Thursday, 4 February 2016

Looted Antiquities found in Switzerland

Pompeii - Casa dell Orso Ferito - Bear Mosaic
Hundreds of looted antiquities, including mosaics from Pompeii and ancient sarcophagi, allegedly linked to London art dealer Robin Symes, have been uncovered in Switzerland. Italian specialist art theft police uncovered 45 large crates of ‘priceless’ archaeological treasures in a storage unit in Geneva.

Italian police were able to convince a Swiss judge that the relics were stolen as some of the artifacts were allegedly already on a blacklist. Photographs of them had been among thousands found in the possession of an Italian policeman, found dead in mysterious circumstances in 1995 while under investigation for art trafficking.

Pompeii: Floor mosaic from "House of the Faun", Cat with bird, ducks, and sea life.

Etruscan Sarcophagus of the Spouses (late 500s BC) polychrome terra cotta
The treasures found in Geneva included classical sculptures, Roman frescos, and sarcophagi, as well thousands of fragments of an entire wall of an Etruscan temple.

Police became interested in the Swiss deposit while on the trail of a missing very rare piece, called Sarcophagus of the Spouses, which resembles one in the Louvre.

Example of an elaborate Etruscan tomb: Wall painting in a burial chamber called Tomb of the Leopards at the Etruscan necropolis of Tarquinia in Lazio
The “priceless” antiquities were discovered in March 2014 after laying in a warehouse for fifteen years, marked with the name of an offshore company. An Italian expert concluded that the remains came from illegal excavations at an ancient Etruscan necropolis in the Umbria/Lazio area. Police have established direct links between certain objects and tomb robbers.

Symes, London’s most successful art dealer, was accused of being part of an international network of tomb raiders and dealers who spirited antiquities worth millions out of Italy.