UPDATE: Steven Litt at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has published an update on the Cleveland case here, saying the case “could shake the foundations of encyclopedic museums.” The Cleveland Museum was first contacted by Turkey in 2008, and took two years to respond before refusing to allow testing on the contested objects or provide information about their provenance, Litt reports.
We noted with interest that several of the questioned objects were acquired under former Cleveland antiquities curator Arielle Kozloff, who worked closely with the Getty’s Marion True to exhibit the Fleischman Collection, went on to work for the Merrin Gallery, and now describes herself as “a private consultant and lecturer for museums and private collectors.” In this video, Kozloff expresses her admiration for former Cleveland director Sherman Lee, saying, “As soon as the glimpse of a question arose about [a contested painting], he went right after it to find the truth and made sure that the truth came out.” Times have changed at the Cleveland.
UPDATE II: David Gill notes that Kozloff has suggested previously that one of the museum’s contested bronzes came from Bubon, Turkey and was looted in the 1960s — a claim she has now backed away from. And Paul Barford has some additional thoughts here.
On Saturday, Jason revealed in the Los Angeles Times that the government of Turkey is seeking the return of dozens of allegedly looted antiquities from American museums, including 21 objects from the Cleveland Museum of Art.
We’ve posted a complete list of the Cleveland objects below. They range from 14th Century BC Hittite objects through the Greek and Roman period and up to Ottoman period tiles and ceramic work.
The most prominent piece is likely this bronze Roman statue believed to represent Marcus Aurelius, which Cleveland acquired in 1986. On its website, the museum describes its origin as “Turkey, Bubon(?) (in Lycia.)” It is unclear how the bronze got from Bubon to Cleveland, and whether the object was granted an export permit, as required since the passage of Turkey’s 1906 cultural patrimony law. The Cleveland Museum of Art declined to answer questions about Turkey’s claim.
As David Gill has noted, a series of monumental bronze statues were taken from the sebasteion, or imperial cult room, of Bubon. A similar bronze depicting Lucius Verus is in the collection of Shelby White.
In the coming days, we’ll be posting details on the requested objects at the Getty and Dumbarton Oaks. We already posted the list of contested objects at the Met here.
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Did any country mistreat its antiquities, or those of others, more than Turkey? If Cleveland tells Turkey to go pound sand, I’ll pledge $1000 to their legal fund.
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