Photo by Dimitris Kapantais/SOOC/AFP via Getty Images
Hundreds of items are repatriated to Greece after a 17-year legal battle with the liquidated company that was owned by disgraced British art dealer Robin Symes.
The Greek Culture Ministry announced last week that it had recovered 351 objects dating from the Neolithic period to the early Byzantine era, which previously belonged to the Symes company. Illegally exported items included an early Cycladic figurine dating from between 3200 and 2700 BCE, a damaged marble statue of an archaic kore from 550 to 500 BCE, and the torso of a larger bronze figurative statue as a life representing a young Alexander the Great. dating from the second half of the 2nd century CE
The oldest object was a highly polished white stone anthropomorphic figurine dating from the 4th millennium BCE.
Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni said the case was “difficult” and had plagued her office since 2006, a year after Symes was found guilty of two counts of contempt of court and sentenced to two years in prison. He only served seven months.
In a report, Medoni said his department has stepped up efforts over the past three years to ensure the return of artifacts as well as individual fragments and groups of vessel shards. “THE repatriation illegally exported cultural property is a priority for the Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Service,” she declared.
The initiative gained more attention in March this year, after Pope Francis restored three richly decorated fragments of the Parthenon in Greece, kept in the Vatican Museums for 200 years.
The Greek Culture Ministry’s announcement did not specify whether the hundreds of items were part of the same hoard of antiquities, as authorities recovered 45 crates belonging to Symes at a free port in Geneva, Switzerland in 2016 , according to the BBC.
The long-term claim between Greece and the Symes company involved a large number of people from different departments, including Antiquities and Cultural Heritage, Documentation and Protection of Cultural Property, archaeologists from the Ministry of Culture and sports ; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Greek police officers, State Legal Council, National Archaeological Museum, Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and the Greek Embassy in London.
Greece’s May 19 announcement also coincided with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s announcement that two antiquities had been returned to Iraq, one of which had also belonged to Symes. The other item was seized from the collection of former Met administrator Shelby White.
According to the press releasethe figurines were looted from the ancient city of Uruk, now known as Warka, “stolen from Iraq during the Gulf War and smuggled to New York in the late 1990s.”
The limestone elephant had been hidden “since at least 1999” in a warehouse owned by Symes and was notable for its rarity.
“Although elephants are known to have existed in Mesopotamia and appeared in excavations dating back to the 4th millennium, they were rarely depicted in art, making this limestone figure one of very few examples to have survived to the present day,” the press release specifies. said.