Looting Matters: Antiquities Returned to Italy

December 4, 2009

SWANSEA, Wales, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ — David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the return of two antiquities to Italian authorities.

Two antiquities have been handed over to Italian authorities by James T. Hayes, Jr. the New York agent of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both items had been seized in raids in June 2009.

One of the pieces was a fragment of a Roman wall-painting that had been discovered at Boscoreale on the Bay of Naples. It appears to have come from an elite residence destroyed during the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. The panel shows a standing woman. The painting had been stolen from an archaeological store at Pompeii in June 1997. It seems that the Art Loss Register identified the fragment from images posted on the website of the Italian Carabinieri. Another part of the same series of wall-paintings, showing the god Dionysos, was seized from an unspecified London gallery in October 2008.

The second piece, a Corinthian column-krater dating to the sixth century BC, was seized at Christie’s in New York. It appears to have been handled by Giacomo Medici, a well-known dealer in antiquities. Reports suggest that it came from a site in Lazio near Rome; the krater’s complete nature suggests that it is likely to have been found in a rock-cut tomb. A raid on Medici’s warehouse in the Geneva Freeport provided Italian authorities with a major dossier of photographic evidence. The images have helped to identify several objects that appear to have been looted from archaeological sites in Italy.

The krater is said to have passed through Sotheby’s in London in 1985. Two other pieces of Athenian black-figured pottery that have been returned to Italy also appeared in the same way: a neck-amphora showing the god Hephaistos from the Royal Athena Galleries (and that had earlier been handled by a gallery in Germany), and an amphora of Panathenaic shape showing a foot race that had formed part of the collection of Shelby White and Leon Levy. A further piece, an Attic bell-krater, was one of several pieces that had to be withdrawn from the auction of an Australian collection at Bonham’s in London at the request of Italian authorities in October 2008.

The return of the latest two pieces confirms the close working relationship between the US and Italian authorities, and their determination to combat the trade in illegally extracted archaeological material.


SOURCE Looting Matters

Source: newswire

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