Skip to main content

Italy: Looting decreased dramatically

The Carabinieri art squad (Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale) has released details of its activities during 2009 ("Roma - Rientrano in Italia reperti archeologici di inestimabile valore", Press Release January 14, 2010; see also "Italy recovers Euro165 million in stolen art, relics", AP January 14,2010). It is clear that Italy is addressing the threats to its cultural property. There were only 59 reports of looting on archaeological sites in 2009, a significant fall from 238 in 2008. (There were 40 such reports in 2006, but in the 1990s 1000s; see earlier comments.)

During 2009 39,584 looted archaeological objects were recovered. This surely reflects the looting of 1000s of archaeological sites in Italy over many years (or even decades). One of the personalities who has featured prominently in the Medici Conspiracy (and the return of antiquities to Italy) is Fritz Bürki of Zurich, Switzerland. 137 objects were returned to Italy from the conservators Fritz Bürki & Son. The Carabinieri are clearly trying to track down another 300 items handled by Bürki. Museum curators and collectors will, I suspect, be checking that his name is not associated with any recent (i.e. post-1970) acquisitions.

The Carabinieri also displayed a Roman wall-painting from Boscoreale and and a Corinthian krater seized from Christie's in New York.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

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.