Looting Matters: Rome Trial of Marion True Dropped

Oct 15, 2010, 12:01 ET from Looting Matters

SWANSEA, Wales, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the decision to drop the Italian legal case against Marion True, a former curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

In 2005 Marion True was charged in a case that was linked to the movement of recently surfaced antiquities from Italy to North America. The case has dragged out and in mid-October the judge hearing the case in Rome dropped the case due to the statute of limitation.

In 1996 the Getty acquired the private collection formed by Barbara and Laurence Fleischman. A study of this collection by Cambridge University archaeologist Christopher Chippindale and his colleague David Gill showed that only 10 per cent of the pieces had collecting histories that could be traced back to the period before the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. In addition, 92 per cent of the objects in the Fleischman catalogue have no indication of find-spot.

It is ironic that True had introduced a more rigorous acquisition policy for the Getty in 1995, the year before the museum acquired the Fleischman collection.

Former Fleischman pieces formed part of the major return of antiquities from the Getty to Italy. Among the items handed back was an Etruscan terracotta group showing a maenad and Silen. This object had been used to illustrate the cover of the catalogue for the touring exhibition of their collection.

At the heart of the Italian case was a photographic archive seized during raids on the premises of an antiquities dealer in the Geneva Freeport, Switzerland. It is this dossier that has led to the identification and return to Italy of many of the 120 antiquities from North American private and public collections.

In 2007 a Greek court decided not to press charges against True over the Getty's acquisition of a gold funerary wreath that appears to have been derived from Macedonia in northern Greece. A police report suggested that the wreath was found in 1990, and, after passing through Germany and Switzerland, was sold to the Getty in 1993 for $1.15 million. The stunning object has since been returned and placed on display in Thessaloniki.


SOURCE Looting Matters