Robert E. Hecht Jr., figure in antiquities case involving the Getty, is dead
Robert E. Hecht Jr., the American art dealer at the center of the trade in Classical antiquities for five decades, died at his home in Paris on Wednesday afternoon. He was 92.
His death comes three weeks after the ambiguous end of his criminal trial in Rome on charges of trafficking in looted antiquities.
Since the 1990s, Hecht had been at the center of a wide-ranging Italian investigation of the illicit antiquities trade. The investigation traced objects from tombs in Italy through a network of smugglers, dealers and private collectors to the display cases of museums in the United States, Europe and beyond.
Hecht — along with his alleged co-conspirators Marion True, the former J. Paul Getty antiquities curator, and Italian dealer Giacomo Medici — were accused of being key players in that illicit trade. Among the evidence was Hecht’s own handwritten memoir, seized by Italian police in 2001, in which he recounts a long career of buying objects from looters across the Mediterranean.
Medici was convicted in 2004, but the time limit on the charges against True and Hecht expired before the court could reach a verdict.
In a phone interview three weeks ago after the end of his trial, Hecht sounded frail but defiant and continued to be coy about the source of his remarkable inventory of ancient vases, statues and frescoes that now reside in museums around the globe.
"I have no idea of where an object was excavated," he said. "It could have been excavated 100 years ago; it could have been excavated an hour ago."
Hecht is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughters, Daphne Hecht Howat of Paris, Andrea Hecht of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Dr. Donatella Hecht of Westchester, N.Y.
A complete obituary will follow at latimes.com/obits.
— Jason Felch
Above: Robert E. Hecht during a break in his trial in Rome in 2006. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press.