Posts Tagged ‘Marion True’

Marion True Trial Over; Judge Rules Statute of Limitations Expired

October 13, 2010

The trial of former Getty curator Marion True is apparently over.  The Los Angeles Times reported today that Italian judges halted True’s trial on Wednesday, ruling that the statute of limitations had expired on the criminal charges.  True was charged in 2005 with conspiring to loot Italian antiquities.

Co-defendants in the case have not (yet) had a similar result.  Giacomo Medici was convicted and the limitations on Robert Hecht’s charges do not expire for several months.

True’s trial was apparently discontinued prior to any conclusive finding of fact by the judges.  However, the profile of the charges and the trial brought greater attention to Italy’s determination to halt the illegal looting and trafficking of its antiquities. In consideration of today’s decision, there is a question about how this type of result might affect future prosecutions.

[Rome:  Charges against Marion True are dismissed by the court]

Italy Initiates Investigation of Illegally Exported Antiquities; American Museum Collections Implicated Again

June 7, 2010

Italy appears to be extending recovery efforts for illegally exported antiquities.  The New York Times reports that Princeton University curator Michael Padgett is the focus of a new criminal investigation in Rome.  The charges involve allegations of illegally exporting numerous looted antiquities from Italy, including portions of a calyx krater attributed to Euphronios.

A New York based antiquities dealer, Edoardo Almagià is also apparently named in the charges.

Because of Mr. Padgett and Mr. Almagià’s involvement in certain transactions involving antiquities originating from Italy, a number of high profile American museums may also be implicated in the case including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Dallas Museum of Art; and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Additional Resources:

Princeton University Museum of Art, Ancient and Islamic Art Collection

Image of Euphronios krater fragment in the Princeton collection.

Euphronios works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Above, detail of a Euphronios work from the Louvre collection.

Re: The Trade in Cultural History

February 8, 2009

Reuters reports that a book recovered from a raid on alleged antiquities smugglers in Cyprus may be a 1,000 to 2,000 year old bible. The object is described as a vellum manuscript, loosely bound together. Pages include a drawing of a palm tree and lines of gold text in Syriac script. Experts are divided about whether the object is authentic or not, but the story serves to highlight the continuing discovery of unknown cultural objects and the existence of the illegal antiquities trade.

Last week the Times reported in a brief note that the trial of Marion True, a former curator for the Getty Museum in Los Angles, and Robert Hecht, an American art dealer, resumed in Italy.  Ms. True and Mr. Hecht are accused of conspiring to export looted Italian antiquities. If they are in fact guilty, Marion True and Robert Hecht represent one point in the illegal trade network, whereas the individuals found with the Cypriot book represent the mid-point in the journey of an illegally excavated and exported cultural object. At the root of the process are those who accidentally find objects or purposefully search out and illegally excavate objects, destroying archeological sites in the process. In countries that have cultural objects of high desirability in the market, the monetary rewards for making an illegal sale drives the business along with an individual disregard for the importance of such objects to the culture itself.

Similar to Italy, Cyprus likewise vests ownership of antiquities in the government. The Antiquities Law of Cyprus states that all such objects discovered after the effective date of the law are the property of the government of Cyprus and all accidental findings (by those unlicensed to perform excavations) must be reported to the appropriate government agent.

Regardless of someone’s position on the disputed ownership of certain famous antiquities, it can be recognized that the illicit trade in cultural objects inflames emotions and hampers the present legal framework for resolving disputes. The illegal status of the business and the extreme monetary value of the objects encourages a covetous perspective that sustains the trade, along with generally promoting a materialistic approach to the objects themselves. As stated in the Reuters report, the Cypriot book, if authentic, is “priceless” and one can only guess at the private selling price of such an object. In this case it appears that the transaction was prevented, but an unknown number of such operations likely succeed every year, in all corners of the world–including the United States–taking an untold number of culturally significant objects away from both the public and the possibility of scientific and cultural study.

Image of the Syriac manuscript

Antiquities Laws of Cyrus (Republic of Cypus, Department of Antiquities), an English language version is available.