Skip to main content

Italian Prosecutor: "We want to repatriate those objects"

Paolo Ferri, the Italian prosecutor, has been linked to many of the returned antiquities. He is now quoted over the possible identification of three lots in a forthcoming New York auction to images from the Medici Dossier (Dalya Alberge, "Critics Say Christie's Should Pull 3 Items From Auction", Wall Street Journal June 3, 2010).
Paolo Ferri, a Rome prosecutor who specializes in art theft cases, is seeking to recover the objects. He described the Christie's sale as "very unethical," adding: "We want to repatriate those objects." He said he had been aware of the sale since the catalogue was published some weeks ago and was pursuing his efforts to repatriate the objects through diplomatic and international police channels.
Ferri added, "Christie's knows they are selling objects that appeared in the Medici archive".

Alberge, who also covered the April sale of antiquities at Bonhams in London, interviewed a range of European and North American scholars. Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn added: "The auction houses are doing themselves no favors in continuing to offer tainted antiquities for sale".

Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis, who used to work with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture, has been studying the seized photographic archives. He is quoted:
Photos from the Medici archive suggest that all three objects are probably illicit, unless Christie's proves with evidence and beyond any doubt the legal provenance of the objects, by simply providing their full history after 1970.
Alberge also interviewed ICE Special Agent James McAndrew who headed the investigations that led to the seizures from Christie's in 2008 and 2009:
he is looking into the June 10 sale, as he would any sale, and with Christie's co-operation. He emphasized Christie's efforts at due diligence and compliance when offering objects for sale, and that the auctioneer doesn't always have access to all the information available to law-enforcement agencies. Still, he added: "I think they could do better."
A spokesperson for Christie's issued a statement:
"With respect to these particular lots, Christie's has not been notified of a title claim by any government authority, nor are these lots identified as problematic by the Art Loss Register or Interpol. As an added measure, Christie's has undertaken its own research into this matter and has found no evidence to support the need to withdraw these lots. Unless and until Christie's receives a title claim, we plan to proceed with the sale of these lots."
Christie's can now be expected to reveal the full collecting histories for the three pieces for the period from 1970. They also need to explain why they "forgot" to mention in the original catalogue entry for lot 139 that it first surfaced at Sotheby's London in 1992.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

David Gill said…
Note: the article in the WSJ has been changed since it was first issued.

Popular posts from this blog

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

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 Getty kouros: a modern creation?

The refurbished galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum no longer include the Getty kouros, a sculpture purchased in 1985 (Christopher Knight, "Something's missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa", LA Times April 19, 2018). Knight explains:
Unexpectedly, the Getty kouros, a controversial sculpture even before the museum acquired it more than 30 years ago, has been removed from public view. The work is now in museum storage.   For decades, the life-size carving of a standing nude youth carried one of the most distinctive labels of any work of art in an American museum: “Greece (?) about 530 B.C. or modern forgery.” The label encapsulated puzzling issues about the work, whose questionable status as dating from the archaic dawn of Western civilization had been the focus of scholarly and scientific research, debate and international symposiums for years. It is ten years since I provided an overview of the kouros here on LM. And over 20 year…