The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities -- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museum

The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities -- From Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museum

Peter Watson, Cecilia Todeschini

Language: English

Pages: 392

ISBN: 2:00195670

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The story begins, as stories do in all good thrillers, with a botched robbery and a police chase. Eight Apuleian vases of the fourth century B.C. are discovered in the swimming pool of a German-based art smuggler. More valuable than the recovery of the vases, however, is the discovery of the smuggler's card index detailing his deals and dealers. It reveals the existence of a web of tombaroli—tomb raiders— who steal classical artifacts, and a network of dealers and smugglers who spirit them out of Italy and into the hands of wealthy collectors and museums. Peter Watson, a former investigative journalist for the London Sunday Times and author of two previous exposés of art world scandals, names the key figures in this network that has depleted Europe's classical artifacts. Among the loot are the irreplaceable and highly collectable vases of Euphronius, the equivalent in their field of the sculpture of Bernini or the painting of Michelangelo. The narrative leads to the doors of some major institutions: Sothebys, the Getty Museum in L.A., the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York among them. Filled with great characters and human drama, The Medici Conspiracy authoritatively exposes another shameful round in one of the oldest games in the world: theft, smuggling and duplicitous dealing, all in the name of art.











Other material included Cycladic statues, Sardinian marble idols, Greek stone heads (one valued at $80,000), a marble kouros, Greek marble stelae, Greek bronzes (one valued at $65,000), a bronze Kore referred to as Griffins from Olympia, Greek arms and armor, early Greek pottery (one vase valued at $45,000), a life-size bronze head of a ruler valued at $850,000, an Etruscan bronze Hercules of the fifth century BC, Etruscan sculptures, terra-cottas, pottery, and jewelry. There was a letter from

mysterious people, but they were important because they composed the earliest urban civilization in the north Mediterranean, flourishing sometime between the ninth and first centuries BC, being most dominant in the sixth to third centuries. Much of what we know about them comes from the early writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, for example, they originally occupied the land of Lydia—what is now western Turkey—but were compelled to disperse after

or professional archaeologists in a sense, helping to “preserve” material that would otherwise be “lost” to history. How plausible is that when the same people knowingly trade in openly stolen artifacts, and deliberately damage them to disguise where they came from? Instead, their real motivation now stands out. They deal in antiquities for one reason and one reason only: the money it brings in. Pellegrini’s main contribution to Ferri’s investigation was the way he used the documentation to

market price that is truly comparable because there is no similar vase known. We purchased in 1983 approximately 2/5 of a large kylix signed by the potter Euphronios and painted by Onesimos for $180,000. Although the shape and decoration of the vase are quite different, the price gives a fair description of the value of an unusual vase from the artists of the Euphronian circle. It was bought from Bürki for $200,000. A tripod, a candelabrum, a red-figure amphora, an Apulian pelike, a

Geneva Museum, who was a rather weak character and did what she wanted of him.” Ferri asked: “Which means?” “. . . means that if she wanted to do . . . to sell something to a collector, she had an expertise drawn up by this guy of the Geneva Museum, this . . . [Jacques] Chamay.” Tchacos was astonishingly forthcoming. Perhaps it was her character, perhaps it was the fact that she was, at the time, under arrest in Cyprus. Ferri’s instincts about Tchacos’s mood in Limassol were correct. While

Download sample