Good Faith Acquisition of Antiquities?


Lee Rosenbaum at CultureGrrl has more on the Italy/Princeton agreement. At the right is a “Apulian red figure loutrophos from South Italy, ca. 335-325 B.C.” This object will remain at Princeton but Italy will gain title.

Importantly, Rosenbaum tells us Princeton’s spokesperson, Cass Cliatt maintains the University had acquired the objects in good faith. Also, further details will not be forthcoming because of a “confidentiality agreement” between the two parties. Also, Princeton is “anticipating posting our acquisition policies, but they are still in the revision stage and will be made available at the appropriate time.” Rosenbaum rightly expresses some skepticism at this reticence.

It seems to me that Princeton will not be the last museum to deal with Italian claims, as Rutelli has indicated it will pursue similar arrangements with the Cleveland Museum of Art, the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, and the Miho Museum in Japan. These restitutions are a welcome sign, but they will mean very little in the long run if these institutions do not erect appropriate safeguards. At present we are relying on institutions to police themselves. I’m beginning to reach the admittedly pessimistic conclusion that a good-faith acquisition of antiquities may not be possible given the way the market currently operates.

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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