Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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]

1 comment:

Eftis Paraskevaides said...

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..


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