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Getty Gives Back Two More Objects to Greece; New Cooperation Agreement Signed UPDATED

Kinder, Gentler Cuno: James Cuno [left], President and CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust, striking a deal with Pavlos Yeroulanos, Greece’s Minister of Culture and Tourism
© J. Paul Getty Trust

In 2006, when the Getty Trust announced its agreement to return a funerary wreath and a statue  to Greece, it also announced “plans for future collaboration” with that country’s Ministry of Culture.

This morning, the Getty announced that it will return two more objects to Greece and that the parties have signed a new “memorandum of understanding” that “encourages the exchange of scientists and scholars in the fields of archaeology, art history, conservation, cultural information technology and other fields of common interest in research and training.”

This friendly handshake is the first concrete evidence that Cuno is moderating his formerly belligerent stance towards source countries.

Below are the givebacks, both of which were acquired by the Getty in the 1970s, after the cut-off date of the UNESCO Convention on cultural property. The press release doesn’t say if Greece had proactively requested these objects or if the Getty had initiated discussions as a result of its own research. [SEE UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF POST]


Grave marker fragments, late 5th century B.C.

The above fragments, when joined to another fragment from the same funerary relief in the Kanellopoulos Museum, Athens, show “two female figures, a woman seated on the left and a slave in front with her right hand on her cheek,” according to the Getty’s announcement.


Inscribed stele, 430 to 420 B.C.

The text on the front and two flanking sides describes sacrifices and festivals celebrated in Thorikos, southeast Attica, in honor of local deities and heroes. The stele was acquired by the Getty in 1979.

Greece has “agreed to a reciprocal loan for the stele that will allow the [Getty] Villa to continue to present visitors with an example of ancient Greek writing,” according to David Bomford, acting director of the Getty Museum.

Speaking of memoranda of understanding with Greece, the U.S. State Department still hasn’t posted on its website the complete text of the cultural-property agreement signed by Secretary Hillary Clinton in Athens last July.

UPDATE: Promptly answering my queries, the Julie Jaskol, the Getty’s assistant director, media relations, has given me further information on the givebacks:

The Getty initiated the discussions….In the case of the fragments, it became clear that the best interests of scholarship would be served by reuniting them in Greece. Likewise, after reviewing all the facts involving the religious calendar of Thorikos and its unique historical relationship to the site, the senior curator of antiquities concluded it was appropriate for this object to be transferred to Greece.

Jaskol also told me that the stele was acquired in 1979 from Jacques Roux, a New York dealer, and the grave relief fragments were purchased in 1973 from Nicolas Koutoulakis, a Swiss dealer.

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