A gravestone (circa 400 B.C.) from the Boeotia region of ancient Greece, with incised lines depicting a warrior with spear, shield and sword. The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to transfer title to the work, acquired in 1993, to Greece.
After months of intense scrutiny of its collection of Greek and Roman
antiquities, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles said Monday that it had
agreed to relinquish ownership to two of four important ancient works that
the government of Greece says were illegally removed from Greek soil.
The compromise accord, which was initially hammered out in May at a meeting
in Athens between the museum's director, Michael Brand, and the Greek
culture minister, Georgios A. Voulgarakis, provides for the return to Greece
of a large stele, or grave marker, acquired by the museum in 1993 and an
archaic votive relief bought by the museum's founder, the oil magnate J.
Paul Getty, in 1955. It also includes a provision for heightened
collaboration between the museum and the Greek government.
Officials on both sides said that there was clear evidence that both objects
legally belong to Greece.
The 2,400-year-old stele, which contains an arresting image of a dead
warrior named Athanias and was acquired by the Getty in 1993, is a rare
example of incised black limestone from Boeotia, in the area of Thebes in
ancient Greece. According to Greek officials, the votive relief was stolen
from a documented archaeological excavation.
The deal does not include two other valuable works claimed by Greece: a
fourth-century B.C. gold funerary wreath adorned with blue and green glass
inlay, and a sixth-century B.C. marble kore, or statue of a young woman.
Getty officials said Monday that discussions would continue through August
on those objects, which were acquired in 1993 and are prominently displayed
at the Getty Villa, the home of the museum's antiquities collection in
Pacific Palisades, Calif.
The kore has also been claimed by Italy. According to a Getty Museum
publication, the statue is made from marble from the Greek island of Paros
and was acquired from the "European art market."
It was not immediately clear whether the Greek government will continue to
pursue the restitution of these objects.
Although Greece made an initial claim on the four disputed objects in the
1990's, the negotiations that led to Monday's accord did not begin in
earnest until last fall, when the Greek Culture Ministry submitted a new
request for the four pieces. In December, Mr. Brand, who took the reins of
the Getty Museum last August, contacted the Greek Culture Ministry to open
negotiations on the objects. In May, he traveled to Greece to broker a
After that meeting, Mr. Brand said in a statement that he would recommend
that the Getty's board of trustees approve the return of "some of the
claimed antiquities in the near future."
The agreement comes as the Getty is trying to resolve a much larger claim by
Italy for 52 objects in the museum's collection, and to deal with Italy's
indictment of its former antiquities curator, Marion True, on charges of
conspiring to acquire illegal antiquities.
The Italian claim against the Getty includes numerous objects acquired by
Ms. True and other curators for the museum that have been traced by Italian
prosecutors to Giacomo Medici, an Italian dealer who was convicted in 2004
of trafficking in looted antiquities.
In June, the Getty announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with
the Italian government to return some of the objects in dispute, including
"several masterpieces." But no final settlement has been reached, and it
remains unclear how such an accord might affect the trial of Ms. True, which
began in November.
In the months preceding Mr. Brand's negotiations in Athens, Greek officials
stepped up pressure on the museum by opening their own investigation of Ms.
True, who has a vacation house on the Greek island of Paros, and of a
deceased Greek dealer of antiquities with close ties to the Getty.
In two raids this spring, Greek officials raided Ms. True's house and
confiscated a small number of antiquities. Greek prosecutors also threatened
to press charges against Ms. True for possessing antiquities that had not
been registered with the authorities.
But lawyers for Ms. True say that the confiscated artifacts were already in
the house when she bought it in 1995.
By Hugh Eakin, The New York Times