Princeton University Art Museum and Italy sign agreement over antiquities


Red figure psykter

Two of the four objects to be transferred in title to the Italian government but to remain on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum are this ceramic red figure psykter (top), Greek, Attic, ca. 510-500 B.C., and the Apulian red figure loutrophoros (below), from South Italy, ca. 335-325 B.C.

Red figure loutrophoros

Below: This Roman inlaid dagger and sheath made of bronze, iron, silver, gold and niello, ca. first-second centuries A.D., is one of seven objects to remain permanently at the Princeton University Art Museum.

Inlaid dagger and sheath

Images courtesy of the Princeton University Art Museum

The Princeton University Art Museum and Italian cultural authorities on Oct. 30 signed an agreement that resolves the ownership of 15 works of art in the museum's collection. The signing took place in Rome.

"This agreement meets Princeton's two primary goals," museum Director Susan Taylor said in a statement released after the signing. "First, it is consistent with our long-standing commitment to responsible stewardship of our collections. Second, it encourages the development of future opportunities for collaboration that will advance new scholarship in both Italy and the United States.

"It is our hope that this agreement will open up new avenues of cooperation and exchange," she said. "The fulfillment of these goals is in the interests of the communities served by Princeton and all American art museums: scholars, educators, students, art lovers and the general public. We are grateful to the officials in the Italian government -- in particular Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli, Giuseppe Proietti, head of the Department of Research, Innovation and Organization, and Maurizio Fiorilli, counsel for the Italian government -- for their cooperation."

The agreement includes three works that became the subject of an Italian inquiry in 2004: a Greek psykter, an Apulian loutrophoros and an Etruscan relief. Two of these works -- the psykter and the loutrophoros, which are types of vases -- will remain on loan to the University museum as part of a joint research program established between the museum and the Italian government. The agreement transfers title to all three objects to Italy.

These objects are among 15 antiquities in the museum's collection that became the subject of broader discussions between the Princeton museum and the Ministry of Cultural Properties and Activities of the Republic of Italy. As a result of those discussions, Princeton will keep seven objects and transfer title to eight. Of the eight objects whose ownership transfers to Italy, half -- including the psykter and the loutrophorous -- will remain on loan to the museum for four years. 

In addition, the Italian ministry has agreed to lend to the Princeton museum a number of additional works of art of great significance and cultural importance.

Also as part of the agreement, Princeton students will be granted unprecedented access to excavation sites managed by the Italian ministry for the purposes of archaeological study and research.

"We are pleased with the outcome of our negotiations with the Italian authorities," Taylor said. "This agreement reflects and supports the research and educational mission of the University art museum, enabling us to retain a number of objects, repatriate others that belong to Italy, and have unprecedented access, on a long-term loan basis, to additional material.

"Some of the works being lent to us have never been outside Italy, but will now be available to Princeton students and scholars for study and research," Taylor said. "We believe this agreement creates a new, cooperative model that will benefit students and scholars for many years to come."

Taylor was part of a small Princeton delegation that led discussions with Rutelli's representatives. Talks began in April 2006, after the University sought to learn more about public reports of the Italian government's interest in items in the Princeton museum's collection.
In January 2005, the museum provided details about several works in its collection in response to a December 2004 inquiry. The disposition of the 15 works reviewed in ensuing discussions was based on mutual agreement between Princeton and the Italian ministry.

The Princeton University Art Museum has a history of successfully resolving ownership claims for works of art and cultural artifacts in its collection. Most recently, in 2002, the museum voluntarily returned to the Italian government an ancient Roman sculptural relief in its collection, having contacted the Italian authorities after the museum's own research revealed that the work was taken out of Italy without a legal export permit before being acquired by the museum in good faith in 1985.

In 2001, the museum reached an amicable agreement with the heirs of a painting sold in Nazi-occupied France and later purchased in good faith by Princeton in 1994; and the museum in 1953 returned to Rome an ancient marble head of a goat stolen in World War II. The mayor of Rome later gave the sculpture back to Princeton in recognition of the museum's commitment to learning.

Taylor and Rutelli have said that this agreement ushers in a new era in relations between the museum and Italy.

"In this case, the museum has gained access to indispensable resources in Italy, and so has initiated a potentially new chapter in cooperation and the advancement of scholarship," Taylor said of the loan and research agreement.

Below is a list of objects to be retained by the Princeton University Art Museum, and also a list of items to be returned.

Four objects transferred in title but to remain on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum from the Ministry of Cultural Properties and Activities of the Republic of Italy.

1. Red figure loutrophoros (ceramic), attributed to the Darius Painter, depicting the mourning of Niobe and woman and youths at a foundation house. South Italian, Apulian, ca. 335-325 B.C.

2. Head of a winged lion (brown volcanic stone). Etruscan, ca. 550-525 B.C.

3. Red figure psykter depicting Symposion, or drinking party (ceramic), attributed to the Kleophrades Painter. Greek, Attic, ca. 510 500 B.C.

4. Red figure volute krater, attributed to the Iliupersis Painter (ceramic), depicting the return of Perseus to Seriphos and Dionysos, maenads and satyrs. South Italian, Apulian, ca. 370 360 B.C.

Four objects to be transferred from the Princeton University Art Museum to the Ministry of Cultural Properties and Activities of the Republic of Italy.

5. Columen plaque with a Centaur in Relief (Terracotta, painted). Etruscan, southern Etruria or Latium, ca. 500-480 B.C.

6. Oinochoe with a serpent around the body (ceramic). Etruscan, ca. 675 B.C.

7. Black figure skyphos fragment with a sprinting youth (ceramic). Etruscan, ca. 510 500 B.C.

8. Oinochoe, attributed to the Ivy Leaf Group, with naked male runners holding large ivy leaves (ceramic). Etruscan, ca. 540-530 B.C.

Seven objects to remain permanently at the Princeton University Art Museum.

9. Red figure kylix attributed to the Brygos Painter, depicting on its inside Hermes and one of the cattle of Apollo, and on the outside infant Hermes and the cattle of Apollo (ceramic). Greek, Attic, ca. 490 480 B.C.

10. Inlaid dagger and sheath (bronze, iron, silver, gold, niello). Roman, ca. first-second centuries A.D.

11. Plate with the Ransom of Hector (ceramic). Greek, Corinthian, ca. 580 570 B.C.

12. Fragment from a red figure lekythos depicting flying Nike (ceramic). Greek, Attic, ca. 480 470 B.C.

13. Pair of charging Amazons (painted terracotta). Greek, South Italy, Canosa, ca. 300 280 B.C.

14. Vessel (guttus) in the form of a drunken Silenus (ceramic). Greek, South Italy, Apulian, fourth century B.C.

15. Teano ware vessel in the form of a bird (ceramic). South Italy, Campanian, ca. 325 300 B.C.