Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Italy Seeks Ancient Loot From Symes Trustees

Italy Seeks Ancient Loot From Symes Trustees

By Suzan Mazur

"The collection represents a selection of objects from a larger collection formed by Maurice Tempelsman, a diamond merchant resident in New York, over the past twenty-five years. The individual pieces come from a variety of sources, although the largest number were provided directly by, or were bought legally through, Robin Symes of London. All have been legally imported into the U.S. The collection is currently in the Museum." -- Acquisition Notes of Getty Museum antiquities curator Arthur Houghton cited in The Medici Conspiracy.

Among the high profile clients of British antiquities dealer Robin Symes was Maurice Tempelsman -- one of the pillars of the Eastern Establishment (Council on Foreign Relations, Africa-America Institute, long-time beau of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and "friend" of former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright); Leon Levy & Shelby White and the Metropolitan Museum of Art were customers too. Symes bought his pieces primarily from now-convicted antiquities smuggler Giacomo Medici, the man who sold the Euphronios Sarpedon vases to Bob Hecht.

In a reversal of fortune beginning with the accidental death of Symes's long-time business partner and companion Christo Michaelides ten years ago at a dinner party in Italy hosted by Levy & White and then many months in prison in the UK -- Symes, once the prince of the ancient art trade, is now bankrupt. And Italy is asking for restitution of some 1,000 artifacts from Symes's Trustees in Bankruptcy, according to Maurizio Fiorilli, the lawyer for Italy's Ministry of Culture who negotiated the return of the Euphronios krater and other treasures from America's museums.

Although Symes destroyed most of the documents related to his business partnership with Michaelides, there is still an indelible photo trail. Here is a sampling of the pieces Italy seeks as part of its cultural patrimony. In many cases there is an exact match of objects in the Medici polaroids seized during police raids on Medici in Geneva and of objects in the Symes hoard photographed by the Italian Ministry of Culture.

Images Courtesy of Davide Proietti/Carabinieri Art Squad

1. Etruscan terracotta relief, draped woman Southern Etruria

Photo Medici ----- Photo Symes #2603
Click for big versions

2. Etruscan terracotta head

Photo Medici --------- Photo - Symes #2582
Click for big versions

3. Etruscan gold and glass beaded necklace with round flat pendant

Photo Medici

Photo Medici --------- Photo - Symes #2841
Click for big versions

4. Etruscan gold and blue class beaded necklace with gold amphora

Photo Medici ----------- Photo - Symes
Click for big version

5. # 199 Earthenware pot with applied panel relief decoration from Vulci, 7th Century BC

Click for big version

6. #2624 Patera with handle in human shape, Greek from Southern Italy, 6th Century BC

Click for big version

7. #G 1210 Bone fibulae - dolphins from Taranto

Click for big version

8. #I 1269 Terracotta vegetal ornaments from Taranto

Click for big version

9. #37D Foot of black-figure Attic vase with Etruscan inscription

Click for big version

10. #I/1190 Italic or Etruscan bronze statuette, 6th - 5th Century BC

Click for big version

11. #R 2767 Silver phiale, two silver cups (calathus) and a silver patera, 1st - 2nd Century AD. Similar to artifacts from Pompeii, Ercolano and Boscoreale

Click for big version

12. #2361 Carinated cup with baccellature common to the Vesuvian area, decorated on the outward side with leaf designs in pairs.

Click for big version



Suzan Mazur's stories on art and antiquities have been published in The Economist, Financial Times, Connoisseur, Archaeology (cover) and Newsday. Other reports have appeared on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email:

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: ‘Disruption’ Is For Losers

Disruption – anarchic, dynamic, table-tipping, mould-breaking, consensus-shattering disruption – has become part of every corporate bout of auto-hype to the faddish point where the term has lost any useful meaning it might once have had. More>>


Werewolf: Coney Island (And The Trumps), Baby

Like much of that part of the coast, and given the storm surges of Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island should be occupied only by clumps of grass and seabirds. Instead there are 60,000 people in multi-storey apartment buildings living among the faded remnants of a once-spectacular fantasyland.. More>>


Gordon Campbell:
On Corbyn, Trump And Outsider Politics

Jeremy Corbyn elevated to the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party! Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders on the rise in the US… On both sides of the Atlantic, these are dark days for the political Establishment. More>>


Operation Chrysalis: A New Beginning For Scoop

On December 19th 2014 the Scoop Team set out on a project called "Operation Chrysalis". We decided to turn Scoop's 16 year old online news publishing business into a new kind of news business, one connected directly to its readers, owned by a not-for-profit and based on a new business model. More>>


Keith Rankin: The Economy - What's It For?

I re-watched the Q+A 'immigration debate' screenedon 23 August. In light of recent events, the discussion already seems very dated. The underlying assumptions were that the economy is a system in which production growth is pretty much the sole objective, and that migration policy must serve this end of output maximisation... More>>

Until Dawn: Pick Your Own Horrible Adventure

Suppermassive Games’ Until Dawn sees a group of dumb sexy teenagers take a trip to a spooky mansion atop a mountain. It is, obviously, a horror game. However, the game is so ridiculous it turns out to be more of a comedy. Until Dawn begins with ... More>>

Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news