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Boston Got a Big Statue; the Met Gets a Small Drinking Cup

Terracotta Kylix, Greek, Laconian, ca. 560-500 B.C., composite of a man, a sea creature and snakes, attributed to the Typhon Painter from Cerveteri, necropolis of Bufaloreccia, lent by the Republic of Italy
Size and ceremony aren’t everything, but the low-key loan by Italy to the Metropolitan Museum of an 8 1/2-inch wide drinking cup (above), displayed inconspicuously today in a case with other small objects, contrasted sharply with the dramatic public unveiling yesterday of the colossal statue of “Eirene” at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Italian journalists and CultureGrrl tagged along this afternoon as the Met’s director, Philippe de Montebello, and Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli met face-to-face for the first time. Rutelli, an urbane, articulate and media-savvy politician (married to a prominent Italian journalist) was formerly mayor of Rome and since April has been Italy’s culture minister and, more importantly, its deputy prime minister.
After exchanging pleasantries in Italian, French and English. and admiring objects arrayed in the Met’s galleries, de Montebello and Rutelli held a brief closed-door meeting, after which Rutelli pronounced himself completely satisfied with Italy’s cooperative relationship with the Met, and de Montebello recited a list of the many loans made by the Met to current exhibitions in Italy. When I asked Philippe whether the subject of Italy’s designs on certain objects from the collection of Met benefactor Shelby White came up during the private discussion, he shrugged and was silent.
Journalists got a better sense of Rutelli’s determination to repatriate illicitly exported antiquities at an event earlier in the day at the Italian Cultural Institute. To general applause from the mostly Italian audience, he publicly declared: “All works of art that have been stolen have to come home!”
In conversation with me afterwards, he reiterated Italy’s position that the Getty’s bronze statue of an athlete should be regarded “stolen,” because it was “smuggled” out of Italy without an export permit. He also took issue with the Getty’s assertion that the statue had been found in international waters. But more important to him is what he described as the “moral aspect” of the controversy.

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