Minneapolis museum will return looted ancient vase to Italy
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts announced Thursday that it will return an ancient Greek vase to Italy after determining that it matched a photo Italian police had seized in a crucial 1995 raid on the Swiss warehouse of Giacomo Medici, an antiquities dealer who subsequently was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiring to sell looted artworks.
The authorities traced photos and artifacts taken in the raid to museums and collectors worldwide, including L.A.’s J. Paul Getty Museum, which eventually returned 40 artworks to Italy, including some of the most prized pieces in its collection. Italian authorities charged Marion True, the Getty’s chief antiquities curator at the time, with conspiring with Medici and American dealer Robert Hecht to acquire looted works.
True was put on trial after her 2005 indictment, but it was repeatedly halted, and the charges against her were dropped last year when judges in Italy ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. The Getty already had agreed in 2007 to send back the disputed works.
Officials at the Minneapolis museum had told the Times in 2005 that one of its six ancient vases, or kraters, appeared to match a photo seized in the 1995 Medici raid.
The news release announcing the impending return of what’s known as the Volute Krater said only that “the MIA became concerned about the provenance of the krater” it had bought in 1983. After making inquiries along with Italian authorities and experts, as well as investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the museum said it became clear that its vase, dating from about 450 BC, was in fact the one pictured in photos seized from Medici.
Evidence showed that the vase, which depicts a procession of Dionysus, the god of wine, and his devotees, probably had been dug from an archaelogical site near Rutigliano in Southern Italy. Parts of ancient Italy were colonized by Greeks.
The museum said no date has been set yet for its return.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: detail from Volute Krater to be returned from Minneapolis to Italy. Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Arts