USA/Italy: Toledo Museum of Art returns skyphos to Italy

Source: Toledo Museum of Art

Source: Toledo Museum of Art

Mid of May 2019, the Toledo Museum of Art announced an agreement with the Italian authorities for the repatriation of a skyphos (drinking vessel), which has been on view at the museum since the early 1980ies. The vessel dates to ca. 420 BCE. It is attributed to the Kleophon Painter, and has been purchased for $90,000 with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment. The skyphos is decorated with the mythological story of the return of Hephaestus to Olympus riding a donkey and led by Dionysus. According to the agreement, the skyphos will remain on loan with the Toledo Museum of Art for a period of four years. After that period, another loan may be requested, or the loan of another alternative object, as part of a rotational cultural exchange.

But how so?

Two images from the same skyphos, put together from several fragments, from the confiscated Medici-archive (from the article of C. Tsirogiannis 2017).

2017, the provenance of the vessel was publicly proven to be more than doubtful by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis by identifying the involvement of Medici with this object (see the article published in the Journal of Art Crime). Obviously, the object had been looted and illegally exported from Italy, which is in contravention of Italy’s cultural heritage law (No 364/1909). So the museum began internal investigations. The vessel indeed passed through the hands of Giacomo Medici, and had been acquired by the museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis: two quite well known names in smuggling of antiquities. The latter, in an alternate spelling, as Nicholas Goutoulakis, was implicated on the handwritten organigram seized by the Italian Carabinieri in September 1995.  This document outlined key players in the illicit antiquities trade in Italy during the 1990s.

Please find further details following these links:

Interestingly, the Italian authorities never contacted Dr. C. Tsirogiannis. The museum’s staff acted only when he notified them; not proactively, by checking with the relevant national authorities all the questionable objects in their collection.

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