Showing posts with label getty aphrodite. Show all posts
Showing posts with label getty aphrodite. Show all posts

January 27, 2016

J. Paul Getty Museum Returns a Terracotta Head Depicting the Greek God Hades to Sicily

Greek god Hades, Morgantina Italy about 400 - 300 B.C.
Terracotta and polychromy 10 ¾ x 8 1/16 x 7 5/16 in
After nearly three years of back and forth, sometimes heated, oftentimes complicated due to regional Italian politics, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu is finally set to return a terracotta head depicting the Greek god Hades.  The object had been irrefutably determined to have been clandestinely excavated, most likely from the Morgantina sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in the Province of Enna, Sicily in 1978. 

According to the Getty's website, the statue head was acquired between 1982 - 1985.  By chance or luck, the Hades head matched a small fragment left behind in the Sicilian dirt: a little curly spiral painted with strokes of the same bright Egyptian blue as appears on the head's beard.  Most likely the curl detached from the head's beard while being looted from the sanctuary, were it was found by the archaeological team just after discovering the illicit digging.  

The bust was purchased by the museum for $530,000 from New York collector Maurice Tempelsman who had, in turn, purchased the object from British art dealer Robin Symes. For three decades prior to his death, Symes was once one of London’s most successful antiques dealers. Both Tempelsman and Symes are both known to have been conduits for tainted objects, laundered via local fences and high level antiquities dealers through to wealthy collectors or museums who then seemingly willingly purchased the illicit antiquities with limited or no collection history when building antiquities collections.

In a ceremony held in California at the John Paul Getty Museum, in the presence of Antonio Verde, the Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles,  Francesco Rio, the Chief Prosecutor for the Italian state and Major Luigi Mancuso of the Italian Carabinieri's Art Crimes Squad, the USA museum formally relinquished the ancient object which dates back to 400-300 BCE. 

The sanctuary of Persephone and Demeter
at the ruins of Morgantina, just outside Aidone.
The head will be flown back to Italy on Friday, January 29, 2016 where it will be reabsorbed into the collection at the Museo Archeologico di Aidone Once in Sicily it is to be reunited with another once-looted object, repatriated from the Getty in 2011, the cult statue of a Goddess, also known as the Morgantina Venus.  Like the Hades head being repatriated this week, the 2.3 meter tall limestone and marble statue is thought to have been excavated illegally in Sicily between 1977 or 1978 from, or near the ruins of the fifth- to first-century BCE town of Morgantina. This statue, like the Hades head, found its way to the California museum having passed through the hands of sicilian-based looters working through a network that lead through the London dealer Robin Symes. 

The province of Enna contains more than two hundred registered and surveyed archaeological sites in addition to a high number of places known only to the area's tombaroli (illegal diggers).  Spoken about in the writings of Cicero, Claudianus, Diodorus Siculo, and Livy, the ancient remains of the place give strong testimony to the vibrant life of the ancient populations of the island of Sicily, from the beginnings of the island's habitation through the great migrations of the Paleolithic epoch, up through the Middle Ages.  

Of the ancient artworks recovered by the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, nearly two out of three are reported to have come from this one Sicilian province.  Few leave behind curly clues with which to identify objects as being looted. 

Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2007. "From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 14: 205-40.

Raffiotta, S. "Una divinità maschile per Morgantina." CSIG News. Newsletter of the Coroplastic Studies Interest Group, no. 11, Winter 2014, pp. 23-26.

November 12, 2011

Jason Felch on Deadline LA (Radio): "See No Evil, The Policy of Art Looters at the Getty and other museums"

Barbara Osborn and Harold Bloom conduct a 30 minute discussion with Jason Felch, co-author with Ralph Frammolino of "Chasing Aphrodite", about museums complicity in art theft and the looting of archaeological sites since the accord of UNESCO's 1970 Convention meant to create international cooperation in stopping the sale of illegal antiquities. From essentially laundering the works of art from Italy through Switzerland and notable art collectors in the United States, Felch quickly and lucidly outlines how the Getty's spending of more than $150 million likely encouraged the unearthing of new objects to be sold to the billionaire institution in Los Angeles. However, the Getty wasn't the only museum to engage in such practices and as Harold Bloom says, put stolen art on public display.  Felch explains what finally prompted Italian authorities to take action against the practice by museums to purchase objects of antiquities without asking questions. Deadline LA (Bloom and Osborn's show) will also broadcast the second part of their interview with Felch next week.

May 25, 2011

Chasing Aphrodite Reviewed

 "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 375 pp).

Jason Felch &
Ralph Frammolino

Disputes over works of art and antiquities take many forms. Nations and individuals with claims to cultural objects pursue their claims in a number of areas; only seldom are these battles seen in courts of law. As a consequence many of the precedents set for party’s actions are seen outside the public view. This underscores the terrific resource which Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino have created with their new book, officially released this week.

Their terrific series of investigative reports for the Los Angeles Times served as the jumping off point for the work. That series of articles was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize and helped me crystallize much of my thinking about the antiquities trade and the role of art museums. Those reports, though terrific, were limited by the length of a newspaper article, and the authors continued their reporting in the form of this work to allow the space to explore these issues. In so doing they have created what will stand as the definitive account of the troubled times at the Getty from its creation in the 1970s through 2007. The book takes the form of a straightforward and rigorous account of the events which led to first the creation of the wealthiest art-acquiring institution in the world, its unfortunate choices, and its painful public shaming.

The authors maintain their reporters tone, which serves the material well. I think partisans on both sides of the heritage debates will find much to admire in the consistent and accurate depiction of characters and events. One point for which the authors deserve high marks is their description of the laws at issue—they swiftly and accurately describe the complex network of U.S., Italian and International laws without letting it overwhelm the story they are telling. There are also references and notes for further readings. The book maintains a lively and direct style throughout. I was provided an electronic copy of the work, which had no page numbers, so I am unable to reference the quotations below.

May 18, 2011

Journalist Jason Felch, co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite", reports for the Los Angeles Times from Sicily about the Unveiling of the Venus of Morgantina at its New Smaller Museum in Sicily ... and information about the Venus Italy Returned to Libya Years Ago

Aphrodite (Venus of Morgantina)/AP
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

LA Times reporter Jason Felch, co-author of Chasing Aphrodite, write's in today's newspaper ("Getty officials on hand for Aphrodite statue's unveiling in Sicily") about the opening reception for the 5th century BC Venus from Morgantina to a room with a capacity of 150 people at the Aidone Archaeological Museum in Sicily.

Francesco Rutelli
In addition to two officials from the J. Paul Getty Museum, the ceremony was attended by Francesco Rutelli, Italy's former culture minister and former mayor of Rome (who spoke eloquently at ARCA's art crime conference in 2009); Italy's new culture minister, Giancarlo Galan; and possibly some of the very people who sold some of the various objects that the Getty had to return. Felch writes:
Among the citizens who turned out were several former "clandestini," the Sicilian term for looters, local officials said. For decades, looting has been a source of income for residents in one of the most impoverished corners of Italy's poorest region.
Aphrodite will join a collection of "Morgantina" silver previously returned to the museum.

The Getty Museum has paid more than $18 million for Aphrodite more than 20 years ago and agreed to return the statue in exchange for "long-loans" or Italian objects, Sharon Waxman wrote in her 2008 book, Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World.

You may find other examples of objects returned to countries of origin at the UNESCO website ("Recent examples of successful operations of cultural property restitutions in the world"), including the return in 2007 of a Venus statue from Italy to Libya (also see "Italy to Return Ancient Statue to Libya"). Of course this leads to another question about the safety of archaeology in Libya during the civil unrest and subsequent violent conflict but this morning I did not find any status report earlier than March ("Libya's 'extraordinary' archaeology under threat").  For now you may view the website of the National Museum in Tripoli here.

December 13, 2010