20 January 2008

Euphronius Krater

From Associated Press

Italy Unveils Returned Euphronius Vase

ROME (AP) — With the return of a long-sought masterpiece of antiquity, Italy on Friday trumpeted one of the successes of its campaign to recover what it says are looted treasures from museums and collectors around the world.

The 2,500-year-old vase by Greek artist Euphronius, which Italy regained after signing a deal with the Metropolitan Museum in New York, was feted in Rome at an official presentation.

The Euphronius Krater — a large vase painted with scenes related to Homer's epic poems "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" — is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind. The vase was used as a bowl for mixing wine and water.

"It is universally considered the best work by the artist," Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said at the ceremony. Also attending was his predecessor, Rocco Buttiglione, who started the country's high-profile campaign to recover art.

Rutelli sought to reassure art lovers that the Met's artistic richness would not suffer.

This "doesn't mean we're taking an opportunity away from the public," the minister said, stressing that the deal calls for Italy to lend equally significant artifacts to the Met for four years. "The policy of exchanging items resolves a tough confrontation without hurting" museum visitors, he said.

The Euphronius Krater was at the heart of negotiations with the New York museum. And it was the focal point of Italian government efforts to recover ancient treasures that have ended up in museums or private collections with what Italy claims was false documentation after being allegedly looted from archaeological sites.

Euphronius was one of Athens' greatest vase painters during a time of unequaled mastery for pottery in the ancient world. Like many other vessels, the krater was exported to Italy, and it is believed to have been used by the Etruscan civilization to decorate a tomb near Rome.

More than 2,000 years later, the priceless vase was looted from the site by Italy's "tombaroli" — or tomb raiders — and smuggled out of the country, Italian authorities say.

The museum bought it for $1 million in 1972 from American art dealer Robert Hecht, who is on trial in Rome on charges of knowingly acquiring allegedly looted ancient artifacts. He denies wrongdoing.

The deal that was eventually sealed with the New York museum in February 2006 called for the return of the vase by mid-January 2008. The museum also agreed to return 20 other antiquities.

Italy has secured the return of dozens of Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts in deals with museums including the Met and California's J. Paul Getty Museum. Italian art officials have said the agreements for long term loans of prestigious artifacts should discourage looting.

Rutelli also gave details about a recent agreement with a private U.S. collector that signals Italy's intention to broaden its campaign.

The deal with New York philanthropist Shelby White calls for the return of 10 artifacts from her private collection, the Culture Ministry confirmed Friday. It was first reported in The New York Times, which said White and her late husband insisted they bought the items in good faith.

Telephone and e-mail messages left for White's spokesman, Fraser Seitel, were not immediately returned.

Nine of the items already have been given to the Italian Consulate in New York and the 10th — another vase by Euphronius — was expected to be returned in two years, the ministry said.

Associated Press Writer Alessandra Rizzo contributed to this report.

Now if only the British Museum would return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

After yesterday's do nothing day, on account of the weather, today was a busy day.

Devi came over around midday (her sister Fiona had a desire for yum cha/dim sum) so we went to the Dumpling Inn up the road, but they were closed (for a week). We then went to the newly built part of Lake Ginninderra (not far) and stumbled upon Prince Palace. Very freshly made dumplings, but a bit more expensive ($20 per head).

Stumbling on Prince Palace was serendipitous as my alternate suggestion was actually 2 Yummy, which was next door, for noodles or duck etc.

I finally cleaned the floors, tidied up the deck area and did some weeding - in between re-watching episodes of Torchwood.

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