Friday 2 June 2023

Stolen Head Returned to Torlonia Collection

Artnet news
An antiquity from a private collection in Switzerland has been returned to the collection from which it had been stolen (Jo Lawson-Tancred, 'Italian Police Recover a Long-Lost Roman Marble Head Nearly 50 Years After Its Theft' June 1, 2023)
After nearly half a century, authorities have returned a stolen Roman marble head to Villa Albani Torlonia in Rome, Italy. Thieves had snatched the head of the Hydrophora, which is part of a larger statue, in 1978 along with four other priceless objects. The Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Italy has recovered the piece and returned it to its former home, under the guidance of brigadier general Vincenzo Molinese. The rescue mission began in February 2015, when the squad received a tip from a German scholar who believed he had seen the precious item in an art publication, listed as part of a private collection in Zurich, Switzerland.[...] The wife of the deceased collector had inherited the piece in good faith, according to the authorities. Its successful repatriation last year was only recently announced after a careful restoration process. During a special ceremony to celebrate the head’s homecoming, it was reattached to its long-lost torso in the presence of the Carabinieri who had helped ensure its safe return.
Several things here, the head appears to have been detached from the torso of the statue by the thieves, a reminder that the antiquities market is ALWAYS the cause of destructive activities. Two: the widow inherited a lot of old stuff from a deceased collector. Collectors dying without leaving proper documentation places a huge responsibility and burden on their heirs. Three: the object had to be restored, many collectors simply do not know how to look after and prevent deterioration to the objects they hold (so-called Crosby Garrett helmet infill, still OK?). Four: the so-called "repatriation" process is always accompanied by some silly ceremony with freshly-pressed gala uniforms, a lot of name-dropping and glib speeches and superlatives, never about finding out how the object got to where it is and reconstructing who was responsible (and for what). The thief and middleman may be dead, but documenting who they were may help untangle other cases if it turns out these criminals clandestinely handled other objects.

I am not sure why it is "the" Hydrophora, rather than "a" hydrophora (water carrier) here. 

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