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Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Speaks Out on Hecht-Medici Case 9 November 2008

Posted by Troels in : Archaeology, Ethics , trackback

Glyptotek Victoria
A relief of Victoria in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (acquired in the 19th century and thus not under investigation by Italian authorities…). Photo: TMK, August 2006.

I’ve reported intermittently on the connections between the Hecht-Medici case in Rome and a number of archaeological artefacts now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (here, here, and here). These connections were investigated in a number of Danish newspapers during 2007, especially Information. In the 2008 Annual Report of the New Carlsberg Foundation, curator of Greek and Roman antiquities Jette Christiansen now gives the Glyptotek’s version of the events as they unfolded since the Italian authorities first made contact in the summer of 2002 (PDF available here, in Danish only).

Christiansen remarks on the general acquisition policy of the museum:

..the museum has not, since a change of directors in 1978, made acquisitions on the international art market. The ethics and moral standards of a new generation have since then characterized the museum’s acquisition policy. (Christiansen 2008: 141, my translation)

This statement is laudable but does not go well with the acquisition of a portrait of an Amarna princess in 2005 from a German “private collection” (ÆIN 1814; fig. 6 in this PDF). The Glyptotek has on several occasions refused to give the name of the collection and to provide details of the provenance of this particular artefact. The spurious nature of such “private collections” has been intensively documented in Peter Watson’s The Medici Conspiracy and continuously on David Gill’s Looting Matters blog.

In her conclusion, Christiansen reports on the current position of the Glyptotek in the Hecht-Medici case:

At the Glyptotek we are currently awaiting the final verdict of the case in Rome and contemplating the possibilities of exchange that the Italians have so far offered us as compensation, as they acknowledge that they have no legal claims of repatriation. We are working on formulating and realizing new cooperative projects with Italian colleagues in an effort to keep the museum as a living organism and at the same time to contribute to the conservation of our common cultural heritage. (Christiansen 2008: 145, my translation).

I wonder what “living organism” refers to in this context? “Living” as in a continuously expanding collection? Perhaps future developments in the case will enlighten us.

References
J. Christiansen. 2008. “I mediernes søgelys”, Ny Carlsbergsfondets Årsskrift 2008: 138-145.

P. Watson & C. Todeschini. 2006. The Medici Conspiracy. The illicit journey of looted antiquities, from Italy’s tomb raiders to the world’s greatest museums. New York: Public Affairs.

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