The Manhattan district attorney’s office recently ordered the Metropolitan Museum of Art to hand over an ancient Greek vase that it believes was looted from Italy decades ago.
The vase, which until recently was on display in the museum’s Greek and Roman galleries, is now sitting in the DA’s evidence room in New York City. The Met has been fully cooperative and said in a statement that it had already been in touch with officials at the Italian Ministry of Culture about returning the vase.
Tom Mashberg uncovered the story in the New York Times, in which he says that authorities “quietly seized the antiquity last week based on evidence that it had been looted by tomb raiders in Italy in the 1970s.”
A copy of the DA’s warrant issued on July 24 claims that there is “reasonable cause” to believe that the vase was stolen.
The vase, which depicts Dionysus riding a cart, is from 360 B.C. and is attributed to the Greek artist Python, who created it at a time when southern Italy was populated by Greeks.
Investigative forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis first published his findings about the Python vase on the art crime blog published by the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art back in 2014.
Tsirogiannis then reached out to Manhattan prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos who has a keen interest in looted antiquities.
A United States Marine colonel who, while on active duty in 2003, Bogdanos led an investigation into the looting of Iraq’s National Museum and published a book on the topic called Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures. He subsequently won the National Humanities Medal which was presented dot him by President George W. Bush.
Police officials believe the case is linked to Giacomo Medici, an elderly Italian dealer who was arrested in 1997 and convicted of conspiring to traffic in antiquities in 2004.