Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Etruscan kalpis,. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Etruscan kalpis,. Sort by date Show all posts

October 3, 2012

One Step up the Looting Pyramid

by Lynda Albertson, Chief Executive Officer, ARCA

To some individuals, the scandal surrounding the Met’s 1972 purchase of the Euphronios krater and similarly shady procurements by some US and European museums seems like old news.  For others, like Italy’s Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Alfosina Russo Tegliente and the Villa Giulia’s scientific experts Daniela Rizzo and Marizio Pelligrini, the watershed accord signed in February 2006 between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian government, which returned this spectacular vase to Italy, was just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Returned to Rome in 2008 after a protracted return-plus-loans agreement, the Euphronios krater, with its delicate images of the dying Lycian king, Sarpedon, leader of the Trojans' allies and offspring of the god Zeus and the mortal Laodamia, has become the poster-child example of bad museum acquisition practices.


I visited the Musei Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia on the opening day of their new exhibition, I Preditori dell’Arte e Il Patrimonio Ritrovato…le Storia del Recupero (The Predators of Art and Rediscovered Heritage - The History of Recovery), running in Rome from September 29th through December 15, 2012.

I didn’t come to see the Euphronios krater.   Near perfect in its restoration, it is housed in a discreetly simple glass case, approachable on four sides, located on the second floor of the villa in a section reserved geographically for artifacts from Cerveteri.

I didn’t come to see the Fifth-century BC Attic red-figure kylix, a cup also signed by Euphronios as potter and painted by Onesimos with scenes of the Trojan War.  This fragmented cup sits in its own glass case, alongside the krater.  It too was surrendered by a US museum -- the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1999.

I came to see the new exhibit, one that follows the “long and silent journey” to use the words of the curators, of not just these two objects but approximately ninety others on exhibition at the museum, which have been returned to Italy, due in a large part to the doggedly difficult work of Daniela Rizzo and Marizio Pelligrini, Villa Giulia’s scientific experts.  Their work and the work of the staff of the Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Italy’s public prosecutors, and the Italian Carabinieri along with collaboration from the Swiss judiciary helped reconstruct the chain that created a buyer’s market for looting of archaeological sites, in Italy and elsewhere. This exhibition is the fruit of their labor and underscores the material and intellectual consequences of contemporary collecting.

Tracing the collection life of these objects, from tomborolo to trafficante (tomb raider to trafficker) the exhibit shows not only the route these objects took before arriving in some of the world’s finest museums but also examines some of the methods used by traffickers to launder looted antiquities through the world’s most important auction houses.   


Included in the exhibition is an Etruscan antefix in the form of a Maenad and Silenos dancing.  An anteflix is an upright ornament used by builders along the eaves of a tiled roof to conceal tile joints. This particular anteflex, pictured on a now famous Medici polaroid, was acquired by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman through Robin Symes and then acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1996.

Once it even graced the cover of an exhibition catalog highlighting the Fleischman’s collection.  The presence of the anteflix in The Villa Giulia exhibit serves to illustrate how museums, private collectors and auction houses have allowed themselves to be links in the looting chain.

To many of the exhibit attendees in Rome, seeing this simple household decoration as part of this exhibition is equal parts joyous victory and painful reminder.  As I mentioned in the start of this article, having these objects come home is just the tip of the iceburg, or to use Daniela Rizzo’s words who spoke with the visitors about her work, “the first step of the Pyramid”.

When the Italian Carabinieri raided Giacomo Medici’s warehouse in the Geneva Freeport they recovered 3,800 objects and more than 4,000 photographs of objects that had previously passed through Medici’s hands. (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 19-24, 48-79, 363-83).  The recovered items in this exhibition represent only a small fraction of the objects looted by just one organization of traffickers.  Imagine how many more are out there.

Some museums, through cooperative agreements with Italy and or law enforcement organizations in their own countries, readily relinquish artifacts whose origins can be traced back to the looters through the documentation of the Medici and Becchina dossiers.  Others take more insistent prodding.

It wasn’t until June 20th of this year that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio issued a press release stating that an agreement had finally been made with the Toledo Museum of Art in conjunction with a Federal Verified Complaint in Forfeiture to return a 510 B.C. Etruscan black-figure kalpis attributed to the Micali painter or his workshop.  This despite being presented with a copy of an incriminating polaroid, seized from Medici during the 1995 raid showing the still mud-encrusted pot and another polaroid from a separate raid in Basel 2002 proving that  the kalpis had also passed through the hands of Gianfranco Becchina.

One more step up the pyramid.  One more long and necessary step.


Photos contributed by Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Musei Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia

December 23, 2016

Visiting Florence and want to see an exhibition dedicated to art crime? The beauty of art and its appreciation can heal the wounds inflicted.

Visiting Florence between now and February 14, 2017?  

Then you should try and make time to see "La Tutela Tricolore," an exhibition dedicated to the “Custodians of Italy’s cultural identity” at the La Galleria degli Uffizi a Firenze.



The exhibition opened December 19, 2016, and is made up of eight themed sections, some of which are highlighted here.  Focusing on art crimes in general and highlighting many of the exceptional recoveries that are a result of Italy's unique investment in cultural heritage protection through its  unique-in-the-world Comando Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale dei Carabinieri, the exhibition demonstrates just how diverse "crimes against art" really are.

The event inaugurates the newly opened Aula Magliabechiana, part of a 18 million euro restoration project to overhaul two floors beneath the Biblioteca Magliabechiana.  These renovations not only provide a connection with Vasari’s original building on Piazza Castellani, but create a permanent exhibition space on the ground floor which will be dedicated to temporary exhibits such as this one.


"La Tutela Tricolore's" first section highlights art crimes by terrorism and pays homage to the city of Florence and the Uffizi's recovery from the May 27, 1993 bombing on the museum and the Accademia dei Georgofili.

Long before there was an ISIS, domestic terrorists affiliated with the Italian organised crime group Cosa Nostra placed 280 kilograms of Pentrite and T4 explosives mixed with a small quantity of TNT in a Fiat and left it parked on Via dei Georgofili, just behind the historic Uffizi Gallery's main entrance.  The resulting early morning explosion, caused when the car bomb detonated, created a ten foot wide and six foot deep crater that claimed the lives of five people, including one small, seven-week old, girl. Thirty-three people were treated in local hospitals for their injuries and the scar on the heart of the Renaissance city remains palpable in Florence's architecture and the city's collections.

Serving as a defiant symbol of "defeat through reconstruction," the opening of this Uffizi exhibition space commemorates this mournful occurrence and Florence's determination to overcome its devastating effects.  It serves as a reminder that through solidarity and hope, the beauty of art, and its appreciation and preservation, has the ability to heal wounds, even those inflicted long ago.

Section two of the exhibition highlights Florentine works of art stolen during World War II.  Some of the highlights on display include Labors of Hercules by Antonio Pollaiolo, the Madonna and Child (also called the Tickling Madonna or the Madonna Casini) by Masaccio, and Galatea by Bronzino.

Another section highlights works of art repatriated to Italy from other countries.

Some of the more recent repatriations on display are:

Photo Credit: Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara
The Torlonia Peplophoros, a first-century BC sculpture depicting the body of a young goddess.  The statue is one of 15 stolen from the Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1983 which was just returned to Italy on December 7, 2016 from the United States.


An ornate parade wagon dating back to the early seventh century B.C.E., looted from the tomb of a Sabine prince laid to rest within the Colle del Forno necropolis. This wagon and other funerary objects were repatriated July 2016 following extremely difficult and protracted multi-year negotiations with the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum in Denmark's capital of Copenhagen.


A second century CE marble head, belonging to a statue of Julia Domna, the wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, the founder of the Severan dynasty.  This bust was stolen from the Museo del Canopo at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli in 2012 and was also returned to Italy earlier this month.


This 510 B.C. E Etruscan black-figure kalpis, attributed to the Micali painter or his workshop, was looted by Tombaroli passed through the now well known trafficking network of Gianfranco Becchina before being sold to the Toledo Museum of Art with only a photocopy of two paragraphs typed in German on hotel stationery by the Swiss hotel's owner, stating he had owned it since 1935 as provenance.  As the result of an incriminating polaroid and a Federal Verified Complaint in Forfeiture, the museum was eventually encouraged to return the antiquity to Italy in 2012.

The sixth section highlights the globalization of criminal networks with pieces recovered from the Castellani Goldsmith collection, stolen during a dramatic 2013 Easter weekend jewelry heist the Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia in Rome. As reported on earlier, this museum theft turned out to be a theft-to-order, involving a shady antiquarian, a drug dealer and a Russian with a penchant for gold.


Some of the last objects in the exhibit are the most poignant, and highlight art crimes in war, and the risk to the countries irreplaceable works of art which have been subject to natural disasters like Italy's recent earthquakes that continuously endanger its historic buildings and collections.  These objects remind us that fighting to protect art, against the elements and against the theft and exportation of works of art is a matter of civilisation and is a battle which warrants our full investment and engagement.

This exhibition is free of charge and runs through 14 February 2017 in Florence at:
La Galleria degli Uffizi a Firenze
Address: Piazzale degli Uffizi, 6, 50122 Firenze, Italy
Phone:+39 055 23885
Tues. – Sun. 10 am to 7 pm
(Closed on Mondays)
Entrance from door 2,
guided visits can be requested at: firenzemusei@operalaboratori.com.