Antiquities and Archaeology United Kingdom

Medici “loot” for sale?

Two works coming to auction with Bonhams appear similar to those pictured in Polaroids found in the convicted dealer’s Geneva store

Left, a Polaroid seized from Medici's warehouse and right, a photo of the "Attic red-figure pelike, attributed to the Eretria painter" from Bonhams' catalogue

london. Bonhams London is to auction two antiquities that may have passed through the hands of the dealer Giacomo Medici, who has twice been found guilty of trafficking in antiquities in Italy, but is free as he mounts his third and final appeal. As we went to press, the auction house had not withdrawn the lots because the necessary information on the items had not been released, despite Bonhams’ repeated requests to the Italian authorities, they say.

Pictures in the Bonhams catalogue of the two works coming to auction on 6 October appear similar to Polaroids found in Medici’s Geneva store, which were seized in 1995 and presented as evidence during his trials, although these particular objects were never examined in court. This means that the objects have not been studied to establish their origins and whether or not they were illegally excavated or exported and may be legitimate.

The two objects are an Attic jar (lot 94, pictured), around 440-415BC (est £3,000-£5,000), and a Greek pottery pitcher (lot 95), around 400-350BC (est £2,000-£3,000).

Spokesman Julian Roup said that the firm has yet to have any proof that the pieces’ provenance is questionable. The auction house says that no items in its sales appear on any stolen art databases (including the Art Loss Register, and the Interpol database), adding that the so-called Medici Dossier currently “does not appear on any of the checkable databases”. The problem is common across the trade. Christie’s told us: “We would encourage anyone with knowledge of [suspicious] works to register with the appropriate bodies.”

Left, a Polaroid seized from Medici's warehouse and right, a photo of "A Greek pottery 'plastic' head oinochoe" from Bonhams' catalogue
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1 Nov 10
13:44 CET


Italy has at least 1 million examples of an oinochoe and attic vase which are stylistically/historically/aesthetically no different to either of these two objects locked in basements. So why the bonanza over a couple of commercial and largely irrelevant objects especially given the absurd extents to which the seller has gone to verify rightful ownership

6 Oct 10
18:10 CET


Further research by potential buyers or the Carabinieri should clarify this.

6 Oct 10
14:46 CET


Medici was twice acquitted of charges for all the works appearing in the seized photos, different from the works for which he has been expressely found gulty. This part of the decision is final.

6 Oct 10
14:47 CET


What is the source of the "Medici Polaroid"? If they are public it would be useful to have access to them. If not, how did you get access?

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