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Swiss dealer returns ancient vase to Greece

Some more information on the return of the lekythos to Greece yesterday [1] from Switzerland. Looting Matters [2] also discusses this event [3] in more detail, looking at the secrecy that seems to surround some of the coverage of it.

Greek Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis has also used this event to highlight again the need for the Elgin Marbles to be returned.


Ancient urn returns to Greece
Campaign underway to reclaim illegally exported antiquities
Associated Press

updated 3:41 p.m. ET April 21, 2008ATHENS, Greece – A 2,400-year-old funerary urn has been returned to Greece and put on display, part of a campaign to reclaim illegally exported antiquities from museums and art dealers around the world.

The marble urn was displayed Monday at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Greece has mounted an aggressive campaign for the return of ancient artifacts as part of an effort to recover the Parthenon sculptures — or Elgin Marbles — from the British Museum in London.
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“We are making every effort to locate antiquities that have been illegally exported so that we can secure their return,” Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said at a brief ceremony.

The marble urn, believed to have originated from near Athens, depicts two women in a banquet scene. The vessel was first located at an international arts fair in Maastrict, The Netherlands, last year, and traced to a Swiss dealer, the Greek Culture Ministry said.

“The Swiss antiquities dealer agreed to hand over the urn to the Greek state, without involving court proceedings and without any reservations or conditions,” a ministry statement said.

Earlier this month, parliament approved a bill to toughen penalties against antiquity smugglers. The law grants prosecutors greater powers in seeking the extradition of smugglers, categorizes some smuggling activity as organized crime and provides for closer cooperation between police and the Culture Ministry.

“This issue does not only affect Greece but all the countries that have cultural heritage,” Liapis said Monday. “(Antiquities) are slowly being returned under a policy that is heading toward an important national issue: the return of the Parthenon Marbles.”

The British Museum has said it will only consider a short-term loan and will not necessarily involve its entire Parthenon collection.

The Times (Zaire) [5]

Greece reclaims ancient vase
Published:Apr 22, 2008

ATHENS – Greece has reclaimed an ancient funerary vase found in the possession of a Swiss art dealer after it had been illegally exported, the Greek culture ministry said.

More than one metre high, the decorative vase – known as a lecythus – was made by Athenian sculptors in the fourth century BC, and depicts a banquet scene in which a seated woman greets another woman.

“We are extremely satisfied to welcome back a marble Attican lecythus that was illegally exported from our country,” Greek Culture Minister Michalis Liapis told reporters at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The vase was found in 2007 in the hands of a Swiss antiquarian who intended to auction it off in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the ministry said.

Greek authorities identified it from photographs seized from suspected antiquity smugglers in a prior raid, and the Swiss antiquarian was persuaded to hand over the vase unconditionally.

Last May, Greece and Switzerland signed an agreement in Bern binding both states to support each other in locating illegally exported items and arranging their repatriation.

A prosecutor has been asked to determine how the vase was illegally excavated and exported from Greece in the first place.

A country rich in antiquities that has been targeted by looters for nearly 200 years, Greece has stepped up efforts to reclaim items illegally exported abroad, many of which are in private collections or major museums.

Earthtimes [6]

Switzerland returns ancient urn to Greece
Posted : Mon, 21 Apr 2008 13:34:08 GMT
Author : DPA

Athens – Switzerland returned a 2,400-year-old funerary urn to Greece on Monday after discovering that it had been taken out of the country illegally, the Culture Ministry said. The ancient marble oil flask or lekythos was returned to Greece by a Swiss art dealer, who had it in his private collection, after rounds of negotiations.

The funeral lekythos depicts a farewell banquet for the deceased in a classic farewell scene and will be taken to the conservation workshop of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Greece has launched a campaign to reclaim illegally excavated and exported antiquities from museums and art dealers all over the world.