Monday 5 June 2023

Looted Symes Objects Returned to Italy

Some 750 looted archaeological treasures seized from the British antiquities trader Robin Symes have at last been returned to Italy after a decades-long fight for their return (Barbie Latza Nadeau, 'Trove of 750 looted artifacts returned to Italy from disgraced British dealer' CNN, Sun June 4, 2023). 

The artifacts, which according to the Italian cultural ministry are worth more than €12 million ($12.9 million), will go on display in Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo museum as part of a collection of stolen art that has found its way home. The objects “offer a cross-section of the many productions of ancient Italy and the islands,” including “numerous and diversified archaeological contexts (funerary, cultural, residential and public) … concentrated in particular in Etruria and Magna Graecia,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Culture. Among the recovered items from the Roman and Imperial eras is a bronze tripod table from an aristocratic Etruscan family, two parade headgear for horses, two funerary paintings, male busts in marble, various portions of statues and bronzes, and a wall painting with the depiction of a small temple, likely from a Vesuvian residence, according to the ministry statement. There are also precious gems set in gold, silver, bronze, as well as bone and amber. Other pieces include weapons, sarcophagi, funerary urns, ritual objects, furnishings in bronze and marble, mosaic and painted decorations. The artifacts originate from “clandestine excavations on Italian territory” and were illegally obtained by Symes Ltd, the company owned by Symes, a major trafficker of cultural goods, according to the ministry statement. [...] Symes, who sold precious artifacts to some of the world’s most prestigious museums, fell from grace in 2016 when a Swiss warehouse he rented was raided. Now in his 80s, he has not spoken to the press for years.[...] He was often investigated but never charged for his alleged crimes despite countless attempts by Italy and Greece. But old statutes of limitations laws prohibited prosecution.

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