A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental & Primitive Art
June 16, 1998
To: Archaeology Magazine
After reading Peter Watson's Sotheby's: The Inside Story and myriad subsequent magazine articles about the renowned antiquities kingpin, Giacomo Medici, I was thrilled to be able to see the images posted on your website "Geneva Seizure," which purports to display "10,000 artifacts, most of them probably smuggled from Italy."
Instead of proving that Mr. Medici is the secret smuggling connection from Italy, however, your website proved exactly the opposite, and proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt. With the exception of the Ostia column capitals, every object of possible Italian provenience comes from a bona fide old collection. My comments refer to the photos as numbered on the website:
3. Griffin protome - Thetis collection, Sotheby's London, 8 July 1991, #267.
7. Two gold plaques with auction tags visible - Sotheby's London.
10. Boetian terra-cotta - Erlenmeyer collection, Sotheby's London, 9 July 1990, #50.
26. Attic black-figure cup - auction at Summa Gallery, Beverly Hills, 1981; Hunt collection, Sotheby's New York, 19 June 1990, #3.
32. Relief of marching warriors (fake) - the relief is a genuine East Greek object, also from auction, and the other relief fragments in the image are Egyptian, Sotheby's London, 8 July 1991, #162 and #165.
42. Flask and zoomorphic vase - the vase is Mycenean, not Italian.
43. Etruscan bronze candelabrum - Thetis collection, #270. The bronze column in the image is an auction object, too. Note the auction tag.
44. Cypriot pottery - the pair of vases are not at all Cypriot. They are Urartu (Near Eastern), ex-Sotheby's, 1993 (?).
49. Opus sectile (fake) - This is not an imitation of an ancient object, but a perfectly normal contemporary table top.
50. Minoan jar - Erlenmeyer collection, Sotheby's London, 9 July 1990, #154.
51. Grave relief and Herakles statue - the relief is Greek, ex-Sotheby's London. The "Herakles" is a fragment from an Egyptian limestone figure of a priest wearing the leopard skin, and also comes from auction.
55. Rhodian pottery - never found in Italy.
59-60. Romano-British objects - all bearing Sotheby's tags; never found in Italy.
63. Attic red-figure cup - Hunt collection, #11.
64. Attic red-figure hydria - Hunt collection, #13.
66. Roman wall painting - from a private Swiss collection.
67. Greek Geometric and Mycenaen objects - all bearing Sotheby's tags; never found in Italy.
The other photos represent objects of no discernible art-historical importance, aesthetic appeal, or commercial value. I do not doubt that many once came from tombs. However, it is highly unlikely that an American museum would accept them even as donations. What is especially ironic is that many of the "stolen" objects came from two notable Swiss collections, Thetis and Erlenmeyer, sold at public auction.
The ignorance and misinformation of your website is plainly embarrassing for a magazine that claims to defend science and truth. Although I have never met Mr. Medici and cannot vouch for him, I note that his arrest in Italy was not followed by any prosecution, and that he won his case outright in Swiss Federal Court. Afterwards, the Italians then mounted a diplomatic campaign against him, prevailing upon the Swiss authorities to extend the seizure. Having failed in a court of law, the Italians then apparently leaked their photos to you, ARCHAEOLOGY, who are conducting a kangaroo court of your own.