Stupid Countries, Stupider Museums
(It seems to me that if it were to be returned to the rightful owner, it should go back to Greece—and that the Italians acquired it just as illegally as Thomas Hoving—but that is the subject of another discussion.)
Meanwhile, if the Italians had any sense, they would treat the Euphronios Krater as a loss leader—just like the guy handing out free bites of sausage at Whole Foods—that introduces Met visitors to the glories of Rome, Florence, Milan and Lake Como. “You like this vase? We got a million of ‘em here in Italy!”
The Naughty Getty
If ever a cultural organization has a reputation for fast and loose behavior, it is the J. Paul Getty Museum in the Los Angeles area, with a $5 billion endowment—six times that of the Metropolitan Museum—which means it can buy anything it wants. Over the years it has been caught red-handed acquiring great works of art of questionable provenance or no provenance at all. Italian authorities want 52 objects returned, and became so angry and frustrated that it put curator of antiquities, Marion True, and the American art dealer, Robert Hecht, on trial for trafficking in artworks illegally excavated in Italy and shipped out of the country. Early this month, the court proceedings in Rome became so contentious that the judge has called a temporary halt until everybody cools down.
Same thing. You, Getty Museum, can keep the stuff so long as you make discount travel brochures for Italy easily available to your visitors.
The Rosetta Stone
Meanwhile the British Museum is caught up in another contretemps besides the Elgin Marbles. On display in the Egyptian section is the Rosetta Stone—a carved cheat sheet that made deciphering hieroglyphics possible. It was discovered by Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1799 and spirited away to London in 1802. The Egyptian Museum is making rude noises about having the Rosetta Stone repatriated.