an auction on July 6, 1996, lot 430; seized from Massimo Rossi collection in Italy in 2005; returned in 2009. [earlier comment]
Some archaeological material is still missing, e.g. the Mercury leaning on a Herm. So it is important for us to understand the routes by which these seven pieces passed into the market. Some appear to have moved through Greece. At least one passed through Switzerland; who handled it? And who consigned the Asklepios to the London market? (Apparently the papers detailing the transaction were passed to authorities in Italy.)

Two Greek nationals are reported to have been jailed in 2004 for their part in the business.

See also:
Norman Hammond, "Two heads of Livia are better than one", The Times (London) April 3, 2001.

Oliver Gilkes, "How the Goddess lost her head: the myth and reality of the looting of Butrint", Culture Without Context 10 (2002).

"Greece returns stolen statues to Albania: ministry", Agence France Presse, February 7, 2008.

For more recent coverage:
Besar Likmeta, "Stolen Antiquities Face Difficult Journey Home", June 12, 2009. [Available here]

Comments

Being of Greek ancestry I can confirm that the easiest passage from Albania to Europe has always been through Greece historically - because of the geographical border - most Albanians at the borders are fluent in both languages as many have worked and lived in Greece at some point on account of a financial status differential...

So it can be seen that this could be an obvious smuggling channel.

The answer here lies with "rattling" the Greeks involved - with the right coercion I am sure they would "spill the beans" on collaborators in Switzerland and elsewhere..

eftis.blogspot.com

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

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.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.