After 18 months of intense negotiations, the New York philanthropist Shelby White has ceded 10 classical antiquities from her private collection that Italy contends were looted from its soil, the Italian culture minister confirmed this week.The list has not yet been given but Povoledo notes:
Nine of the 10 ancient Greek and Etruscan objects were delivered on Wednesday to the Italian Consulate on Park Avenue and will soon be crated and shipped to Italy, the minister, Francesco Rutelli, said in an interview in Rome. The remaining piece, a rare fifth-century B.C. Greek vessel, will go to Italy in 2010.
Mr. Rutelli said that Ms. White’s decision was “extraordinarily positive” as well as groundbreaking. “It is a generous and open-minded gesture,” he said.
The artifacts given back by Ms. White include some of the finest showpieces in any private collection of classical antiquities in the world. Until recently, some were on view at the Met in an extended loan, including a red-figured vessel depicting Herakles slaying Kyknos, signed by the celebrated fifth-century B.C. painter Euphronios, and a pot with scenes of Zeus and Herakles attributed to the fifth-century B.C. painter Eucharides.I have had cause to comment on Shelby White's collection and anticipated this announcement. The return of a wall-painting (ex Flesichman collection) from the Getty had implications for Shelby White. White is being presented as co-operative; but remember that in April 2007 she was interviewed for the New Yorker in which she dismissed Gill and Chippindale's analysis of her collection. She had to come to an agreement before the opening of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World later this year.
Italian investigators say that they have traced the Eucharides and some of the other artifacts to be returned to an Italian dealer convicted in 2004 of trafficking in illegal antiquities. Polaroid photographs seized in 1995 in a raid on two Swiss warehouses used by the dealer, Giacomo Medici, showed works either encrusted with dirt or in pieces, as if recently unearthed. Ms. White and her husband bought some of those objects from Robin Symes, a London dealer.
Remember also that Italy was only a source for some of the antiquities. Pieces from Turkey and the UK have also passed through the collection. Will she be making arrangements with other countries?