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Marion True: "sacrificial victim”

The Rome case against Marion True was dropped, and now her lawyer Francesco Isolabella has spoken out (Gareth Harris, "Marion True's defence lawyer speaks out", The Art Newspaper 4 November 2010). Harris quotes extensively from Hugh Eakin's New Yorker commentary on True.

Lord Renfrew was asked to comment on the case and recognised, as True has asserted, that there was a wider institutional issue:
"It was unjust that senior figures at the Getty did not publicly share the responsibility with Marion True who was clearly not the principal decision maker".
The report finishes with a quote from Isolabella:
“It is worth considering how the Italian state orchestrated a major campaign to obtain works that are now in less committed and less organised environments than before. Considering the universality of these items [belonging to humanity], wouldn't it have been better to leave them in the museums where they were?”
There is no consideration of the wider issues. The recently-surfaced antiquities returned to Italy from the Getty had all lost their archaeological contexts. Why did the Getty acquire such much material? Is Isolabella suggesting that it is acceptable for archaeological material to be ripped from (say) Etruscan tombs so long as it ends up in "universal" museums? Would each of the North American museums that returned material to Italy have wanted all the evidence linked to their acquisition policies paraded in public (and through the press) as part of a legal claim? The Italian authorities have waged a successful campaign that has indeed changed the collecting habits of North American museums. And has that reduced the incentive to loot archaeological sites in Italy?


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You ask: "And has that reduced the incentive to loot archaeological sites in Italy?"

I wager that it has not reduced the incentive by one iota. It is human nature to seek out treasure, making profit off of it is just a perk to looters. If they can not sell to museums abroad they will sell to wealthy collectors within the EU or keep their finds in the yards or attics until such time as they can sell them or they die and their heirs find them.

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