|An image of a Vigna Codini Columbarium|
Some good news for Museums and nations of origin. The Indianapolis Museum of Art has issued a press release to announce a loan of ancient sculptures from the Museo Nazionale Romano beginning in January 2011. The loans are for a renewable two-year period and include three life-size portrait busts and a marble funerary urn from the Vigna Codini Columbarium, which the release describes as an important Roman tomb discovered in 1847.
Max Anderson of the IMA really nails the importance of these agreements when he states in the release that “American museums have few examples of ancient art which can be displayed with their complete context understood . . . The Vigna Codini Tomb contents from the Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods open a window to understanding that only long-term loans can provide, since the inadequate ownership history is no longer acceptable.” This is what a licit antiquities trade could be. We know where the objects originated, how they came to the museum; visitors will see the context; all in a “universal” museum.
The release notes that these are the types of loans the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and the United States was meant to promote. Those interested in the MOU and the practical impact it has or has not had should look to the recent edited volume, Criminology and Archaeology (Simon Mackenzie and Penny Green, 2009). I review the volume in the Spring issue of the Journal of Art Crime. Of particular interest is Gordon Lobay’s contribution, which looks empirically at how the U.S.-Italy MOU has made an impact on the antiquities market—at least the observable licit market.
- Italy to Loan Roman Sculptures to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, IMA (2010), http://www.imamuseum.org/sites/default/files/VignaCodiniFinal.pdf.