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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 49, December 2, 2007, Article 15

QUIZ ANSWER: ROBERT HECHT AND THE MEDICI CONSPIRACY

Last week Leon Worden wrote: "I thought there might be
an E-Sylum reader or two who would get a kick out of
this ad I came across in the December 1953 edition of
The Numismatist."  Leon forwarded the text of the ad
placed by Robert E. Hecht stating that he "will attend
the sale of the Numismatic Collection from the Palace
Collections of Egypt" (i.e., the famous 1954 Farouk sale).
I'll admit I was stumped - Hecht's name didn't ring a
bell with me, but Leon was floored when he came across
the ad.

Leon writes: "Bob Hecht was the mastermind of the antiquities
looting/plundering/trading cabal that has ensnared Marion
True of the Getty and others from the Met, etc. Peter Watson's
fast-paced, fairly new book, 'The Medici Conspiracy' (for
Giacomo Medici) tells the whole story of the antiquities-trading
underworld. Hecht is at the top of the ladder. (And yes, it's
the same Bob Hecht, aka Robert E. Hecht Jr.; he's around 90
years old now.)

"I *would* be interested in knowing if anyone has any
memories, or stories, about Hecht in Cairo in 1954. I
hadn't heard his name in relation to the Farouk sale(s)
before -- but then again, prior to the publication of
'The Medici Conspiracy,' I wouldn't have been looking for it."

Karl Moulton writes: "Robert E Hecht Jr. was a member of
the American Numismatic Association (ANA #19854) and lived
at Ohmstrasse 8, Munich 23, Germany.   There is no record
of him purchasing any U. S. coinage lots at the Palace
Collections of Eygpt (Farouk) sale in 1954, according to
the annotated copy in my library that belonged to Gaston
DiBello."

Ted Buttrey writes: "Robert E. Hecht was -- and still is,
in his 90's -- one of the most important con-men in the
smuggling of classical antiquites, including coins.  It
was he who conned the Metropolitan Museum into paying
$1,000,000 for the famous Euphronius vase, "found in Lebanon".
It was in fact from an Italian grave, and the Museum has
now agreed to return it to Italy.

"Your readers will be amused to note that to pay for the
stolen vase the Met retrieved from the American Numismatic
Society, where they had been on deposit, the wonderful Warren
collection of Greek coins and the fabulous Durkee collection
of Roman gold coins, and sold them at auction in Switzerland.
So now they have neither the coins nor the vase.
Good going, Met!

"Meanwhile, as we speak, Hecht is on trial in Italy for
illegal acquisition of antiquities, and for smuggling,
at long last."

Rick Witschonke writes: "He features prominently in the
book 'The Medici Conspiracy', which details the raid on
Giacomo Medici's Geneva Freeport warehouse, and the discovery
of hundreds of unprovenanced antiquities and records of
thousands more.  Most recent Italian repatriation claims
are based on information obtained in that raid.  Because
he is nearly 90, Hecht would not be subject to prison,
even if found guilty.

"Hecht was a member of the Hecht department store family,
and had a keen interest in antiquities, especially ancient
coins.  He published several scholarly articles, and became
a dealer, selling coins and other antiquities to many
collectors and museums.  I have no doubt that Hecht attended
the Farouk sale, but cannot say what he purchased."

[The full title of the book is 'The Medici Conspiracy: The
Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb
Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums' by Peter Watson
and Cecilia Todeschini, 2006.   Hecht defends his role,
saying that the looting would have occurred regardless of
his involvement and that over the years it has been the
laws that have changed, not the needs and wants of museums
and private collectors.  Below are a few excepts from a
lengthy 2006 Baltimore Sun article on Hecht.  -Editor]

The man accused of stripping Italy of precious antiquities
and selling them on the world art market for millions of
dollars now shuffles along East 69th Street by himself, his
head bowed, and seems as threatening as a glass of warm milk.

He's 88 years old and can barely open a door without assistance.
But Italian authorities say this man - Robert E. Hecht Jr.,
a Baltimore native whose great-grandfather founded the
department store that bears his name - was for decades at the
center of a criminal ring that dug antiquities from Italian
soil and sold them to museums and collectors around the world.

Hecht, who has pleaded innocent, has made occasional
appearances at the courthouse in Rome, most recently last
month, when he reportedly sang an aria from Verdi's La Traviata
to the assembled journalists.

Meanwhile, Hecht has been splitting his time between his
permanent home in Paris - where he has lived since he was
barred from Italy in the 1970s - and an apartment on
Manhattan's Upper East Side.

He meets with friends, visits museums - some of which still
display objects of questionable provenance that he sold
them over the years - and waves off his critics.

Hecht is a man who has seen the world pass him by. In the
1950s, shortly after his arrival in Italy, he bought
antiquities on the streets of Rome.

No one had a problem with it. The shops, Hecht said, would
happily ship the ancient cups, coins and statues out of the
country if you couldn't take them home yourself.

Now, Hecht finds himself on trial for allegedly doing the
very things that were accepted practice half a century ago.

"He lived long enough to see his livelihood not only eclipsed,
but also impugned," said Gary Vikan, director of the Walters
Art Museum in Baltimore, which is known for its antiquities
collection and which bought several pieces from Hecht in the
1950s. "This guy is sort of the personification of the sea
change."

To read the complete article on Robert Hecht, see:
Full Story

[Leon Worden forwarded this timely story on the dismissal
of related charges against curator J. Paul Getty Museum
Marion True.  -Editor]

"An appeals court here dismissed a criminal case on Tuesday
against Marion True, a former curator for the J. Paul Getty
Museum in Los Angeles who had been accused of conspiring to
acquire an ancient gold wreath that Greece says was looted
from its soil.

"The unanimous decision by the three-member appeals court
came eight months after the Getty formally handed over the
disputed funerary wreath and a week after Ms. True’s lawyer
filed a motion for dismissal.

"Ms. True has been on trial since late 2005 in Italy on
similar charges of conspiring to acquire illicitly excavated
antiquities. She has denied the charges in both cases and
did not attend Tuesday’s hearing here.

"The wreath is believed to have been unearthed about 15
years ago. Greece first laid claim to it in the mid-1990s,
although its precise site of excavation was not yet known.
Last year, however, its government sent the Getty a dossier
of evidence, including documents and photographs, to support
its claim that the wreath had been illegally removed from
northern Greece and passed on to a market through Germany
and Switzerland before being sold to the Getty in 1993 for
$1.1 million."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

 FAROUK SALE BUYER INFORMATION SOUGHT
 esylum_v10n48a15.html

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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