Clock Runs Out on Trial of Antiquities Dealer

  • Cult Statue of a Goddess (the "Aphrodite" aka "Morgantina Venus"), 425-400 B.C., Greek, recently was returned to Sicily by the J.  Paul Getty Museum

    Cult Statue of a Goddess (the "Aphrodite" aka "Morgantina Venus"), 425-400 B.C., Greek, recently was returned to Sicily by the J. Paul Getty Museum. Some scholars now believe the statue represents Persephone, the fertility goddess.

A three-judge panel in Rome threw out the trial of American antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, 92, ruling that the statue of limitations on the alleged crimes had run out.

Accused of receiving artifacts illegally looted from Italy and conspiring to deal in them, Hecht was on trial for six years, concurrently with Marion True, the former curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, who was indicted on similar charges. Her trial ended when the statue of limitations expired in 2010.

Hecht sold ancient treasures to museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His lawyer was dismayed that Hecht was not exonerated while the prosecutor, Paolo Ferri, was frustrated, saying that the Italian justice system was slow. "It is mortifying," said Ferri.

Since the Marion True trial, many museums have adopted more rigourous policies for researching the provenance of antiquities.

Several museums have also agreed with the Italian government to return contested antiquities. Notably, the Getty Villa in Malibu sent its prized "Cult Statue of a Goddess" back to Italy last year. Although the Getty never admitted wrongdoing in their purchase, Sicilian authorities contend the over 7-foot goddess, thought to represent Persephone or Aphrodite, was illegally excavated in the late 1970s. The museum had paid $18 million for the piece in 1988.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was the first American museum to have a dedicated Curator of Provenance, a full-time provenance research position now held by Victoria Reed, who studies the history of ownership of works currently in the MFA's collection and verifies clear title to new acquisitions.

More News Feed Headlines

 'Rome, from Mount Aventine' by J.M.W.  Turner, 1835, brought an artist auction record of $47.4 million at Sotheby's London on Dec.  3, 2014.

J.M.W. Turner Painting Fetches Record $47.4 Million

  • December 04, 2014 11:12

One of the last great Turner masterpieces remaining in private hands set a world auction record ...

Read More

Detail of an Edgar Degas sculpture, “The Little 14-Year-Old Dancer.”

Insurer Refuses to Pay for Lost Degas Sculpture

  • December 03, 2014 22:34

Lloyd's of London says it won't pay for a $3 million Degas ballerina sculpture that went missing ...

Read More

Colette Calascione, Fire-maid, 2014, oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches .  From Nancy Hoffman Gallery, at the Miami Project Pavilion located in Midtown Miami.

2014 Miami Art Week Guide

  • December 02, 2014 16:25

With $3 billion worth of art offered at Art Basel Miami Beach alone, and dozens of other fairs, exhibitions, parties, and pop-ups going on...

Read More

Christie's CEO Steven Murphy

Christie's Chief Executive Murphy to Depart

  • December 02, 2014 12:21

Christie's chief executive Steven Murphy will leave the auction house by the end of the year, the London-based company announced on Tuesday.

Read More

Related Press Releases

Related Events from ArtfixDaily Calendar

ArtfixDaily Artwire