Looting Matters: The Return of Antiquities to Italy and the Swiss Connection

Jan 22, 2010, 12:01 ET from Looting Matters

SWANSEA, Wales, Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the role of a Zurich-based conservator in the return of antiquities to Italy.

In January 2010 the Italian Carabinieri announced that it was actively pursuing some 350 objects that had been in the possession of Fritz-Burki, a conservator of antiquities based in Zurich, Switzerland. It appears that the items had come to the notice of the Italians as a result of a raid by Swiss police officers in October 2001. Images of the archaeological items are said to have been circulated to dealers and auction-houses.

Burki is reported to have been the person responsible for conserving the Attic red-figured wine-mixing bowl known as the Euphronios krater. This pot was sold to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972 by Robert Hecht; it has since been returned to Italy.

Over 100 antiquities have now been returned to Italy from a range of North American public and private collections. A study of the returns by archaeologists David Gill (Swansea University) and Christopher Chippindale (Cambridge University) has identified the role of Burki.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts returned a marble statue of Sabina that it had acquired from Burki in 1979. At the time it was stated that the statue had resided in the collection of a Bavarian aristocratic family. Another item was an Apulian amphora attributed to the Darius painter. Research by Ricardo Elia (Boston University) has demonstrated the devastating impact of looting on the ancient cemeteries of Puglia to supply Apulian pottery for the antiquities market.

The J. Paul Getty has returned several items supplied by Burki. Among them were two Athenian pots, one an elaborate drinking cup with a mask. The Getty returns included several items, including Apulian pottery, acquired by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman. At least one of the pieces is reported to have been identified by a Polaroid image seize during police raids on a warehouse facility in the Geneva Freeport. A fragment of Roman wall-painting also came from Burki. Maxwell L. Anderson recognized that this came from the same composition as a fragment in the Shelby White and Leon Levy collection (that has also been returned to Italy).


SOURCE Looting Matters