Toledo Museum of Art Return to Italy (2013)
Author: Neil Brodie
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2014
In January 2013 the Toledo Museum of Art returned a piece that was discovered to have been smuggled out of Italy.
In June 2012, it was announced that the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, USA, had agreed to return an Etruscan black-figured kalpis (ca 510 BC) to Italy (ICE 2012). The museum had bought the kalpis in 1982 from Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina for $90,000 USD (USA 2012). The piece was returned to Italy in January 2013 (ICE 2013).
The Italian investigations of dealers Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina had uncovered evidence that the kalpis was smuggled out of Italy prior to 1981 in contravention of that country’s 1939 patrimony law (ICE 2013). Medici had taken the piece to Switzerland, where he sold it to Becchina. Becchina had then devised a false provenance to pass off the piece to the Toledo Museum as a legitimate acquisition. He provided a document from an alleged hotel owner, Mr K. Haug, typewritten on hotel stationery, stating that Haug had inherited the piece from his father, who had in turn bought it on the art market in 1935 (Lane 2012; USA 2012). It transpired that Haug had in reality been the previous owner of Becchina’s gallery, Antike Kunst Palladion, located in Basel (USA 2012). The Italian investigators also established that Becchina had used a similar false provenance for other artefacts (USA 2012). Polaroids of the piece were found during police searches of the storerooms of both Medici and Becchina (USA 2012).
ICE (2012), ‘Agreement paves way for artifact’s return to Italy’, press release, 18 June (Washington DC: Immigration and Customs Enforcement). http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1206/120618cleveland.htm, accessed 15 August 2012.
ICE (2013), ‘Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy’, press release, 8 January (Washington DC: Immigration and Customs Enforcement). https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/1301/130108toledo.htm, accessed 26 January 2012.
Lane, Tahree (2012), ‘Toledo Art Museum to give back rare jug’, Toledo Blade, 15 August. http://www.toledoblade.com/Art/2012/06/20/Toledo-art-museum-to-give-back-rare-jug.html, accessed 15 August 2012.
USA (2012), ‘USA v. One Etruscan Black-Figured Kalpis, Circa 510-500 BC, case No. 3:12-cv-1582’, 20 June (Northern District of Ohio, Western Division).