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True Trial: Getty’s Ex-Curator Fights Back, Italy’s Expert Witness Retreats

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Italian prosecutor Paolo Ferri

Why was I perusing Italian newspapers last weekend?

I stumbled across Corriere del Mezzogiorno‘s article about the imminent loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum of two bronze statues excavated at Pompeii because I had been searching (in vain) for Italian newspapers’ take on this new development in the never-ending trial in Rome of Marion True, the Getty’s former curator of antiquities, who is accused of trafficking in looted antiquities.

As reported by Elisabetta Povoledo of the NY Times, the defendant on Friday went on the offensive:

Sounding calm and sure of herself, Ms. True said the Getty had always followed proper procedures when buying objects on the international market, contacting Italian culture officials to determine if there were liens on specific artifacts. “I didn’t have the right to make informal inquiries” in Italy, she said….

The defense plans an object-by-object rebuttal of the prosecution’s case for each of the 35 artifacts that Ms. True approved for acquisition and that the Italians say were looted.

But what really struck me was that Italy’s witness for the prosecution, archaeologist Daniela Rizzo, toned down the anti-True rhetoric. Povoledo quoted from Rizzo’s testimony:

“Your cooperation has always been very positive,” [Rizzo] told Ms. True,
who sat with her lawyers. “But you are an archaeologist, a scholar and a great expert, and you had the knowledge to recognize objects that could have come from Etruria.”

Perhaps “a closer, more direct collaboration with Italian archaeologists would have been more useful than to return objects over time,” Ms. Rizzo said.

Perhaps. But this suggestion seems to fall considerably short of an accusation of criminality, which is what True is still charged with, despite earlier indications by Italian prosecutor Paolo Ferri that the case would be expeditiously resolved, thanks to the Getty’s 2007 agreement to relinquish 40 objects to Italy.

Meanwhile, there’s been no official announcement from the Getty or the Italian Culture Ministry about the two itinerant Apollos, reportedly coming from Naples. The LA Times likewise said nothing about them in its report on the Florence collaborations. I can only assume that Fuani Marino of Corriere didn’t just make this up. (Here’s the ministry’s announcement about the upcoming Chimaera of Arezzo show, whose bronze-beast centerpiece bronze beast is coming from Florence.)

All that the Getty press office would tell me yesterday about the Apollos was this:

No official word on the loans from Naples, but we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as that develops.

If the Corriere report is correct, that should “develop” in a matter of days.

an ArtsJournal blog