Bob Hecht, the American art dealer who brought the world the finest vases by the greatest Greek vase painter (and spawned the globetrotting tales of intrigue behind them) died in Paris this week. His death comes less than a month after his trial in Rome came to an end when the statute of limitations ran out on charges related to the Euphronios krater and other artifacts. His lifelong adventure ended with a clean criminal record and his most famous vases back on Italian soil. Until the finish, he had a twinkle in his eye, and I thank him for sharing what he could about his incredible life.
NYT: Bob Hecht, 92
The oldest known vase by the Leonardo da Vinci of ancient Greece has emerged from hiding after two decades. Last seen in public at a June 1990 auction at Sotheby’s in New York, Euphronios’ Sarpedon kylix has gone on display at Rome’s Villa Giulia museum with no fanfare or public announcement. Making the appearance more significant, the cup has been repaired—fixing the damage done when a Swiss police officer dropped it during an inventory of antiquities seized from dealer Giacomo Medici at the Geneva Freeport in 1995. The “lost chalice” now shares a glass case with a handful of other vases in a room dedicated to artifacts returned to Italy by American museums and collectors. Its label, which has no accession number, describes it as coming from the Geneva raid (and doesn’t mention that, technically, it’s still Medici’s property, pending the resolution of his legal cases).
The cup is in good company: the case next to it holds another rare, signed Euphronios, a fragmentary krater depicting Athena that was sold at the same auction and later given to Italy by collector Shelby White. The repaired kylix has been on display since at least May (when I first spotted it there) and I’ve been waiting to see if there’d be any announcement before posting on it. As this is the biggest development in Greek pots for 2010, New Year’s Eve seemed like a good time. What remains to be seen is if it will ever get displayed alongside its bigger twin, the Met’s former “Euphronios Krater.” That vase, which depicts the same scene, is also at Villa Giulia, in a separate wing.
Former Getty curator Marion True finally gets her well-deserved say now that her Rome trial is over. In a stunning interview by Hugh Eakin (published on The New Yorker’s Web site) True tells off both the Italians (who had charged her in dealing with loot) and the Getty (which had been paying her legal bills). “My greatest sadness is that the Italians were able to intimidate the entire American art world, and especially museums, without having to produce any evidence at all,” she says. Of the Getty, which she essentially says hung her out to dry: “I have nothing but the greatest contempt for them in the world.”
New Yorker: True Speaks Out
The Rome trial of former Getty antiquities chief Marion True fizzled out after five years when the statute of limitations ran out on the charges. True, who denied the allegations that she’d played a role in stocking the California museum with artifacts looted from Italy, never got to present her defense. It’s just a matter of months before the clock also runs out on charges against her co-defendant, Bob Hecht, who is accused of dealing in loot including the Euphronios krater, and also says he’s innocent.
NYT: True’s Rome Trial Ends
In a compelling twist, Michael Kimmelman shows how Italy winning back the Krater makes a good argument for the British Museum keeping the Parthenon Marbles:
Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin’s loot is arguably British patrimony.
NYT: Culture’s Borders