Tag Archives: Dallas Museum of Art

Boston MFA’s Provenance Research Reveals The Illicit Trade In African Antiquities

Benin altar figure

Last month the Boston Museum of Fine Arts voluntarily returned to Nigeria eight works of art — ranging from a terra-cotta Nok head dating to 500 B.C. to a wooden Kalabari memorial screen from the late 19th century — that the museum concluded had been stolen or looted.

11reed_1.rThe returns were not the result of a claim made by Nigeria but proactive research by the museum’s staff and curator of provenance Victoria Reed, who spent 18 months researching more than 300 objects bequeathed to the museum by William Teel, a wealthy benefactor and MFA overseer until his death in 2012.

africa3As part of the review, Reed also checked the provenance of 108 objects previously donated by the Teels and the rest of the museum’s African and Oceania collection. Most objects had clear title, Reed said. About five objects  remain under review, including a terra-cotta sculpture of a Pregnant Ewe from Mali that has been described as a looted fragment combined with a modern addition.

The MFA should be commended for the proactive research that led to the returns. For decades, the Boston museum bought looted antiquities and dismissed questions about those objects from foreign countries, academics and investigative reporters – showing little regard for the public trust that comes with tax-exempt status. While there is more work to be done on the MFA’s collection, the museum’s recent behavior makes clear it has turned the page on that ugly history.

To address the mistakes of the past, more museums should follow the lead of the MFA and the Dallas Museum of Art by doing what they have done with Nazi-era paintings: proactive, transparent research into the provenance their antiquities collections.

THE AFRICAN TRADE

The Nigerian returns shed light on a branch of the illicit antiquities trade that receives relatively little attention: African art, which in the United States grew in popularity in the 1980s and – after many countries in the region had passed laws to protect their cultural heritage.

The MFA’s research concluded that all eight objects had been looted, stolen or removed from Nigeria without government permission, at times using what appeared to be falsified documents.

Oron EkpuOne of the objects was an Oron ancestral figure, or ekpu, that survived the Biafran war and was in the Oron museum as of 1970.  In 2001, Teel’s records show the figure was acquired by Galerie Walu in Zurich, Switzerland, now owned by Jean David. It was accompanied by a document stating that the National Commission of Museums and Monuments had waived Nigeria’s ownership right to the object. The MFA contacted the commission and found that was not the case, suggesting the document was falsified. In an email, David said the object was sold by his father from his private collection, not through the gallery. David said he continues to research questions about the authenticity of the documents and has offered to get back to me with additional information.

Teel 374A 13th century Yoruba portrait head sold to the Teels by Montreal gallery Lovart International was said to have been in a private collection by 1980. But the MFA’s research suggests that a document allegedly signed by the former Director General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments is not authentic. The gallery could not be reached for comment.

Teel 360The Teel’s Nok terracotta head (right) dating perhaps as early as 500 B.C. was said to have been found near Kaduna State, Nigeria and taken to Europe, where it was acquired by the dealer Marc Leo Felix in Brussels. In March, 1994, Felix sold it to the Teels. Felix has not yet responded to my questions about the object.

THE DAVIS GALLERY

The remaining five objects returned by the MFA came through the Davis Gallery in New Orleans. The gallery is owned by Charles Davis, a leading seller of African art since the 1970s.

A brass altar figure from the Benin people, seen at the top of his post, was apparently stolen from an ancestral altar in the Royal Palace of Benin City before the Davis Gallery acquired it in 1997. As the MFA states, “Although the figure was accompanied by documentation that appeared to authorize its sale by the chief of the guild of Benin City’s brasscasters, or Igun Eronmwon, inconsistencies within the bill of sale, as well as recent correspondence from the office of the Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, have cast doubts upon the authenticity of this document.” An 18th century Edo head, below, was also acquired by the gallery in 1990 from the Benin brass casters.

1991 1065

In 1994 the gallery sold a 2,000-year-old Nok sculpture (below) to the Teels on behalf of a dealer named Charles Jones. “Although documentation that appears to authorize the export of this object from Nigeria was issued in 1994, recent correspondence from the office of the Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, has cast doubts upon this document’s authenticity,” the museum found.

Teel 373

I recently spoke with Charles Davis about the MFA’s returns and his role in the market for African art over the years.

Charles and Kent Davis

In the early 1970s, Davis was the director of a Virginia zoo. He and his wife Kent discovered tribal art while traveling across Africa in a Land Rover taking photos. “We traded with the pygmies, with tribes in Zaire,” he recalled. “We didn’t have money so we traded our clothes.”

Over the years, Davis “cultivated friendships with tribal people, traders, and African dealers and began to bring out fabulous objects,” recalled William Fagaly, the New Orleans Museum of Art curator of African Art, in an interview with Antiques magazine. “At that point, everybody stood up and took notice and in short order he became a dealer’s dealer, supplying work to the big boys who dominated the trade.”

Davis Gallery

The business of African art was slow until the 1980s, when the opening of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art put it on the map, Davis said. “When the Met anointed it as fine art in 1981 by opening the Rockefeller Wing, the U.S. recognized it as fine art. Other than that it was worthless.” (Needless to say, parts of the Rockefeller Collection were gathered under questionable circumstances.)

Davis estimates he has sold some 10,000 African objects over the years, acquired during more than 150 buying trips to Africa. He says he’s been out of the African art business since 2005, when Katrina devastated his adopted home of New Orleans, where he operates the Davis Gallery out of his 1845 Greek Revival mansion (above) on the banks of the Mississippi. The business of African art has now largely moved to Paris and Brussels, he says.

Asked about the MFA’s returns, Davis is philosophical.

“I’ll take the hit,” he said. “I knew it was coming. I knew we were getting politically correct that nothing should be exported, and the people be damned.”

I think the MFA has made a mistake,” he said. “To see American institutions to return a lot of the material in this political atmosphere….is going to be disastrous for these objects.” He notes unrest in the region:the terrorist group Boko Haram is active in the area; and during the Biafran war of the late 1960s, he said, a large part of the museum in Oron was looted.

“This is African language,” he said. “Africa never had a real written language. Their art was their way of communicating. There are great notions like abstraction that we’ve learned from. To deny this to the rest of world would be a travesty. Without these wonderful objects, without the story being told, there would be no Pablo Picasso. To put prohibition on these things is a step way over the line.”

Besides, he said, the trade in African art has greatly benefitted Africans. “The word stolen and looted is incorrect. I’ve seen Sotheby’s catalogs in remote villages. These things are sold as free expressions of their culture. They culminate in very high prices for these objects. They’re very aware of what these things are worth. Dealers like me have pumped millions of millions into Africa so they can buy the medicine they need. It’s a big enterprise and I’m proud that Africans have done extremely well. This is a renewable resource for Africa. People in Africa are very happy with the ability to sell things and realize a great benefit.”

How does Davis explain the falsified documents that apparently came with his objects? “A lot of these items have been sold by government officials. I’ve worked with very high officials who claimed to have the right to do so. I have provided those letters to people when I sold the objects.”

One of the pieces, a set of Kalabari screen figures (seen above), dates from the late 19th century, he said. “There were three wooden figures owned by men’s association. They were totally not used and discarded. Someone from that region realized these people wanted to sell them and they did…they worked their way through the pipeline to me. You can return all the archaeologics you want. But to have something as recent as 20 years ago decaying, to have that returned doesn’t make sense.”

Who was this middleman? “I don’t want to name the middleman…he was a government official, a member of Parliament….I’m going to protect my sources because philosophically I think they’ve done the world a great service. We’re trying to make sure these objects will survive millennia.”

A Campaign of Repatriation

Despite his opposition to the MFA’s returns, Davis says he firmly believes many archaeological objects now in Western collections should eventually be returned to Africa. In the 1980s, he said he proposed a massive campaign of repatriation of antiquities to Mali.

“I wrote a book called Animal Motif. I worked hand in glove with the Musée national du Mali. They told me the French were going to help them build a museum, so I went to see Susan Vogel,” a leading Africanist in the United States.

Davis says he proposed setting up a non-profit foundation so that American collectors could return their objects while receiving a tax benefit. “If clients could donate back to the country of origin and get a tax write-off they would go for it. I think it would be a good program. They can go back to encourage collectors to donate back to the country of origin, rather than having art seized and repatriated.”

But Vogel and other American museum curators discouraged him. “She thought it would not be workable,” he recalled. “Let’s watch and wait,” she told him. Others said: Repatriation to Africa is not advised…The only thing that matters is the conservation of this art.”

“We’ve been watching and waiting ever since,” Davis said. “Maybe nows the time to do it.”

Would he support such an effort?

“I’m behind it 100%. It would be nice if there’s a tax incentive to do it. I think here could be a worldwide program to encourage us to do that…I would be first to do it.”

Dallas Museum of Art Returns Orpheus Mosaic, Five Other Looted Treasures in Announcing New Art Loans Initiative

Orpheus Mosaic

The Dallas Museum of Art has agreed to return six looted antiquities from its collection and announced a broad new initiative to exchange expertise and artwork with cultural institutions around the world.

“The problems of illegal excavation and the illicit import of cultural property require the consideration of new models of cooperation among institutions,” the museum said in a release announcing the initiative, dubbed the Dallas Museum of Art Exchange Program, or DMX.

The effort was announced Monday while signing an agreement with Turkey, the museum’s first partner, for the return of the Orpheus Mosaic, a Roman mosaic floor looted near Edessa (today’s Sanliurfa) and acquired at a Christies auction by the DMA in 1999.

Microsoft Word - Orpheus mosaic in situ.docxIn explaining the return, the museum cited compelling new evidence presented by Turkish investigators about the mosaic’s illicit origins: “Two newly recovered in situ photos of the mosaic showing it being removed by the smugglers. The photographs also show the full work with its decorative borders intact, prior to it being removed from the ground. The photographs were printed by a local photo shop in Sanliurfa and are currently evidence in a criminal investigation being carried out by the Sanliurfa Head Prosecutor in order to identify everyone involved in the crime.” The image shows the mosaic with a border that was likely removed by looters, the museum notes, adding, ” The canister visible in the lower right contains a Turkish brand of glue, which looters–not archaeologists–would have used to make repairs.”

Notably, the Dallas museum initiated the return of the mosaic instead of waiting for it to be identified by Turkish authorities, who have been on a campaign to repatriate looted antiquities. Soon after Maxwell Anderson started as director in January, he asked the museum’s antiquities curators to identify objects with troubling ownership histories. The mosaic was found to be nearly identical to several published on a website of Turkey of looted objects. Anderson told the Dallas Morning News:

the last thing he wanted was “to be the recipient of a claim by Turkey and be unprepared, seeing all of that evidence. So, I wrote to the embassy, saying if you have any information about this mosaic, please let us know. I didn’t have any specific information, but it seemed circumstantially that it was very likely that it was removed from that site.” Turkish officials came forward with the photograph of the mosaic, “which is all you need to know,” Anderson said.

In addition to the Orpheus mosaic, the Dallas museum agreed to return five antiquities to Italy in response to law enforcement requests. All five  Two of those objects were first questioned by us in a Jan. 11 email to the museum inquiring about links between the DMA and the illicit trade, including antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagia. After our inquiry, the DMA contacted Italy and has now agreed to return them.

UPDATE: In February, we requested provenance information for 15 of the DMA’s recent acquisitions, including the five pieces returned this week, that we selected at random. They helpfully provided the list we posted here. We asked yesterday on Twitter whether other objects on that list might also be returned — several come from dealers who have also been implicated in the illicit trade. A museum spokeswoman now tells us: “Italian and Greek authorities have reviewed  our collections records, including the works you refer to in your recent post, and have advanced no other claims.” Of course, some of the material on the list, such as the Cycladic figurine, likely came from other countries.

The objects going back to Italy — and the DMA’s explanation for their return — offer a helpful who’s who of the illicit antiquities trade.

dma_507360

Two Etruscan shields with the head of Acheloos (Etruscan 6th Century BC)

Volute Krater (Pulian, 4th Century BC). 

As we noted in February, both were purchased from  antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià in 1998.  The museum describes Almagià as “a former New York antiquities dealer…currently named in a criminal case for conspiracy to commit the illegal export and smuggling of cultural property pending before the Public Prosecutor of Rome. Almagià has been under investigation since at least 2006, when U.S. Customs officials raided his New York apartment, confiscating photographs, documents, and archaeological material. He was also the subject of a New York Times story in 2010 that revealed he and Michael Padgett, former antiquities curator at the Princeton University Art Museum, were the focus of an investigation of the illegal export and laundering of Italian archaeological objects. The Italian government named Almagià in the criminal case for having ‘sold, donated, or lent’ nearly two dozen works looted from Italian sites to the Princeton Museum. Roughly twenty other objects are listed in the case as having been obtained illegally by Almagià and sold to other American institutions in the 1980s and 1990s, including this pair of shields.” UPDATE: The DMA incorrectly referred to Padgett as the former antiquities curator at Princeton. The Princeton Museum confirms he remains on staff there, and the DMA has corrected is post.

dma_507363As evidence that the statue and krater were looted, the museum cited “photographs provided that were seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials” and “archival evidence seized by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, including records of sales and correspondence currently serving as evidence in the criminal investigation and court case.”

Dallas now joins the Met and Princeton in returning objects linked to the dealer. (We’ve written about those returns here and here.) Will the other museums we’ve identified with Almagia material — including the Getty, the Boston MFA, San Antonio Museum of Art, Indiana University — now be motivated to do the same?

dma_507366A Red Figure krater (Apulia, 4th Century BC) acquired by DMA at Sotheby’s in 1996.

A Calxy Krater (Campagnia, 4th Century BC) acquired from the vases form Ward and Co. around 2005, said to be from a “Swiss private collection.” 

Both vases have been linked to Gianfranco Becchina, who the museum describes as “a Sicilian antiquities dealer who has been convicted in Italy of dealing in stolen antiquities. Becchina started dealing in antiquities from his premises in Basel, Switzerland, in the 1970s and is said to have sold to several major museums, sometimes through Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses in London. In May 2002, the Carabinieri, in collaboration with the Swiss police, raided his storage facilities in Basel, recovering thousands of objects in various stages of restorations, photographs of artifacts, and other documents.”

dma_507370“The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Toledo Museum of Art have both returned material to Italy that was acquired from Becchina and subsequently shown to have been illegally exported.”

“In April 2012 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized two works from Christie’s New York auction house that were associated with the investigation of Becchina. According to the Carabinieri, Gianfranco Becchina has been identified as one of the most prolific known traffickers of Italian cultural heritage, and all property that has been shown to have been illicitly trafficked by Becchina is subject to confiscation.”

You can find a list of our previous posts mentioning Becchina here.

dma_507364Etruscan head of an Antefix. Said to be from Henri Jacques of Geneva. Purchased from Robin Symes in about 1999.

A photograph linked this antefix to Giacomo Medici, who the museum describes as “a former antiquities dealer based in Rome, Italy, and Geneva, Switzerland, who was found guilty of receiving stolen goods, illegal export of goods, and conspiracy to traffic by the Italian government and sentenced to ten years in prison and a €10 million fine. In 1995 the Carabinieri, in concert with Swiss police, raided Medici’s storage space in Geneva, which contained thousands of objects, photographs (including many Polaroids), and documents relating to his business practices and connections. The Cleveland Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art have all returned objects that were acquired via Giacomo Medici. Along with Gianfranco Becchina, he has been identified by the Carabinieri as one of the most prolific known traffickers of Italian cultural heritage.”

Robin Symes, the dealer form whom the DMA purchased the objects, has also been linked to the illicit trade, the museum notes. “Symes is also accused of playing a pivotal role in the illegal trade of looted antiquities. Several museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, have already returned several objects acquired through Symes. He is known to have commercial relations with dealer Giacomo Medici, who was the ultimate source of the artifacts that would subsequently be sold through dealers or auction houses. Prior to the Medici conviction, Robin Symes had been involved in a civil court case, and in January 2005 he was sentenced to two years in prison for contempt of court for not fully disclosing his assets.”

You can find our other posts mentioning Symes here.

We’ll have more on the significance of the returns and the DMA’s new loans initiative in a future post.

Marion True and the Getty Museum’s Almagia Vase

In 1986, former J. Paul Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion True recommended the purchase of an attic cup from Edoardo Almagia, the antiquities dealer now under investigation by Italian authorities for allegedly trafficking in looted antiquities.

True was offered the red-figured cup attributed to the Marlay Painter in New York City, where Almagia was based, according to Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig. It was in fragments at the time. The board of trustees approved the purchase for $7,500, and the restored cup is now on display today at the Getty Villa.

JPG 86.AE.479

The attic cup is not listed in the Getty’s online collection, but was published in the 1987 edition of the museum’s acquisition journal, shown at right. The journal lists the cup’s provenance as “New York art market.” Hartwig added that it “was said to have been bought in Switzerland, of Southern Italian origin.”

The cup is the only acquisition from Almagia in the Getty’s collection, Hartwig said.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Princeton University Museum of Art have recently returned hundreds of objects and fragments purchased from Almagia, whose criminal investigation is on-going. Hartwig said Italian officials have not asked about the Getty’s cup.

Transparency check: Dallas, Tampa, the Met and now the Getty have all been forthcoming about their acquisitions from Almagia. We have not received a response to our Feb 3 inquiries to the San Antonio Museum of Art or the Indiana University Museum, where Almagia objects have also been traced. Princeton University has likewise not responded to our request for additional information about their recent return of dozens of objects to Italy. The Boston Museum of Fine Art says it is now compiling information about Almagia acquisitions for us.

Loot at the Dallas Museum of Art? Museum Responds to Almagia Investigation

The Dallas Museum of Art contacted Italian authorities this month seeking information about three objects the museum acquired from antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagia, who is currently under investigation for trafficking in looted antiquities.

Almagia has been under investigation since at least 2006, when US Customs agents raided his New York apartment, and was the subject of a New York Times story in 2010 that revealed he and Princeton curator Michael Padgett were the target of an Italian investigation into the illicit antiquities trade.

Dallas’  inquiry came last month — two weeks after our initial inquiry about the objects and a week after Italy’s Carabinieri art squad held a press conference announcing that some 200 objects and fragments tied to Almagia had been returned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Princeton University Art Museum. (See our earlier post here.)

A museum spokeswoman said Italian authorities have not (yet) made a request for the return of the objects. “The press conference in Rome on January 20, 2012 prompted a review of acquisitions made by the DMA that were connected with Edoardo Almagia,” said museum spokeswoman Jill Bernstein. “Our director Maxwell Anderson emailed [Carabinieri] Comandante Pasquale Muggeo and Avv. Maurizio Fiorilli on January 27 to alert them to the presence of three works sold to us in 1998 by Almagia, and soliciting any information they might have about these works.”

The museum has since listed the objects on the AAMD’s object registry, as noted by David Gill at Looting Matters. Here are the Almagia objects, along with their collecting histories, which were provided by the DMA:

Two Etruscan funerary shields from the 6th century BC depicting the man-bull deity Acheloos. The museum purchased the shields from Almagia in 1998. They were “reputedly in a European collection” prior to sale, but the museum has no additional information about that collection.

The DMA’s website notes that “comparable examples have been found stacked up in a tomb near Tarquinia,” a UNESCO World Heritage site whose Etruscan necropolis has been devastated by looting.

Volute krater by the Underworld Painter. This Apulian vase from the 4th century BC represents the twelfth labor of Hercules, in which he saved the Golden Apples of the Hesperides from the giant Ajax.

The DMA bought the object in 1998 from Almagia, who claimed it came from an “unnamed English collection.”

Such vases from the South Italian region of Pulia have been the subject of widespread looting, as documented in the groundbreaking study by Boston University archaeologist Ricardo Elia’s “Analysis of the looting, selling, and collecting of Apulian red-figure vases: a quantitative approach.” (In Trade in illicit antiquities: the destruction of the world’s archaeological heritage, edited by N. Brodie, J. Doole, and C. Renfrew, pp. 145-53. Cambridge: McDonald Institute, 2001)

We asked the DMA about several other acquisitions of ancient art purchased in recent years, when most museums were tightening their standards in the wake of revelations about their role in the illicit antiquities trade. Several of the DMA’s acquisitions were purchased from dealers or auction houses who have been tied to the alleged sale of looted or stolen art in the past. Most of the objects have only vague ownership histories.

A few examples:

This red-figured column krater was purchased in 2008 from Jerry Eisenberg of Royal-Athena Galleries in New York City. It was “reputedly in an English collection” before that. As we reported here, Eisenberg recently returned a bronze statue to Italy that had been stolen from an Italian museum in 1962. UPDATE: Eisenberg noted via email that the vase was also sold at Bonham’s London in October 1999.


The museum has purchased several objects from Robert Haber of Haber and Associates, including this 4th Century Greek funerary wreath. Haber was implicated in the Steinhardt case involving a golden phiale illegally exported from Italy. The wreath’s ownership history lists the Moretti collection from Lugano, Switzerland and George Zacos – the same dealer tied to the Met’s acquisition of the Lydian Hoarde from Turkey.

We’ve posted the list of all 15 DMA objects we inquired about here. These are just a random sampling of recent acquisitions made by the museum.

Maxwell Anderson, the DMA’s new director, has been an outspoken advocate for reform in his past positions, and it will be interesting to watch how he handles these issues at his new post in Dallas. For starters, we hope that Anderson encourages Dallas to be more transparent by posting the provenance information for its considerable collection online. Dallas and other museums should also be more proactive in their investigation of the objects purchased from dealers who have been tied to the illicit trade.

UPDATE: David Gill at Looting Matters has identified a vase at the Tampa Museum of Art acquired from Edoardo Almagia. It appears similar to a vase described in an article by Princeton curator Michael Padgett in Tampa Magazine.

New Wave of Returns: Hundreds of Looted Antiquities Recovered from the Met, Princeton and Others

On Jan 20, the Italian art squad announced the return of more than 200 antiquities from US museums, companies, collectors and dealers — all the product of illegal excavation or theft.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art returned forty pieces belonging to a deceased private collector who has been identified as the museum’s former antiquities curator Dietrich von Bothmer. Von Bothmer was known to have a large private collection of vase fragments and was fond of reuniting these fragments with vases in known collections. Fabio Isman reports that several of the returned fragments match vases already returned by American museums, including the Getty’s Onesimos kylix, which was potted by the famous Euphronios.

Question: What of the rest of the von Bothmer collection and his considerable personal archive, which no doubt contains a fascinating history of the illicit antiquities trade over the past 50 years? Is it, as this return suggests, in the possession of the Met, and will its contents be made public?

Princeton University Art Museum returned 170 objects and fragments, including: an askos-shaped talus; two statues of women, including one playing a tambourine and the other a lyre; a white pithos with red figures representing animals;  and 166 fragments from vases and architectural elements. The returns appear to be related to the investigation of Edoardo Almagià, the Princeton alum and antiquities dealer who, along with Princeton antiquities curator Michael Padgett, are targets of an investigation by Italian authorities.

The release states [via Google translation] that the objects “were identified in previous surveys conducted by the [Carabinieri] of the possessions of an Italian-American citizen, resident of New York, who has been the subject of the seizure of numerous archaeological finds, in New York and Rome, and copious documentation with photographic material pertaining to sales and loans made ​​by him.” These seized documents have allowed investigators to trace looted antiquities to prestigious American museums like the Met and Princeton, the release says, adding that the Carabinieri “have thus established, irrefutably, the origin of the objects from illicit excavations made ​​in Italy.” Works from Almagia have also been traced to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Dallas Museum of Art; the San Antonio Museum of Art; the Toledo Museum of Art; the Tampa Museum of Art; the Indiana University Art Museum, The New York Times has reported.

Question: It appears we can now add the Almagia Archive to the trove of documents, photographs and objects that Italian investigators have seized from antiquities dealers Robin Symes, Robert Hecht, Gianfranco Becchina and Giacomo Medici. Given that only Medici has been convicted in Italian court, will these archives, which provide an unprecedented record of the illicit trade, ever be released publicly by Italian authorities?

Princeton and the Met have not yet acknowledged the returns. We’ll post details when they do. In response to a previous request for information, Princeton Museum spokeswoman Cass Cliatt took pains to distance the museum from the Padgett/Almagia case: “The[re] were not and have not ever been any allegations against the University related to the current investigation, and the Italian authorities at no point contacted the University about the current investigation. Great care should be taken about implying a connection.” It is not clear how a criminal investigation into the museum’s curator and a major donor (and alum) have nothing to do with the museum, and these returns only raise further questions. We’ve asked Cliatt for more information and will post it here when it comes.

Other returns announced in the release:

Humana, a Fortune 100 health insurance provider, returned two statues that had graced the lobby of its Louisville headquarters. The first, a second century sculpture depicting the goddess Fortuna, was stolen in October 1986 from an opera house in Rome. The second, a first century marble statue, was illegally excavated in Lazio, Italy and has been linked to the convicted antiquities trafficker Giacomo Medici. The release says Humana acquired the statues in 1984 from a New York Gallery and cooperated fully with Italian investigators.

A New York antiquities dealer has returned a bronze statue known as the Venus of St. John Perareto, which was stolen from a museum in Rimini in 1962. UPDATE: Jerome Eisenberg of Royal-Athena Gallery in New York confirms that he is the dealer. In an email, he said he bought the small Venus from an unnamed dealer in Freiburg, Germany in 1982 and was offering it for $22,500.

An ancient parchment stolen from Bari was identified and returned with the help of FBI officials in Chicago. And bronze grave goods from the first century were returned “a genuine gesture of respect for the Italian people” by contemporary artist Edward Giobbi, who had inherited them from his father.

Hat-Tip: David Gill at Looting Matters first brought the returns to our attention.

ALSO: Fabio Isman has a story on the returns in Il Messagero.