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Princeton: antiquities with a "period of uncertain whereabouts"

The Princeton University Art Museum has attracted some attention in recent years. In 2007 the museum returned some items to Italy though it has yet to disclose (unlike Boston's Museum of Fine Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum) the complete collecting histories for the objects. However it appears that some of the items feature in the Medici Dossier.

More recently, in June 2010, it was reported that the museum has been mentioned in papers relating to Edoardo Almagià, a New York dealer. The appearance of Almagià is not without significance as his name has been linked to objects returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Almagià has responded to the story with an interview. The Princeton curator mentioned in the Italian report has also given an interview.

Now Catherine Duazo ("Art museum acquisitions face scrutiny over past ownership", Daily Princetonian November 30, 2010) has commented on the Alamagià story.
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts through fraudulent means and illegally donating them to the museum. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.

“There is still no indictment, and there is no investigation of the museum,” explained James Steward, director of the museum. “Beyond that, we’re in a wait-and-see situation.” Steward is the only member of the museum authorized to discuss its acquisition policies, and he declined to elaborate on the internal investigation.

In fact it was the New York Times that reported that the Italian legal case existed.

And what did the internal investigation show? What were the documented collecting histories of the disputed pieces? Could the objects be traced back to the period before 1970?

Duazo talks about the new Princeton acquisition policy.
Lorraine Sciarra, senior University counsel, said in an e-mail that the art museum’s current acquisition procedures have been in place since 2006.

“Princeton University Art Museum has a stringent acquisition policy in keeping with the November 1970 UNESCO agreement regarding the acquisition of ancient works of art or archaeological material,” she explained. “The policy reflects the art museum's commitment to respecting the preservation of every nation's cultural heritage as well as the specific patrimony law of each country of origin.”
But what about the due dilgence process in the 1980s, the 1990s and the early 2000s when the disputed pieces were acquired?

A university art museum like Princeton could be expected to disclose the full collecting histories of the disputed pieces. Why has this information been retained? (And while we are talking about collecting histories, what was the source for the silver gilt plaque acquired by Princeton in 2002?)

Padgett's name has also been linked to a pelike he attributed to the Eretria painter that apparently appears in the Medici Dossier.


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Comments

David Gill said…
The Princeton article has been 'corrected' - see here.

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