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Cleveland's Got Prized South Italian Medea Vase

Published: Mon 25 Sep 2006 05:04 PM
Cleveland's Got The Prized South Italian Medea Vase
By Suzan Mazur
Image Source - www.theoi.com
After an online search for the whereabouts of the fabulous "Medea in Flight" vase featured in my recent story about artifacts Italy wants back from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, it appears that the Red-figure Calyx Krater, 5th/early 4th Century BC is now in the Cleveland Musuem collection. Once part of Bunker Hunt's hoard, it was auctioned at Sotheby's in June 1990 along with the signed Euphronios vase and wine cup, and sold above estimates for $360,000 (plus tax).
The Medea was acquired by Hunt from Bruce McNall via Bob Hecht. Hecht is now on trial in Rome charged with antiquities trafficking. He secured the bulk of the pieces Hunt-Sotheby's put on the block via Giacomo Medici.
Medici's appeal regarding a 10-year sentence for antiquities trafficking will be heard next month in Rome.
In my interview with Boston MFA longtime curator of classical art, Cornelius Vermeule, just prior to the Hunt-Sotheby's auction, Vermeule expressed his desire for the Medea telling me, "I'd kill for [lot] number 14."
It is unclear where the vase has been over the past decade and a half. The Cleveland Museum web page indicates the catalogue number for the Medea has yet to be announced. But there is no question about it being a show stopper.
The vase details the final scene from Euripedes' Medea with Medea fleeing in a chariot drawn by crested serpents, following the murder of her own children for fear they would be enslaved or killed as a result of her murder of her husband Jason's new wife. She is dressed in an ornate robe and Phyrgian tassled helmet, the chariot surrounded by a "solar mandorla".
If the Medea vase is not on the Italian prosecutors' list of looted pieces, it probably should be. The vase had no provenance before Hunt and Sotheby's.
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Suzan Mazur's stories on art and antiquities have been published in The Economist, Financial Times, Connoisseur, Archaeology (cover) and Newsday. Some of her other reports have appeared on PBS, CBC and MBC. She has been a guest on McLaughlin, Charlie Rose and various Fox Television News programs. Email: sznmzr @ aol.com

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