Skip to main content

Roman sarcophagus recovered in London

Source: Omniroma
The Italian Ministry of Culture has announced that it has recovered a Roman sarcophagus stolen from the Chiesa della Madonna della Libera di Aquino [press release]. The item was removed on 2/3 September 1991. It dates from the second century AD.

The return was made as part of Operation Giovenale.

Cristina Bassi, writing in Il Giornale, notes that it was in the "collection" of Robert Hecht.
Il sarcofago era nella collezione di Robert Hecht, uno dei più celebri antiquari americani, il cui nome è stato spesso legato a vicende di traffici di opere d’arte.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

livius said…
I don't think the timeline supports the hypothesis that Hecht was the anonymous collector who owned the sarcophagus. All the articles (including Bassi's) say the executor of the deceased Collector X's will first contacted the state prosecutor in the summer of 2011. The mayor of Aquino announced the repatriation deal in November 2011 (see here: http://www.ilpuntoamezzogiorno.it/2011/11/14/sarcofago-romano-rubato-ad-aquino-e-trafugato-allestero-ritrovato-dalla-guardia-di-finanza/ ).

Hecht was still on trial then, and of course still alive. Even if the reports that the collector was dead before the executor initiated negotiations is inaccurate, surely any arrangements Hecht would have made to return ill-gotten goods at that point would have involved his criminal defense attorneys, not the future executor of his estate.

I think people heard "dead collector/receiver of stolen goods" and assumed Hecht without looking too closely at the particulars. It seems to me we should be looking at London-based collectors who died around or before summer of 2011.

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.