May 18, 2006

Will Getty agreement with Greece affect the Elgin Marbles?

Posted at 1:19 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

The Getty has agreed in principle to the return of various Greek artefacts in their collection.
For some reason the Daily Telegraph seems keen to assert that if this return does go ahead, then it will have no affect whatsoever on the case for the return of the Elgin Marbles. I suppose that if your head was buried as firmly in the sand as the British Museum’s appears to be on this issue, then you would want to believe that nothing else could possibly have any influence on the issue. Many other museums around the world have managed to see these issues in a more enlightened way however, by understanding that the greater potential for cooperation & collaboration as a result of settling differences with foreign countries.

Daily Telegraph

Greece persuades Getty museum to return artefacts
By Harry Mount in New York
(Filed: 18/05/2006)

The Greek government has persuaded the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles to return four priceless artefacts to Greece.

For a decade Greece has fought for the return of a rare gold funerary wreath, a tombstone, a stone torso and a votive relief that were allegedly illegally removed from the country.

But, after four hours of talks in Athens between the museum’s director, Michael Brand, and the Greek culture minister, George Voulgarakis, a deal has been struck.

“I shall recommend to the board of trustees of the museum the return of some of the claimed antiquities in the near future,” said Mr Brand.

“Talks are ongoing and representatives will be appointed to seek resolution of the matter within the next two to three months.”

The Getty is one of America’s most respected museums and one of the richest, having been endowed with much of the industrialist J Paul Getty’s fortune upon his death in 1976.

It has not admitted any wrongdoing in relation to the Greek pieces but is thought to have been rattled by the ongoing trial in Rome of Marion True, chief antiquities curator at the Getty from 1986 until last year, who is accused of conspiring to import antiquities illegally.

Miss True bought the disputed gold funerary wreath for the museum in 1993. The Greek police claim that the wreath originally came from an antiquities smuggler.

The wreath is one of the great treasures of the Getty Museum, appearing on the cover of its antiquities catalogue and prominently displayed.

The Greek government was encouraged by the decision of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to return 21 disputed antiquities to Italy.

The return of the Greek artefacts has no effect on the status of the Elgin Marbles, legally removed by the Earl of Elgin in 1806 during the Ottoman Empire with the knowledge of the Sultan.

In 1816, Lord Elgin sold the marbles to the British Museum where they remain today. For two decades the Greek government has demanded their return.

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