|Just some of the haul - all now without any kind of provenance and meaningful context|
There was a press conference today at the Museo Nazionale Romano alle Terme di Diocleziano related to a major batch of recovered antiquities repatriated from Switzerland ("Ricettazione internazionale: Restituiti 5 mila reperti storici", Live Sicilia January 21, 2015). Five thousand of them went on show and there is a Facebook page showing 53 photos of rows and rows of them.
These were pieces seized from warehouses associated with the Sicilian dealer Gianfranco Becchina in Basel and thus from what was described as 'La Grande Razzia'. All these artefacts were just the unsold items, how many of their fellows exist today in undocumented private collections and the stocks of other dealers?
Nicole Winfield ('Italy unveils record haul of antiquities from Swiss raids', Jan. 21, 2015) tells us that police estimated the value of the 5,361 vases, kraters, bronze statues and frescoes , dating from the 8th century B.C. to the 3rd century, at about 50 million euros ($58 million).
The items were found during an investigation into Basel-based art dealer Gianfranco Becchina and his wife, accused by prosecutors of being part of an antiquities trafficking network that involved "tombaroli" tomb raiders in southern Italy, dealers and buyers around the globe. Becchina is free after the statute of limitations expired on the charges, police said. The investigation showed how dealers would forge provenance papers for the antiquities and create fictitious histories for them, so that museums and private collectors could in theory buy them in good faith, police said. As a result, perhaps more important than the antiquities themselves is that Italian authorities now have detailed documentation of Becchina's inventory, including photos and receipts, that was also found in the warehouses, police said. David Gill, professor of archaeological heritage at University Campus Suffolk and author of the "Lootingmatters" blog, said the documentation will likely point to objects that are now in top museums and will certainly be on the Italians' list for repatriation.