Princeton to return some art to Italy
( AP ) - Italy and the Princeton University Art Museum have reached a deal to return some artifacts Rome says were smuggled out of the country, the latest chapter in Italy's campaign to crack down on the illegal antiquities market.
Authorities from the museum and the Italian Culture Ministry will sign an agreement Oct. 30 resolving ownership of 15 disputed artifacts in Princeton's collection, the museum said in a statement Friday.
Under the agreement, Princeton will keep seven objects and transfer legal title to eight. Four of the eight will be returned to Italy, while the other four will remain at the museum in New Jersey on loan for four years, the statement said.
In exchange, Italy will lend Princeton "a number of additional works of art of great significance and cultural importance," the statement said. Princeton students will also be given access to Italian excavation sites.
Susan Taylor, director of Princeton's art museum, said the museum was pleased with the deal.
"This agreement reflects and supports the research and educational mission of the university art museum, enabling us to retain a number of objects, repatriate others that belong to Italy, and have unprecedented access, on a long-term loan basis, to additional material," she said.
The agreement is similar to deals Italy has reached recently with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum in New York to return artifacts Italy says were looted from its territory.
Among objects covered by the Princeton deal is a "psykter" - a Greek vase decorated with red figures that was used for cooling wine. Made in Athens around 500 B.C. - a period of unequaled mastery for pottery in the ancient world.
The psykter's title will be transferred to Italy, but it will be one of the four pieces that will remain on loan in Princeton for four years.
Prosecutors say the piece was looted from the Etruscan site of Cerveteri, north of Rome, by tomb raiders and sold to Princeton by American art dealer Robert Hecht for $350,000 in 1989.
Hecht is on trial in Rome along with former Getty curator Marion True, accused of knowingly acquiring looted or stolen antiquities. Both deny wrongdoing.
Italy's archaeological sleuths are now focusing on talks with other museums, including the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Miho Museum in Shiga, western Japan, said Maurizio Fiorillia, a top Italian negotiator.
He said the Glyptotek had already responded to a request for information on objects which, according to documents from the Rome trial, the museum purchased from Hecht and Giacomo Medici, an Italian who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on art trafficking charges.
Flemming Friborg, curator of the Glyptotek, said an exchange of objects had been discussed, though "very, very loosely."
James Kopniske, spokesman for the Cleveland institution, said the museum had received a request for the return of a number of objects and has been conducting research on the artifacts.
Hiroaki Katayama, head of the Miho's cultural department, said the museum had not been contacted by the Italians and did not believe it had any looted artifacts in its collection.