Trial of Marion True and Robert Hecht over illegally excavated antiquities from Rome continues

Complications over reputation, paperwork, and repatriation



The latest hearing in the trial of former Getty antiquities curator Marion True and the Paris-based dealer Robert Hecht, both charged with conspiring to receive antiquities which had been illegally excavated and exported from Italy, took place in Rome on 26 September. The same day, the government prosecutor, Maurizio Fiorilli, confirmed that civil proceedings against Ms True (which could have led to huge fines) have been dropped, although the criminal case continues.

Ms True’s defence is being paid for by the Getty. An agreement to return 40 items from the museum to Italy which was finally announced on 1 August, was complicated by the fact that the museum sought to ensure that the return would not in any way worsen Ms True’s position.

Prosecution witness Daniela Rizzo, an expert archaeologist who monitors the looting of Etruscan sites, once again took the stand—as she has in every hearing since June. Her testimony was concerned with her scrutiny of documents seized from Robert Hecht in 2001.

The paperwork included information on the Euphronios krater in the Metropolitan Museum (which the institution has agreed to return in 2008), and the Onesimos kylix. According to Hecht’s notes, this originated from the tomb robber Mauro Morani who operated on the Etruscan site of Cerveteri, and was sold through the antiquarian dealer Frida Tchacos to the museum.

Other transactions were also described, with frequent references to the dealer Giacomo Medici. He was found guilty in Italy in 2004 of selling looted antiquities but remains free pending appeal. Ms Rizzo suggested that a “friendly relationship” existed between Hecht and Medici, and described the progress of a Greek wine ladle (kyathos) which, according to Hecht’s paperwork, passed from Medici, to Hecht, and through to the Hirschmann collection (much of which was donated to the Getty in 1996). But some of the collection was auctioned: it appears that Medici and the Lebanese Aboutaam dealers (of Phoenix Ancient Art which has galleries in New York and Geneva) bought back some items, including the kyathos.

Ms Rizzo described a visit she had paid to Marion True in Los Angeles in June 2001 to discuss a series of potentially looted objects. “She helped us reconstruct the history of many objects,” said Ms Rizzo. The next hearing was set to take place on 24 October as we went to press.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Usual suspects named in court'