Italy and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum in Copenhagen on Tuesday announced an agreement for the return of antiquities taken illegally from Italy.
Objects repatriated include the contents of a tomb from near Fara north of Rome. Those objects had allegedly passed through Robert Hecht, a familiar name to those who follow illicit antiquities. Hecht passed away in 2012, and had been the subject of a criminal trial in Rome in 2005, allegedly for dealing in illicit antiquities.
Robert Hecht described buying the Etruscan chariot from Giacomo Medici:
My next memorable purchase from Giacomo was the group of Etruscan chariot fixtures. There were plaques decorated in relief and figures of recumbent lions with incised mains and texturing. Several sectors of the rims of the chariot wheels were also preserved. Giacomo let me have these for $ 65,000. Dietrich von Bothmer was interested but my loyalty was to Copenhagen. The director, Mögens Gjødesen, came to see them together with Kraeling from the Carlsberg Foundation. I asked SF 1.5 million and was asked to bring them to Copenhagen. After a few Danish dinners with lots of pickled herring, beer and aquavit we agreed on SF 1,200,000 (circa. $ 240,000 at the time).
The return agreement follows the pattern set by Italy and museums in past agreements: the return of contested objects in exchange for future loans and ongoing collaborative efforts. The Glyptotek’s press release announcing the agreement describes this collaboration, including “long-term loans of significant tomb discoveries from Italy which on a continuous, rotating basis will be featured in the Glyptotek’s forthcoming, large-scale, new exhibition of the whole museum’s collection of antiquities”.
Both sides described the agreement in terms of a crisis avoided. Dario Franceschini, the Italian Culture Minister stated:
The agreement which we have signed today, has turned a crisis into an opportunity. The agreement surmounts a controversy by means of close collaboration – a collaboration, which on the one hand allows the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek a continual renewal of its presentation of ancient art to the public, while on the other hand allowing Italy to retrieve important artefacts to the area whence they came.
And the Director of the Glptotek, Flemming Friborg sounded relieved to have avoided prosecution and lawsuits:
What at first looked as if it would turn into a legal, political deadlock, has now, through an intense academic dialogue been transformed into a both powerful and visionary agreement. We are overjoyed with the far-sightedness with which we have been met by the Italian Ministry of Culture. Working together we have created an ideal climate in which to implement an agreement that will actually translate into new museum initiatives for the benefit of museum visitors and scholars alike, in both Italy and Denmark.
- Elisabetta Povoledo, Those Italian Artifacts Actually Were Looted, Danish Museum Now Says, The New York Times, Jul. 5, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/06/arts/design/those-italian-artifacts-actually-were-looted-danish-museum-now-says.html.
- Historic Agreement between Italy and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek | Glyptoteket, http://www.glyptoteket.com/press-release/historic-agreement-between-italy-and-the-ny-carlsberg-glyptotek.