Getty Museum returns to Italy (2005-2007)

 

In September 1995, the Italian Carabinieri, in conjunction with Swiss police, raided Italian antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici’s warehouse in Geneva Freeport, with several more visits following between 1997 and 1999. They recovered 3,800 objects, more than 4,000 Polaroid photographs of objects that had previously passed through Medici’s hands, more negatives and photographs, and something like 35,000 sheets of paper documenting Medici’s business practices (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 19-24, 48-65). The Polaroids often pictured a freshly excavated object and the same object fully restored. These pictures could often be matched with objects in museums and private collections, and so the Polaroids provided important evidence of their illegal provenience (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 66-79). In May 2005 an Italian court found Medici guilty of illegal export, receiving stolen goods, and conspiracy.
The seizures from Medici’s warehouse were part of a wide-ranging investigation of the antiquities trade out of Italy, and more raids followed. In February 2001, folders containing photographs, letters and a handwritten memoir were seized from US dealer Robert Hecht’s apartment in Paris (Watson and Todeschini 2007 156-181). In May 2002, another haul of documents and photographs was seized from three warehouses in Basel belonging to Italian dealer Gianfranco Becchina, and a fourth Becchina warehouse was raided in 2005, yielding yet more documents (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 290-297). The accumulating evidence also implicated Marion True, the then curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and she was interviewed in 2001 by the Italian prosecutor Paolo Ferri. More evidence regarding the Getty’s involvement with the Italian antiquities trade came to light in Los Angeles, where the journalists Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino (2005) obtained more than 1,000 pages of internal Getty documents (which the Getty maintained were stolen) showing that as early as 1985 the Getty had been aware that British dealer Robin Symes and Hecht were selling material from dubious sources in Italy and Greece, but had continued buying from them anyway. In November 2005, Hecht and True were charged in an Italian court with conspiring to receive stolen art. The evidence collected during the course of the Italian investigation also caused several US art museums to return material to Italy, foremost among them the Getty.
The Getty had already returned three objects to Italy in 1999 that had been shown to have been stolen, and returned a further three objects in 2005 (J. Paul Getty Museum 2005):
 
Stone stela with Greek funerary inscription, said to be from Selinunte in Sicily.
90.AC.17. Etruscan candelabrum; stolen from the Guglielmi Collection and sold to the Getty in 1990 by Atlantis Antiquities (proprietors Robert Hecht and Jonathan Rosen) for $65,000 (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 84-87).
81.AE.78. Asteas krater; A photograph of this piece had been discovered in 1994 in the glove compartment of a crashed car belonging to Italian customs officer and dealer Pasquale Camera, who was killed in the crash (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 10-15, 290). The krater had been discovered by a laborer working on a canal in the 1970s, traded to a smuggler for a pig, bought by dealer Gianfranco Becchina and sold to the Getty in 1981 for $275,000 (Slayman 2006; Godart and De Caro 2008, 176 no. 47).
 
In January 2006 talks commenced between the Getty and Italian officials, led by Maurizio Fiorilli, about further restitutions. While the Italians were keen to secure the return of 52 objects, the Getty was hoping to keep the number down to 21. (Though in June 2006, the Los Angeles Times revealed that an internal Getty review conducted in 2005 had reported that 350 of the museum’s antiquities had been acquired from dealers suspected or convicted of dealing in looted artifacts (Felch and Frammolino 2006)). An agreement was reached in October 2006, establishing the grounds for a return of objects and future cultural collaborations, but it appeared to have collapsed by November, when the Getty announced unilaterally that it was intending to return to Italy 25 of the objects claimed by the Italians, together with an additional one that the Getty’s own research had shown to be suspect. Sticking points for the Getty were claims made on the Statue of a Victorious Youth (77.AB.30), and the Cult Statue of a Goddess (88.AA.76), both of which it was refusing to return (J.P. Getty Museum 2006a, 2006b). Italian officials threatened the Getty with a future policy of non-cooperation unless their full claim was met (David 2006), and finally, in August 2007, an agreement was reached whereby the Getty would return 40 objects to Italy, including the Cult Statue of a Goddess, though retaining possession of the Statue of a Victorious Youth pending the outcome of ongoing legal proceedings in Italy. The agreement also provided for future collaborations between the Getty and cultural institutions in Italy (J.P. Getty Museum 2007). The objects returned were:
 
71.AG.111. Five 1st century BC Roman fresco fragments (Godart and De Caro 2008, 218 no. 62).
77.AE.5. Group of Attic Red-Figured calyx krater fragments (Berlin Painter, Kleophrades Painter); acquired in 58 fragments, mostly from Robin Symes, some from Dietrich von Bothmer, a few from Galerie Nefer (proprietor Freida Tchachos), and one from Frederick Schultz (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 226-227; Godart and De Caro 2008, 94 no. 18).
77.AE.13. Apulian Red-Figured volute krater; acquired as gift of Gordon McClendon (Gill and Chippindale 2007, 229; Godart and De Caro 2008, 196 no. 54).
77.AE.14. Apulian Red-Figured volute krater; acquired as gift of Gordon McClendon (Gill and Chippindale 2007, 229; Godart and De Caro 2008, 198 no. 55).
79.AE.139. Attic Red-Figured amphora with lid; acquired from Antike Kunst Palladion (proprietor Gianfranco Becchina); pictured on Medici Polaroid (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 371; Godart and De Caro 2008, 98 no. 20).
81.AE.149. Attic Red-Figured bell krater (Godart and De Caro 2008, 124 no. 30).
81.AE.197. Three Fragments of Protocorinthian olpe; acquired as gift from Galerie Nefer (Godart and De Caro 2008, 54 no. 2).
81.AE.213. Attic Red-Figured phiale fragments, attributed to Douris; acquired in a series of 63 fragments between 1981 and 1990, with an average purchase price per fragment of $3000, mainly from Galerie Nefer, but with one fragment from Robin Symes and two from Fritz Bürki (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 226-27; Godart and De Caro 2008, 110 no. 24).
82.AE.83. Attic Red-Figured calyx krater (Godart and De Caro 2008, 126 no. 31).
83.AE.203. Etruscan Red-Figured ceramic duck askos; acquired as gift from Vasek Polak; said to be from the S. Schweitzer collection, ca. 1940; pictured on Medici Polaroid (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 374; Godart and De Caro 2008, 142 no. 36).
83.AE.218. Attic Janiform kantharos; purchased from the Royal Athena Galleries (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 375; Godart and De Caro 2008, 114 no. 26).
83.AE.287. Attic Red-Figured kylix; attributed to Epiktetos (painter); acquired as gift from Michael Milken, valued at $60,000; said to come from the Rycroft collection; pictured on Medici Polaroid (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 372; Godart and De Caro 2008, 82 no. 12).
84.AE.63. Attic Red-Figured neck amphora, attributed to Euthymides (painter); said to be from collection of E. Pfuhl (ca. 1920s), picture of piece in fragments on Medici negative (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 88-89; Godart and De Caro 2008, 80 no. 11).
84.AE.569. Attic Red-Figured kylix, signed by Douris (painter) and attributed to Python (potter); bought from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici Polaroid and negative of object on display in Getty (Godart and De Caro 2008, 104 no. 22).
84.AE.996. Apulian Red-Figured loutrophorus, attributed to the Metope group (Godart and De Caro 2008, 190 no. 52).
85.AA.106. 4th century BC sculptural group of two griffins attacking a fallen doe; acquired from Maurice Tempelsman, valued at $5.5 million; acquired by Tempelsman from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True 2002, 107; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 124-25, 389; Godart and De Caro 2008, 200 no. 56).
85.AA.107. 4th century BC marble lekanis; acquired from Maurice Tempelsman, valued at $2.2 million; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True 2002, 106; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 124-25; Godart and De Caro 2008, 204 no. 57).
85.AA.108. Statue of Apollo; acquired from Maurice Tempelsman, valued at $2.5 million; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True 2002, 162; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 124-25; Godart and De Caro 2008, 230 no. 66).
85.AA.265. Marble bust of a man; acquired from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici negative and Polaroid (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 371; Godart and De Caro 2008, 216 no. 61).
85.AE.102. Apulian Red-Figured volute krater (Godart and De Caro 2008, 164 no. 43).
85.AE.263. Attic Red-Figured mask kantharos, attributed to the Foundry painter and Euphronios (potter); bought for $200,000 from Fritz Bürki in 1985; with Robin Symes 1982-1984; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True 2002 76; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 90-92; Godart and De Caro 2008, 106 23).
85.AE.316. Attic Red-Figured kalpis, attributed to Kleophrades (painter); bought from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici Polaroid and negative of object on display in Getty (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 371; Godart and De Caro 2008, 96 no. 19).
86.AE.611. Apulian pelike, close to Gravina painter; bought from Fritz Bürki for $42,000 (Felch and Frammolino 2005; Godart and De Caro 2008, 172 no. 46).
87.AE.22. Attic Black-Figured zone cup, attributed to the manner of the Lysippides painter; bought from Fritz Bürki via Atlantis Antiquities (True 2002, 62; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 89; Godart and De Caro 2008, 68 no. 7).
87.AE.23. Apulian Red-Figured pelike, attributed to the Darius painter; bought from Fritz Burki via Atlantis Antiquities for $60,000; pictured on Medici negative and Polaroid (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 89-90; Godart and De Caro 2008, 180 no. 49).
88.AA.76. Cult Statue of a Goddess, perhaps Aphrodite; bought from Robin Symes for $18 million; said to have been bought by Symes for $400,000 from Swiss citizen Renzo Canavesi (Frammolino and Felch 2007; True 2002, 104).
88.AE.66. Attic Red-Figured calyx krater, attributed to the Aegisthus painter (Godart and De Caro 2008, 112 no. 25).
92.AC.5. Bronze 5th century BC askos in the shape of a siren (Godart and De Caro 2008, 154 no. 40).
92.AE.6 and 96.AE.335. Attic Red-Figured calyx krater, signed by Syriskos (painter); bought from Fleischman collection, valued at $800,000; acquired by Fleischmans from Robin Symes in 1988; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True 2002, 78; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 117; Godart and De Caro 2008, 116 no. 27).
96.AA.49. 2nd century BC statuette of Tyche; purchased from Fleischman Collection for $2 million; acquired by Fleischmans from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 237 no. 120; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 375; Godart and De Caro 2008, 208 no. 58).
96.AA.211. 1st century AD statuette of Dionysos; acquired as part of the Fleischman Collection; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 339 no. 179; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 378; Godart and De Caro 2008, 228 no. 65).
96.AC.132. Etruscan bronze mirror with relief-decorated cover; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 178 no. 83; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 372; Godart and De Caro 2008 146 no. 37).
96.AD.33. Etruscan antefix in the form of a maenad and Silenos dancing; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection; acquired by Fleischmans from Robin Symes; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 195 no. 92; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 373; Godart and De Caro 2008, 136 no. 34).
96.AE.29. Apulian Red-Figured bell rater, attributed to the Choregos painter; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection, valued at $185,000; acquired by Fleischmans from Fritz Bürki; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 125 no. 56; Watson and Todeschini 2007; 373, 378; Godart and De Caro 2008, 170 no. 45).
96.AE.92. Attic Black-Figured amphora, Painter of Berlin 1686; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection, valued at $275,000; previously with Atlantis Antiquities in 1988; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 81 no. 34; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 374, 376; Godart and De Caro 2008, 60 no. 4).
96.AE.93. Attic Black-Figured amphora, attributed to the Three-line group; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection; acquired by Fleischmans from Fritz Bürki in 1989 (True and Kozloff 1994, 83 no. 35; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 374, 376; Godart and De Caro 2008, 62 no. 5).
96.AE.97. Attic Red-Figured cup attributed to Nikosthenes (painter) and Pamphaios (potter); acquired as part of Fleischman Collection; acquired by Fleischmans from Robin Symes in 1988; pictured on Medici Polaroid (True and Kozloff 1994, 94 no. 39; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 374, 377; Godart and De Caro 2008, 84, no 13).
96.AE.119. Paestan squat lekythos, attributed to Asteas; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection (True and Kozloff 1994, 146 no. 65; Godart and De Caro 2008, 178 no. 48).
96.AE.139. Etruscan Pontic amphora; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection, valued at $400,000; bought by Fleischmans from Fritz Bürki in 1988 (True and Kozloff 1994, 190 no. 90; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 374; Godart and De Caro 2008, 130 no. 32).
96.AG.171. Fragment of a 1st century BC Roman fresco: lunette with mask of Hercules; acquired as part of Fleischman Collection, valued at $95,000 (True and Kozloff 1994, 251 no. 126; Watson and Todeschini 2007, 375; Godart and De Caro 2008, 210 no. 59.
 
Bibliography
 
David, Ariel, 2006. “Italy warns Getty Museum on negotiations”, Associated Press, December 20.
 
Eakin, Hugh. 2005. “An odyssey in antiquities ends in questions at the Getty Museum”, New York Times, October 15.
 
Felch, Jason and Ralph Frammolino, 2005. “Getty had signs it was acquiring possibly looted art, documents show”, Los Angeles Times, September 25.
 
Felch, Jason and Ralph Frammolino, 2006. “Getty’s list of doubts multiplies”, Los Angeles Times, June 18.
 
Frammolino, Ralph and Jason Felch, 2007. “The Getty’s troubled goddess”, Los Angeles Times, January 3.
 
Gill, David and Christopher Chippindale, 2007. “From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities”, International Journal of Cultural Property 14, 205-40.
 
Godart, Louis and Stefano De Caro, 2008. Nostoi. Capolavori Ritrovati. Rome: Segretariato Generale della Presidenza della Repubblica.
 
J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005. “Statement regarding returned objects from the Getty”, press release, October 3.
 
J.Paul Getty Museum, 2006a. “J. Paul Getty Museum to return 26 objects to Italy”, press release, November 21.
 
J.Paul Getty Museum, 2006b. “J. Paul Getty Museum issues statement”, press release, November 23.
 
J.Paul Getty Museum, 2007. “Italian Ministry of Culture and the J. Paul Getty Museum sign agreement in Rome”, press release, August 1.
 
Slayman, Andrew, 2006. “The trial in Rome”, Archaeology online, February 6.
 
True, Marion, 2002.Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum.
 
True, Marion and Arielle Kozloff, 1994. A Passion for Antiquities. Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum.
 
Watson, Peter and Cecilia Todeschini, 2007. The Medici Conspiracy. New York: Public Affairs.