Looted Antiquity Returned to Greece, Christies Scraps Auction of Disputed Vases

A Greek treasure looted during the German occupation of 1941 to 1944 has been returned by the German Municipality of Hanover and the August Kestner Museum.

The trefoil-shaped wine bottle with a stopper, dating back to 620-600 BC, which preserves traces of written decoration around the neck, was brought to the museum in 1986 by Geology professor Dr Hannfrit Putzer.

According to a letter that accompanied it, the Germans found the bottle in 1943 in excavations of the Corinth Canal, and had handed it over to him. Along with the letter, there was a note that gave the location where the object was found.

“The decision of the Municipality of Hanover and the August Kestner Museum is practical proof of their will to contribute to the restoration of the damage suffered by the cultural heritage of Greece, but also to defend the reputation of the August Kestner Museum. The Greek state [has] … made systematic efforts to locate and repatriate antiquities that were looted by the occupying forces. This effort continues,” the Greek Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, said about the repatriation.

Meanwhile, Christie’s auction house has withdrawn four ancient Greek vases from auction after it was revealed that they were linked to the art dealer Gianfranco Becchina, who was convicted in 2011 of illegally dealing in antiquities.

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, an archaeology lecturer at the University of Cambridge and a specialist in looted antiquities, told the UK Guardian that there had been correspondence between Becchina and Christie’s.

The auction took place on April 9 in New York. On the sale catalogue, “Ancient Greek Vases from the Zimmermann Collection”, were listed for $2,425,248 US.

The disputed vases that Christie’s was obliged to pull as a result of Tsirogiannis’ evidence included an Attic cup decorated with warriors and other figures from around 570-560BC.

Tsirogiannis said Christie’s catalogue had not mentioned that they were consigned to the auction house to Becchina.

“This is a new insight into the tricks used by the market at its highest level. They deliberately exclude the connection of a trafficker in these three examples, although they’ve known about that connection for 45 years,” Tsirogiannis told Newswire.