UNESCO and the Repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles

Over the past week or so, the repatriation-campaign for the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles campaign seems to have heated up a bit … I’ve got a backlog of items dealing with such matters, but here’s one from last week to get you going:

The Greek government has officially enlisted the aid of UNESCO in its ongoing efforts to regain the Parthenon Sculptures which are currently in the British Museum.
UNESCO has sent a letter to the British foreign secretary, William Hague, the culture secretary, Maria Miller, as well as to the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, to notify them of the Greek government’s decision to contact UNESCO and to attempt to reach a settlement of this long standing dispute.
The issue of the Parthenon Sculptures has been at the forefront of discussions at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for more than 20 years but every time the committee meets, the formal British position is essentially the same: the British Museum is an independent body and is not subject to government control.
The museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, has repeatedly stated that the British Museum will never return the sculptures and has described the whole issue as “yesterday’s question”.
Greek Minister of Culture and Sport Panos Panagiotopoulos voiced his concern over worsening ties at a meeting this week for the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures.
He says Greece’s efforts for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles “do not start from a need to enhance our national egoism”.
“It is an effort with global implications, aimed at the restoration of the unity of a leading cultural monument, which is a common reference for all mankind.”
The call for return of the so-called Elgin collection of Parthenon Sculptures has been going on for years with little progress. UNESCO’s relationship with the Greek government holds new hope that mediations can occur soon.

… not sure if UNESCO will be stepping into this one yet …

Roman Head Returned to Egypt

A different sort of repatriation story from Al Ahram:

After almost four decades in the possession of a Brazilian citizen, a limestone Roman head of an as yet unidentified nobleman is on its way back to its Egyptian homeland. The head is very well preserved, and depicts the facial features of a Roman nobleman with short wavy hair.

Osama El-Nahas, director general of the Department of Repatriation of Antiquities at the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) told Ahram Online that the story started late last year when a young Brazilian lady, who requested anonymity, called the Egyptian embassy in Brazil.

She told them that she wanted to hand over a Roman sculpture that she had inherited from her father. In 1976, her father had bought the head from an Egyptian man who claimed he was the curator of one of Egypt’s museums.

El-Nahas said that the head continued to be in the possession of the Brazilian man until last year, when he decided to hand it back to Egypt. The man passed away before he was able to return the artifact, but his daughter decided to fulfill his wishes and contacted the embassy.

The Roman head is to return home within two weeks, where it will be examined for possible restoration and to find out more details about its original location.

Winged Seahorse Returns to Turkey

From Today’s Zaman:

A winged seahorse brooch, one of the most precious pieces in the Croesus Treasure, which was stolen from a museum in Turkey in 2005 and recently found in Germany, was returned to Turkey on Wednesday.

In November of last year, then-Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay announced that the famed brooch had been located in Germany and would be returned to Turkey soon. No information was revealed as to how it was found.

The brooch, which is worth millions of Turkish lira, was found to have been stolen from the Uşak Archaeology Museum, where it had been on display, and switched with a fake sometime between March and August of 2005, and it remained missing until being located in Germany.

The Croesus Treasure, a collection of artifacts from the time of King Croesus’s rule of the Lydian Kingdom between 560 and 547 B.C., is on display in the Uşak Archeology Museum. The treasure contains 363 valuable Lydian artifacts originating from Uşak province in western Turkey, which were the subject of a legal battle between Turkey and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1987-1993. The artifacts were returned to Turkey in 1993 after the museum admitted it had known the objects were stolen when they had purchased them.

In case you missed it a few years ago, the Croesus Theft was an Inside Job…

Getty Returns Head of Hades

… and we didn’t know it was missing! From a Getty press release (sent directly to me!):

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today plans to voluntarily return a terracotta head to Sicily representing the god Hades and dating to about 400–300 B.C. The Museum acquired the sculpture in 1985.

Joint research with colleagues in Sicily over the past two years has yielded previously unknown information on the likely provenance of the sculpture suggesting that it was appropriate to return the object. In keeping with the principle of repatriating works when compelling evidence warrants it, the decision to transfer this head is based on the discovery of four terracotta fragments found near Morgantina in Sicily, similar in style and medium to the Getty head. Getty Museum curators initiated discussions with Sicilian colleagues on the possible relationship between the head and the fragments in 2011, and then worked with the director of the Morgantina Archaeological Park to corroborate the identification. These fragments indicate that the original location of the head was the site of a sanctuary of Demeter, which was clandestinely excavated in the late 1970s.

“The Getty greatly values its relationship with our Sicilian colleagues, which culminated in the 2010 Cultural Collaboration Agreement,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “This collaboration has brought significant opportunities for scholarly dialogue, joint conservation projects, and loans, most notably the ‘Charioteer’ from Mozia that is currently undergoing a thorough seismic conservation assessment and remounting in our conservation studios.”

According to Enrico Caruso, director of the Parco Archeologico di Morgantina, “Close collaboration with the Getty’s curators and conservators on the examination of the head has allowed us to give a name to the sanctuary shrine where several fragments of its curls of hair were found in 1978, as well as a name to the Getty’s anonymous sculpture. It is Hades, god of the Underworld, the terracotta body of which is in the course of an extensive restoration in the Archaeological Museum in Aidone.”

The head will be transferred to the Museo Archeologico in Aidone after it goes on display in the Getty-organized traveling exhibition Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. The exhibition will be on view at the Getty Villa from April 3 to August 19, 2013, the Cleveland Museum of Art from September 30, 2013 to January 5, 2014, and will end at the Palazzo Ajutamicristo in Palermo from February to June 2014. The head is currently on view at the Getty Villa as part of the special installation The Sanctuaries of Demeter and Persephone at Morgantina until January 21, 2013.

See David Gill’s commentary as well:

Orpheus Mosaic Heading Back to Turkey

Wow … no sooner does Hurriyet mention it and the Dallas MoFA returns it … from the Star-Telegram:

The Dallas Museum of Art has returned an ancient mosaic to Turkish officials after discovering it was stolen.

The mosaic was returned to Turkish officials at a ceremony Monday in Dallas. Museum officials also launched an international cultural exchange that will include loaning works of art and sharing expertise. The first initiative will be with Turkey.

The museum bought the roughly 5-foot-by-5-foot Orpheus Mosaic at a public auction in 1999. It originally decorated the floor of a Roman building. But the museum discovered evidence earlier this year that it was possibly stolen from an archaeological site. Museum officials then consulted Turkish officials, who provided photographic evidence documenting the looting.

For more detailed reports, see also: