SWANSEA, Wales, Nov. 26, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- David Gill, archaeologist, reflects on the recent return of two antiquities to Italy.
Michele Speranza, an off-duty Carabinieri officer from Italy, was enjoying a holiday in New York City. He was ambling down Madison Avenue when he was stopped in his tracks by a marble female torso displayed in the window of a gallery selling antiquities. He suspected that the sculpture appeared in the database of 'wanted' items: the piece seemed to be the one stolen from a museum in Terracina in 1988.
The marble sculpture has just been returned to Italy along with the bronze statue of Zeus, the chief Olympian god. The Zeus had been stolen from the Museo Nazionale Romano in 1980. Shortly afterwards, in 1982, it appeared as a supplementary exhibit in 'The Search for Alexander' at The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. When the piece was published in 1984 it was claimed that it belonged to a dealer in New York City who had indicated that it had been acquired from "a Swiss collector in the late 1960s." Such information seems to be have been fabricated in order to disguise how the Zeus had re-entered the market.
Subsequently the Zeus appears to have been acquired by husband and wife collectors, Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, and then placed on temporary loan to the exhibition "The Gods Delight" that opened at The Cleveland Museum of Art in 1988. The piece was sold at Sotheby's, New York in 2004 for US$164,800. The name of the purchaser has not been disclosed.
Antiquities that had once formed part of the Fleischman collection were included in the major return of antiquities from the J. Paul Getty Museum. A bronze Victory that appeared in the same Cleveland exhibition is also reported to be subject of further consideration.
It is not clear who created the false story about the previous owners of the Zeus. However it is a good reminder that collectors should insist on seeing authenticated documentation before making purchases. In 2007 another New York dealer returned three bronze figures that had been stolen from collections in Italy.
SOURCE Looting Matters