Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy

10 Jan 2013 10:40 AM | Anonymous

Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy

TOLEDO, Ohio undefined A rare Etruscan black-figure kalpis, which has been traced back to 510 B.C., will be returned to the Italian government following a transfer ceremony Tuesday at the Toledo Museum of Art.

A June 2012 agreement between the United States and the Toledo Museum of Art followed by Tuesday's transfer ceremony is the culmination of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to restore the true provenance of the kalpis.

The kalpis, a ceramic vessel used in ancient times for holding water, depicts a mythological scene of pirates being transformed into dolphins by Dionysos. It was smuggled out of Italy after an illegal excavation prior to 1981. It was then sold in 1982 to the Toledo Museum of Art by art dealers Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina, who had earlier purchased it from convicted art smuggler Giacomo Medici. The Becchinas misrepresented the true provenance of the vase to the museum by providing falsified documentation.

Following a January 2010 lead from HSI Rome, Cleveland-based HSI special agents launched an investigation into the true provenance of the artifact. Working closely with law enforcement officials in Italy, HSI special agents were able to definitively establish that the documentation provided to the Toledo Museum of Art was falsified and part of a larger scheme by the Becchinas to sell illegitimately obtained cultural property. Gianfranco Becchina was convicted in February 2011 of illicitly dealing in antiquities by a court in Rome. That conviction was appealed by Becchina and remains in the Italian court system.

 

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