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Author Topic: Chasing Aphrodite. The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum  (Read 1922 times)


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Title: Chasing Aphrodite. The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum
Author(s): Jason Felch, Ralph Frammolino
Publisher: Boston/New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcour
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 0151015015
ISBN-13: 978-0151015016
Current Price and More Info from Amazon

[size=+1]From the Bryn Mawr Classic Review:[/size]
The eponymous limestone and marble “Cult Statue of a Goddess”, “perhaps Aphrodite” (though Hera or Persephone are other possible identifications, p. 100), featured among the Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum.1 The statue was acquired in 1988 and praised as "the most important discovery in the field of Greek art since the Getty Museum's kouros in 1983".2 Chasing Aphrodite follows the story of the statue from Marion True’s first encounter with it in a Battersea (London) warehouse owned by antiquities dealer Robin Symes to the preparation for its return to Sicily. Chasing Aphrodite records the response of an archaeologist, Iris Love, when she was shown black and white photographs prior to its acquisition: "I beg you, don’t buy it. You will only have troubles and problems" (p. 88). Symes initially placed the statue on loan to the Getty and in May 1988 True submitted a formal proposal for its acquisition for $18 million (pp. 94-95). This decision coincided with a leak to Thomas Hoving that the statue had been removed from the site of Morgantina in Sicily in 1979. Chasing Aphrodite maps the intervening period and in the closing paragraph the statue’s return to the Aidone museum in May 2011 is noted.

Journalists Felch and Frammolino, who worked for the Los Angeles Times, have produced a detailed account of how the J. Paul Getty Museum developed its collection and responded to Italian claims about allegedly looted antiquities. There are quotations drawn from internal memoranda and briefing papers that show the thinking by curatorial and legal teams involved with handling such cultural material. The study builds on what we already know of looting in Italy and the workings of the market.3 These were no minor objects. The Italian authorities initially identified some 42 objects acquired for $44 million (p. 198) and during this investigation this rose to 52 (p. 281). The Getty itself reportedly listed some 350 objects "valued at more than $100 million from suspect dealers" (p. 292).

Read the full review at the Bryn Mawr Classic Review web site.

[size=+1]Additional Description:[/size]
In an authoritative account, two reporters who led a Los Angeles Times investigation, reveal the details of the Getty Museum's illicit purchases, from smugglers and fences, of looted Greek and Roman antiquities. In 2005, the Italians indicted former Getty curator Marion True for trafficking in looted antiquities, and by 2007, after protracted negotiations, the Getty agreed to return 40 of 46 artifacts demanded by the Italian government; Italy in turn agreed to loan the Getty comparable objects. One of the major pieces lost by the Getty was an Aphrodite statue purchased by True to put the Getty on the map. But still eluding the Italians is the Getty Bronze, a statue of an athlete hauled out of international waters in 1964 by Italian fishermen; it was the prized acquisition of the Getty's first antiquities curator, Jiri Frel, who brought thousands more looted antiquities into the museum through a tax-fraud scheme. The authors offer an excellent recap of the museum's misdeeds, brimming with tasty details of the scandal that motivated several of America's leading art museums to voluntarily return to Italy and Greece some 100 classical antiquities worth more than half a billion dollars. 8 pages of b&w photos. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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