Skip to main content

Official silence on Getty return

Fabio Isman has reported on the return of 150 marble fragments to Italy from the J. Paul Getty Museum ("Il Getty Museum restituisce la tomba di Ascoli Satriano: il ritorno dell'arte perduta", Il Messaggero November 17, 2012). The pieces apparently come from a tomb at Ascoli Satriano and appear to be associated with the marble sculptures returned to Italy in 2007 (D. Gill & C. Chippindale, ‘From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities’, International Journal of Cultural Property 14 (2007), 205-40). We had noted Arthur Haughton's comments about the pieces linking them to Giacomo Medici, Robert Hecht and Robin Symes. Medici had reportedly informed Haughton that the find-spot was "a tomb which included a number of vases by the Darius Painter, at a site 'not far from Taranto'. Hecht said the site was Orta Nova ..."

The pieces themselves were published by Cornelius C. Vermeule ("The God Apollo, a Ceremonial Table with Griffins, and a Votive Basin", The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 15 (1987), 27-34).

What were the pots attributed to the Darius painter? What information has been lost by the destruction of this tomb.

The Getty news centre is quiet. The Italian Ministry of Culture news centre is silent.

If Isman is right (and his sources are normally trustworthy), one is left wondering why this material has remained in the Getty since 2007. What is the untold story?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know


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 …

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…

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…