May 28, 2005

Art dealer to return stolen Greek statue

Posted at 1:45 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

This is a complete change from the usual situation of lengthy arguments over repatriation of stolen artworks & whose responsibility they are. James Ede, a London art dealer on researching a kouros he had purchased discovered that it was stolen at some time during the Second World War. Not only is he returning it to the museum from which it was stolen, but he has refused to accept the reward that was offered (British Museum – are you listening?).

The Guardian

Art dealer takes Greek statue back home
Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

Still smiling after 2,600 years, one small Greek youth, probably trousered by a soldier 60 years ago, is going home to the island of Samos.

“He’s in remarkable condition apart from his nose,” said James Ede, a London art dealer who has established that the figure was stolen from the island’s museum, probably during the second world war. “He got that biffing in antiquity, not in my care,” he added anxiously.

The kouros, a type of ancient Greek image typically of splendidly muscled young men with long curly hair, is shorter than a teaspoon.

But it is worth around £30,000, as early Greek provincial sculpture is highly prized by collectors but rare on the market. Mr Ede bought it, with a quantity of other pieces, from the widow of a Greek collector based in Switzerland, and showed it to John Prag, of the Manchester Museum. He had seen it before: it was photographed by a German archaeological team in the 1920s, and reproduced in a 1942 book, proving that it came from the Samos museum.

Without the photograph, it would never have been traced. Victoria Solomonidis, cultural counsellor at the Greek embassy in London, said that in common with many other Greek museums, no complete record was possible on Samos of what was destroyed and what had gone missing, in the chaos of the aftermath of the war.

The statue was not listed on the Art Loss Register, the nearest thing to a comprehensive international database. The measurement given for the figure in the 1942 book was also wrong, robbing the youth of a precious 14 millimetres, and making it more difficult to identify.

Mr Ede, who has previously returned a stolen marble plaque, bitterly criticised the British government’s decision on cost grounds not to produce an online register of missing art, promised when the law on illicit art was strengthened.

“I think it’s a monstrous mistake on their part. If laws are going to be passed then the tools should be provided.”

Mr Ede will take the statue back to the museum himself. The Greek government has offered a reward, but he has refused it. “I bought him as part of a large collection, and I’ve already done quite well out of it,” he said.

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