Looting Matters: An Attic Krater in Minneapolis

Sep 03, 2010, 12:01 ET from Looting Matters

SWANSEA, Wales, United Kingdom, Sept. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the Athenian wine-mixing krater in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

In 1983 the Minneapolis Institute of Art acquired an Athenian red-figured krater. The outside was painted with scenes showing Dionysos, the Greek god associated with drinking. He was surrounded with his followers, maenads and satyrs. One of the maenads, a female follower of Dionysos, is shown carrying a young satyr on her shoulders. The krater was attributed to the Methyse painter.

The krater was purchased, according to a spokesperson for the museum, from Robin Symes. Symes has been linked to several pieces returned to Italy from North American public and private collections.

The krater was reported to have resided "in private collections in Switzerland and Great Britain for ca. 15 years prior to 1983." This would provide the piece with a collecting history that was earlier than the crucial 1970 UNESCO Convention.

However, during a raid on the premises of Giacomo Medici in the Geneva Freeport, a number of images were seized. These have proved to be crucial in Italy's requests for the return of objects.

Among the photographs was one of a krater showing quite clearly a young satyr on the shoulder of a maenad. The krater itself was still covered in dirt and salt encrustations. It appears to be fresh out of the ground.

The Polaroid camera used to take such images was introduced to the market around 1972 and this seems to provide a terminus post quem for the surfacing of the krater on the market. The appearance of the krater in the "Medici Dossier" may explain the report that the pot had resided in a Swiss private collection.

In November 2005 the museum was informed of the Polaroid images. The MIA responded in 2006 by stating that it was researching the vase. In November 2009 Italian prosecutor Maurizio Fiorilli called for the return of the MIA krater to Italy.

The MIA is a member institution of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD). Indeed the director of the MIA, Kaywin Feldman, took on the role of president of the AAMD in June 2010.

AAMD guidelines suggest that if a member museum becomes aware of issues relating to an acquisition, "the museum should respond promptly and responsibly and take whatever steps are necessary to address this claim."


SOURCE Looting Matters