Its founder, editor-in-chief, and publisher is Dr Jerome Eisenberg. And it is Eisenberg, wearing his other hat as founder and director of Royal-Athena Galleries in New York, who has returned eight antiquities to Italy.
It now looks as if some of the material handled by Eisenberg --- but purchased at auction in London --- could have derived from Giacomo Medici. The impact of the "Medici Conspiracy" is immense. The last two years have seen major North American museums agreeing to return objects with little apparent fight --- and one suspects the evidence was too compelling.
So what does a dealer and magazine editor-in-chief like Eisenberg make of the returns to Italy? He has helpfully published lists of the returns but has held back on the detail. There are clear implications for private collectors. The Fleischman collection, sold or donated to the Getty, has featured prominently in the returns. And one of the pieces illustrated by Eisenberg (no. 14) is recorded as coming from the same room as a fragment in the Shelby White collection. But Eisenberg makes no reference to the link.
And there appears to be no mention in Minerva that some of the antiquities returned to Italy from Boston and Malibu had passed through the Royal-Athena Galleries.
Perhaps all that was intended was to provide a simple list and to reassure the readers of Minerva that the antiquities market was stable.
But everything has now changed.
Eisenberg himself is in the spotlight. And he will have the opportunity to explain the eight antiquities. How was he able to acquire items stolen from museums in Italy? Had he been suspicious of items surfacing at Sotheby's (London) in the mid-1980s? What was his due diligence process? Had he consulted and obtained clearance from the Art Loss Register?
And is it just coincidence that a red-figured column-krater returned to Italy by Eisenberg is attributed to the same Geras painter as an amphora returned from the Getty? (I have noted elsewhere the thread of the Darius painter running through the other returns to Italy.)
And Eisenberg's explanations need to be convincing. Why?
Over the past 50 years we [sc. Royal-Athena Galleries] have sold more than 600 works of ancient art to many of the country's leading museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Sackler Art Museum at Harvard University, the Yale University Art Gallery, the Princeton University Art Museum, the Newark Museum, the Detroit lnstitute of Arts the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, as well as the British Museum, the Louvre, and a number of museums in Canada, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, and Japan. (quote from website)
Museum curators and trustees will be wanting to ensure that they made sound and secure acquisitions.
Butcher, K., and D. W. J. Gill. 1990. "Mischievous pastime or historical science?" Antiquity 64: 946-50.
Eisenberg, J. M. 2007. "Italy & the J. Paul Getty Museum Antiquities Repatriation." Minerva 18: 19-20.
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2006. "From Boston to Rome: reflections on returning antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 13: 311-31 (abstract).
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2007. "The illicit antiquities scandal: what it has done to classical archaeology collections." American Journal of Archaeology 111: 571-74 (pdf).
Gill, D. W. J., and C. Chippindale. 2007. "From Malibu to Rome: further developments on the return of antiquities." International Journal of Cultural Property 14: 205-40 (abstract).