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Antiquities from North American Collections at the Villa Giulia

The Euphronios krater and its companions sit in a darkened first floor room (Room 23) in the Villa Giulia, Rome. Outside the trams can be heard rumbling their way down the Viale delle Belle Arti.

The immediate museological context for these returned antiquities is the outstandingly important Etruscan collection of the Villa Giulia. Yet each one of the returned pieces has apparently been ripped from its last resting-place; this contrasts with many of the other pieces throughout the building that are derived from excavations.

The Euphronios krater, the intended highlight of Room 23, is not there at the moment. A handwritten note in its empty (but lit) case informs the visitor that it can be seen in the Museo Nazionale Castel Sant'Angelo. It is accompanied by other pieces (see earlier discussion):
  • the Onesimos cup returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum (see earlier comments).
  • Attic red-figured phiale, Douris, returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum (see discussion).
  • Attic red-figured column-krater, attributed to the Geras painter, returned from the Royal-Athena Galleries (see earlier comments).
  • fragment of Attic red-figured calyx-krater, attributed to the Berlin painter, body of Achilles (see earlier comments).
  • Attic red-figured cup, Pamphaios, returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum (see discussion).
  • Attic red-figured psykter, Smikros, returned from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (see earlier comments).
  • Attic black-figured lekythos, attributed to the Disophos painter, returned from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (see MFA website).
  • Attic red-figured lekythos, attributed to the Terpaulos Painter, returned from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (see MFA website).
  • a black-figured skyphos fragment returned from the Princeton University Art Museums (see earlier comments).
  • a Pontic oinochoe, attributed to the Tityos painter, returned from the Royal-Athena Galleries (see earlier comments).
  • a Pontic amphora, attributed to the Tityos painter, returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum (see discussion).
  • a large Etruscan bronze figure, 2nd century BCE, from a French private collection (earlier reported as coming from a Swiss private collection).
  • a terracotta architectural antefix with centaur returned from the Princeton University Art Museums (see earlier comments).
  • a Protocorinthian olpe, returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum.
  • a duck-shaped askos, returned from the J. Paul Getty Museum (see discussion).
  • Caeretan hydria, attributed to the Busiris painter, returned from the Shelby White collection (see earlier comments).

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Comments

David- I've had the opportunity to visit this collection. Nice museum, but a bit off the beaten track and hence sparsely attended. Context or not, how many people do you think see these artifacts? Anywhere near the number that saw the Euphronius Krater at the Met? I don't think so! Also, how many (Greek) pots do the Italians need to display in one place? Better to spread them about the museums of the world where they can be better appreciated and cared for.

PS As to my previous citation about an article concerning the deplorable state of the Castle Sant' Angelo, so what if it is from 2005? Has Italy spent the money necessary to shore it up since then? I doubt it.

You should consider the big picture. There is far more at stake than context-- it is the preservation of the artifacts themselves. Centralizing them where they were found for "contextual purposes" is detrimental to their continued survival when there are no funds to take care of them properly.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa
David Gill said…
Peter
Are you saying that it would be better to loot Etruscan cemeteries and spread the contents around the worldwide museum community? I hope not!
How do you think the Euphronios / Sarpedon krater entered the market?
And how many people saw the Euphronios krater when it was resting in its Etruscan tomb?
Best wishes
David
Sunny Cherkea said…
I hope for the opportunity to see this exhibition, but until then, I do not think that it is ethically correct to sit in New York City and wish the Euphronios Krater was here with me. The object was looted and returned to Italy. The Met needed to make amends for acquiring the krater and has started to do so with their agreement with Italy.

Western museums can not go about taking artifacts from their countries of origin just because they have the money and power to do so. This is how the scale of the looting of archaeological sites started in the first place. We can try to initiate talks and cooperate with Italian museums, but we should not be assuming the authority to spread other country's collections just because we want to see them. I am glad the looted objects were returned and I hope that such programs continue like traveling exhibitions and long-term loans. We need to be responsible and ensure that we save the past for our future generations.
The Euphronius crater hardly had pride of place at the Met. Indeed one could argue that it was fairly lost among the many many Greek pots in the Met's galleries. I'll wager that the majority of people had no clue of its importance. I know my students needed to have it pointed out to them.

The Villa Giulia is a bit off the beaten path for many tourists, but it boasts one of the world's great Etruscan collections, of course. (62,000 visitors a year from one website I found, btw.)

Peter, I assume we agree that illegal "decentralization" is wrong.

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