A South Italian Bell-Krater by Python in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tsirogiannis, C. (2014), ‘A South Italian Bell-Krater by Python in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’, The Journal of Art Crime 11: 63-68.

In 5 images from the Medici archive appears a Paestan bell-krater depicting a youthful Dionysos with thyrsos and phiale. In all 5 images the krater is depicted intact, but half of the base and part of its rim are covered with soil or salt encrustations. The same south-Italian bell-krater surfaced at a Sotheby’s antiquities auction on June 23, 1989 in New York. Shortly after this auction, the vase became part of the antiquities collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was given the accession number 1989.11.4. The museum’s website records that the acquisition was possible due to the “Bothmer Purchase Fund”. The article highlights the partial nature of the collecting history given in all published sources, discusses the differences in the scholarly analyses of the vase and underlines the need for further academic research regarding the inscription on the vase (‘ΤΥΒΡΩΝ’). The conclusion is that the very museums which advertise their care for transparency, in practice continue to conceal the full collecting history of tainted objects they own, and wait for them to be discovered. In this regard, the story of the Python bell-krater case is absolutely typical.