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Museum returns stolen artefacts

Dallas - The Dallas Museum of Art has returned an ancient piece of artwork to Turkish officials after learning that the piece was likely looted from an archeological site.

Museum officials said they are cooperating with Italian authorities over the return of several antique artifacts that had been obtained from an Italian dealer under investigation for selling looted antiquities.

File photo: The museum "deplores the illegal trade in antiquities" and officials said they have made it a priority to identify and return looted treasures from other countries. Credit: AP

The museum “deplores the illegal trade in antiquities” and officials said they have made it a priority to identify and return looted treasures from other countries.

The artwork returned to Turkey is a ceramic mosaic of the mythic poet Orpheus playing a lyre as he sits on a rock surrounded by wild animals, which he tames with the soothing music. The museum bought the piece at public auction in 1999, officials said.

Museum director Maxwell Anderson discovered evidence that the piece might have been stolen from an archeological site and contacted Turkish officials.

Turkish officials provided scholarly opinions as well as photographs indicating that the ceramic was stolen from the site of ancient Edessa, now part of Turkey. The piece dates from 194 A.D. and measures approximately 64 inches by 60 inches (163 by 152 centimetres). It was part of a floor in a Roman building, museum officials said.

In a ceremony in Dallas, museum officials returned the mosaic and announced the creation of a new international exchange for collaborations for loaning artwork and sharing cultural expertise. Turkey has signed on as the museum's first partner in the Dallas Museum Exchange (DMX) program.

“As arts organisations in the United States and around the world address questions regarding cultural heritage, I have long believed there is a crucial opportunity to shift the terms of these cultural discussions from an adversarial to a collaborative approach,” Anderson said in a statement.

O. Murat Suslu, Turkey's director general for Cultural Heritage and Museums, said the Turkish government was pleased to partner with the Dallas museum on this cultural exchange.

“We also want to express our appreciation to the museum for its ethical perspective during negotiations regarding the Orpheus Mosaic,” Suslu said in a statement. “With actual photos of the looting in progress that we were able to present, it could not be clearer that this ancient work was stolen from its archaeological site.”

Also, museum officials contacted Italian officials after discovering that three pieces in its collection had been obtained from Edoardo Almagia, an Italian dealer under suspicion for selling looted Italian artifacts. Italian officials presented photos showing that three more of the museum's pieces were obtained from other Italian dealers known to sell stolen antiquities, museum officials said.

These pieces include:

Museum officials said they hope to negotiate a long-term loan of the Italian objects after the transfer of ownership to Italy is complete. - Reuters

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