Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy 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.
PoliticalNews.me - Jan 12,2013 - Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy
TOLEDO, Ohio — 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.
According to court documents, the kalpis has been valued at more than $665,000.
"Art and antiquities are given a monetary value in the marketplaces in which they are traded," said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit. "But the cultural and symbolic worth of these objects far surpasses any dollar value to the people and nations of the origin of these works. We are pleased today that this ancient vessel will be returned to the people of Italy. And other governments around the world can be assured that HSI remains a committed partner in the effort to return stolen and looted priceless cultural objects to their rightful owners."
Ambassador of Italy to the United States Claudio Bisogniero said, "Collaboration with U.S. authorities in this sector is one of our top priorities, not only because of the intrinsic value of the properties as in the case of the Etruscan black-figure kalpis, but also because these returns are a tangible way to restrain international trafficking in works of art. We are very pleased by this result, especially since it coincides with the start of our celebrations for 2013-Year of Italian culture in the United States."
"It has been said that, 'Principles only matter if you stick to them even when it is inconvenient,'" said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven M. Dettelbach. "And so, I want