During his sleepless nights in Santa Marinella, Medici eventually dozed off, but he’d wake before dawn, often as early as 2:00 A.M., and never be able to fall back to sleep. He began most days in darkness. Exactly a year after the verdict, in December 2005, Medici went for a checkup. He knew he needed professional help. He told his doctor, Vito Pansadoro, about his trouble sleeping and said he was ashamed of the smuggling conviction.
Dr. Pansadoro cast a wide net, ordering a full workup. When the blood tests came back, the news was bad. His PSA values, a measure of potential prostate cancer, were higher than normal. The doctor examined Medici’s prostate and could feel a hard area he suspected was a tumor. Medici had a biopsy taken from the lump and waited for the results.
In the meantime, Medici felt desperate to do something to relieve the stress—and maybe to resolve his legal troubles. Knowing that the Met was already in talks to clear its name and avoid the Italian courts, he thought that maybe he could use similar back channels. He wasn’t about to offer a plea deal, but he did want to talk, without his lawyers present. Maybe there were options he didn’t know about, especially for avoiding the 10-million-euro fine. At the end of December, Medici asked for an appointment with Culture Ministry officials. They agreed and the date was set for January 11, 2006.
Then the test results came. Medici’s half-inch-long lump was a malignant tumor. The good news was that it was contained in his prostate. The bad news was he still could die. The diagnosis set in: Medici had cancer. And he blamed Judge Muntoni, prosecutor Paolo Ferri, and the police who had helped build the case against him. “The conviction of Medici comes from the sort of evidence that is truly Kafkaesque, things that made the cancer come,” he said.
At the core of that evidence was Hecht’s manuscript, which Medici considered a work of “fantasy,” a view he said was proved by two glaring errors it contained. First, Hecht incorrectly wrote that Medici was in his twenties when they met in 1967—a date that Medici also disputed, saying they first met in 1974 at an auction in Switzerland. Second, Hecht wrote that Medici owned a Fiat 500, the supertiny tin can of a car nicknamed Topolino, Italian for Mickey Mouse. During one of our meetings in Rome, Medici said indignantly, “I’ve never owned a 500. A Maserati, yes.”
If this was the best appeal Medici could mount, he was in trouble. He had indeed been as young as twenty-eight in 1967, so Hecht wasn’t that far off. And while Medici did own a Maserati now, I eventually learned from him that he had, in the past owned a Fiat 600—a slightly larger version of the Fiat 500. Again Hecht’s recollections weren’t so bad that his whole memoir should be discounted.
As for the purchase of the Euphronios krater, Medici pointed out that although Hecht wrote that he’d bought it from Medici in Switzerland, one of the Carabinieri investigations had found that Hecht bought it in Cerveteri—a tidbit from the 1970s probe that had been left out of Medici’s prosecution and that Judge Muntoni never mentioned in his sentence. “I don’t want to argue whether it came from Cerveteri, came from Italy—I just want my name taken out of the story of the Euphronios vase,” Medici said.
As the conviction tormented him, Medici weighed the options. Afraid to die, he decided to remove his entire prostate to help ensure the cancer wouldn’t return. He was able to schedule his surgery at a private clinic outside Rome for January 10, 2006—the day before his appointment at the Culture Ministry. Medici had to cancel the meeting that might have led to a resolution of his legal odyssey.
I had spoken by phone with Dietrich von Bothmer several times since the run-up to the Hecht-True trial. Now aged eighty-seven, his hearing wasn’t what it used to be, and he was not always comfortable carrying on conversations that lasted more than five minutes. He was sharp when our brief chats focused on specific questions, but sometimes he meandered. In a lot of ways he reminded me of Robert Hecht, a man a year younger and much more evasive than his curator colleague. But where Hecht avoided the tough questions, von Bothmer fought back.
I asked von Bothmer about Marion True’s testimony that he had shown her an aerial photo of Cerveteri and pointed out the Sarpedon krater’s dig site. “That is one of her stories and I do not know where the krater comes from, nor did I identify the site on a photograph,” he shot back, speaking with the German accent he retained after more than half a century in the United States. I reminded him that Jiri Frel, who ran the Getty’s antiquities department before True, had also given the Italians a similar version of events. “He’s making it up in the same way Marion True is making it up. If they can blame it on me, who is an older man, that’s easily done,” von Bothmer said.
In one early chat with von Bothmer, I asked him about the Sarpedon chalice and the fact that it matched the Euphronios krater at his museum. “It’s a very rare subject,” he said of the scene of the dying son of Zeus. “Euphronios, whatever he did he did with great care, and he took a long time to do what he did. Some people turned out vases, as we used to call, a dime a dozen.”
Later, during one of the longest conversations I had with von Bothmer, on January 9, 2006, I asked again about the Sarpedon chalice. My goal was to confirm Hecht’s original admission of having bought it from Medici, and to learn anything else about the cup’s origins—especially if they were illicit or Italian. He was in a position to know, having admitted in the 1970s that he’d seen it in Europe.
“I remember nothing special,” von Bothmer said when I asked about the source of the Sarpedon kylix by Euphronios. “The dealer had a little stand in Rome, the original dealer had a regular stand in Rome.”
This was the first time I had heard any of the people involved in the episode actually place the Sarpedon chalice on Italian soil. Maybe this stand in Rome had something to do with Medici. If von Bothmer’s recollections were correct, he had just revealed that the cup had been excavated near Rome. But in those 1970s newspaper articles hadn’t he said he’d seen the kylix in Switzerland?
“I might even have seen it myself in Italy,” he said. “When the museums closed, I would go to the flea markets.”
Did he think the krater and kylix had come from the same tomb?
“That’s totally wrong,” von Bothmer said, because the two vases came from different periods in Euphronios’s career. Anyhow, he added, if two vases were found together in the same tomb, they wouldn’t have the same designs. “It would be of a different subject,” he said.
And what about the fragmentary krater from the Hunt collection, the one Shelby White had loaned to the Met? Did he know the ownership history of that vase?
“The dealers themselves don’t keep track. All I can tell you is it comes from Italy,” von Bothmer said. The world’s greatest living authority on Greek vases had just placed one of the newly surfaced Euphronios vases on Italian soil. He was in a position to know, having worked closely with the dealers and owners of the fragmentary krater over the previous two decades.
If a vase recently came from Italy, didn’t this indicate it had illicit origins from a clandestine dig?
“If the Italians don’t look after their own things, I’d rather have it in New York than kept somewhere where it’s not appreciated,” von Bothmer said.
Hecht showed up at the next session of his trial, on January 13, 2006, wearing a gray suit, blue shirt with light blue stripes, and a blue tie. The once-feared American dealer, known for his temper, was now a hunched eighty-six-year-old. A tweed cap covered his mostly bald and waxy head, which was fringed in gray. During the hearing, Hecht cupped his hand over his left ear to hear the proceedings, which he followed in Italian, as Pellegrini testified about his analysis of the documents and photos seized by the Carabinieri.
The morning’s questioning focused on the large kylix potted by Euphronios and painted by Onesimos, which the Getty had surrendered to Italy in 1999, fragments from which Medici had given to Ferri in a failed bid for leniency.
Pellegrini even projected on the courtroom’s movie screen a photo of Medici standing next to the kylix at the Getty during his 1987 road trip with his son Marco and Robert Hecht, wearing a yellow Lacoste tennis shirt with a white cotton sweater wrapped around his shoulders. Next in his computer slide show, Pellegrini showed a black-and-white photo taken from Medici’s archive of a fragment from the kylix. He also displayed a Polaroid of the fragment with writing on the bottom of the photograph in Medici’s hand: “Prop. P.G.M.” Proposed to the J. Paul Getty Museum.
As they went over documents in English, the chief judge even asked Hecht for help in translating the correspondence being used to prosecute him. Although Medici didn’t attend, his son, Marco, did. During a break, Hecht’s lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci, brought them together in the courthouse corridor. “Marco!” Hecht greeted the young man who was still practically a boy when they traveled together to Los Angeles and New York two decades earlier.
“It sounds like you’re having fun,” I said to Hecht, who knew he’d never do jail time under Italian law because he was far too old for incarceration.
Hecht responded in a mix of English and Italian slang. “Well, you know, perdonati, perche non sanno che facciano,” he said. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Then I asked about the Metropolitan and its talks on returning the Euphronios krater and the other objects. “If they do decide to give them back, will you give them a refund?”
“What for?” Hecht responded.
“A million bucks for the krater,” I said.
Silence. Maybe it had never occurred to Hecht that he might owe the museum a $1 million refund, plus more than three decades of interest. After a moment he came to and brushed off the question. “Che ne sappia?” he said. Who knows?
“You don’t feel one way or another that the Euphronios krater should stay in New York?” I asked.
“It’s out of my hands,” he said.
Medici’s surgery to remove his prostate went well. He spent a week in the hospital before moving back up the coast to his compound on the hill above Santa Marinella, where Maria Luisa cared for him. Even after an additional week of rest at home, the normally tanned and fit antiquities dealer was pale and thin. He’d lost his appetite, and he even gave up his customary wine with lunch. Haunted by the possibility that the cancer may have spread beyond the prostate, or that it might somehow come back, Medici told himself, “I’m sick, maybe I’ll die. Before dying, I want to see if I can put my affairs in order and not leave my family out in the street with these problems.” He thought he might have just three months, six months, or maybe a year to live.
Foremost in his mind was the 10-million-euro fine Judge Muntoni imposed in his December 2004 conviction. Practically speaking, just like Hecht, there was little chance he’d actually serve a term in Italy’s overburdened prison system, especially for a nonviolent crime, and certainly as he approached age seventy. The money was another issue and could leave his wife and kids no better off than when he started his career in the ashes of World War II. His house and Maserati were already frozen assets, ready to be taken by the state to pay his court costs. The best pieces from his collection—including the fragments of his shattered Euphronios cup—were locked away at the Villa Giulia museum in Rome. And even the hundreds of antiquities from his Geneva warehouse for which he’d been found innocent of smuggling were also sequestered in the Villa Giulia storerooms as collateral to pay off the fine.
Anticipating that he would die, perhaps sooner than later, Medici decided to make concessions in his legal case so he wouldn’t leave financial troubles for his family. He tried to set up another appointment with the government lawyers.
As Medici awaited an audience, talks between the Met and the Italian Culture Ministry progressed. Philippe De Montebello asked for details of the Italian case, and on January 12, 2006, the Italian government responded, sending the Met a dossier to back its demand that the museum return the vases, the Morgantina Silver, and the Sarpedon krater.
Those negotiations, along with the press coverage of the True trial, also helped lead the Getty to begin its own dialogue with the Italians. On January 27, 2006, Fiorilli and his committee presented Getty negotiators with a briefing on the evidence for fifty-two objects in its collection that Italy wanted returned, including artifacts of which photos had been found in Medici’s Geneva archive.
Behind the scenes, however, talks with the Met were not proceeding as well. De Montebello had said he needed “incontrovertible evidence” that the Euphronios krater and other artifacts were stolen—a standard that frustrated Fiorilli. “I thought we had an agreement,” he told me, referring to the outline of a possible deal that had come out of their first meeting. “I’m very worried.”
The museum acknowledged that it had, indeed, requested additional documentation, but there was no deal breaker in the works. With Danny Berger working both sides of the talks for each of his two employers, and the Italians sticking to their demands, the Met diffused any potential blowup by making a public offer to Italy. On February 2, 2006, the museum said it would return the disputed artifacts in its collection, including the Euphronios krater.
Three decades after Hoving defiantly defended the purchase, his successor at the Met had finally given in.
As the Italians formulated a response to the Met’s krater offer—which stipulated that Italy would reciprocate by lending the museum artworks of “equivalent beauty and importance”—Medici visited the ministry, ready to strike a deal of his own. He offered to surrender title to the objects for which he had been convicted—including the shattered Sarpedon chalice. The Italians had these items stored at the Villa Giulia museum.
He asked in return that the state drop its civil case against him and that he be given back the hundreds of objects seized in the Geneva raid for which he had been absolved, many of which were not of Italian origin. “The objects that the judge said were legally bought, these I would have to live on,” he said. He didn’t try to settle the criminal charges at the meeting—he just wanted to strike a deal that would provide for his family. The men he faced—Ferri the prosecutor, Fiorilli the lawyer, and Proietti the archaeologist—took the offer under consideration.
Even as the Met and Italy inched closer to a deal, de Montebello started sending mixed messages about his decision to return the Sarpedon krater. On February 8, 2006, he appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, where he staged what amounted to an argument against what his museum had just offered to do. First he cast doubt on whether the krater was necessarily of Italian archaeological origin. “They are found all over the Mediterranean basin,” he said of Greek vases. “The interesting thing about antiquities is they move about.”
“If indeed the story that it came from Cerveteri, which is the little town where it was meant to have been found, is true” is how he began his discussion of the Euphronios. Then he added a moment later, “There are many different stories and there are conflicting stories.”
As he sowed doubt about the krater’s illicit origins, he also raised what had been his overarching justification for a “universal museum,” such as the Met, to own such masterpieces. “The vase represents a monument of the shared heritage of mankind and the interesting issue here to a certain degree is the whole issue of when enough documentation…has come forward, new information. We became, if not convinced, at least sufficiently persuaded that it had been improperly acquired, that we felt that the right thing to do was obviously to return it,” de Montebello said of the Euphronios krater. “We on the other hand had pretty good documentation that it came from a Lebanese collection.”
Was he going back on the deal with Italy, which had not yet been signed, or was he just playing to the home audience of donors, trustees, and museumgoers? “The interesting thing is now, and this was not always the case, U.S. law recognized foreign patrimony law.”
There it was: the Schultz case was the key. Whether or not de Montebello believed there was sufficient proof the Euphronios krater was looted from Cerveteri, Italy had gotten a conviction of Medici and an indictment of Hecht for smuggling the vase. By the formula established under Schultz, an artifact was considered stolen property if another country’s laws considered it stolen. The Schultz case was based around Egypt’s 1983 antiquities law, but it also applied to the one Italy enacted in 1939.
“A number of objects are found by chance, a number of objects by peasants in their fields, others emerge out of building roads and all sorts of things and they end up on the market,” the Met’s director concluded, sticking to his guns, but also showing he could bend with the times. “Laws change, ethics change, our practices change, but not our fundamental principles.”
The interview was just the start, as de Montebello increased his attacks on the Italian side of the Euphronios negotiations. It sent a troubling signal as more and more days drifted by without the Culture Ministry responding to the Met’s offer. De Montebello, in an interview with the New York Times Magazine, predicted that the Italians would treat the krater’s return as a victory for retentionist cultural property policies motivated by “nationalism and misplaced patriotism.” “I suspect they’re more likely to show it initially as a trophy of conquest in the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, which houses the greatest collection of vases in Rome.”
With the Met offering to return its Euphronios, and Medici facing his own mortality as he recovered from his surgery, I hoped that maybe he would finally go on the record about his role in the Euphronios affair. I brought up the krater when we met for lunch in central Rome on February 17, 2006. “If someone were to ask me if Medici sold it to Hecht, I’d have to say…”
“Maybe yes,” Medici replied, finishing my sentence. But he added that whatever the truth may be, police and prosecutors had failed to discover enough evidence.
“The law needs to demonstrate my guilt,” he said. “The truth is what I can tell the priest when I go to confession. I say mea culpa, mea culpa. But now I have the right to defend myself. And my defense is to say I don’t know anything.
“When I was a child after the war, we had to do incredible things. It was called the black market. To buy bread that was one euro, you paid five euros. It wasn’t fair. It was illegal. But it was a sad and hard period,” he said. “During the 1960s and ’70s, there was a period when archaeologists, it’s amazing, they didn’t care. In Rome they sold artifacts everywhere, at stalls in the square.”
And it was out of that changing environment, from postwar lawlessness to an era when authorities turned a blind eye to the antiquities trade, that Medici had made his life and career. “I always said there should be a special law, for the past, a special amnesty, for the future,” so that history might record what really happened, Medici said. “We know the truth. We know the truth about the Euphronios krater, we know the truth about this thing or that thing.”
If such an amnesty was enacted to help record the histories lost to clandestine digging, “I’d be pleased to have my say,” he said.
When we finished lunch and started to leave, Medici brought up Hecht’s manuscript, which had been the main evidence used to convict Medici of smuggling the Sarpedon krater—and possibly to win its return. “It’s a mystery the things that he wrote,” Medici said. “I mean to say, I don’t know how an intelligent man like him wrote that and kept it in his house. And the police came. It seems like it was all a joke to him.”
Medici wasn’t quarreling with the contents of the memoir, just Hecht’s indiscretion.
Medici healed quickly after his prostate operation. Further tests showed the cancer hadn’t spread to his lymph nodes, which would have been potentially fatal. As he had done as a child after the wartime bombing, Medici seemed to cheat death.
It took forty days from the surgery to return to his daily tennis game, which he plays in the morning at public courts in Santa Marinella. In his first match, held on February 20, he beat a forty-six-year-old opponent in two sets, 6–4, 6–4. Medici was elated.
The next day, the news for Medici wasn’t as good. On February 21, 2006, the Met’s de Montebello arrived at the Culture Ministry in Rome. The museum and Italy had agreed to a deal, and de Montebello was about to sign away twenty-one objects, including Euphronios’s Sarpedon krater.
According to the terms, Italy waived any civil, administrative, or criminal claims against the museum for its acquisition and holding of the artworks. That didn’t mean, however, that Medici and Hecht had solved their own legal troubles. Having the krater back in Italy meant that prosecutors had little incentive to strike a deal with Medici to testify about the pot’s origins. At best, Medici hoped the return would reduce the fine he had to pay, on grounds that Italy had already gotten back the stolen goods.
For the signing ceremony, de Montebello and his Italian counterparts gathered at the ministry’s library, beneath the two-story-high wooden-beamed ceiling. De Montebello sat at a long table on one narrow end of the room, flanked by Italian officials. Buttiglione, the culture minister, sat directly to the Met director’s right. Giuseppe Proietti sat on the other side. Because political appointees cannot sign such agreements—only career civil servants—Proietti would sign the accord to bring back the Euphronios krater, three decades after beginning his career alongside Medici in pursuit of the pot.
The signing was a quick affair that involved news photographers crowding around the table as the men affixed their signatures in silence. Afterward, Buttiglione made a brief statement with both the expected niceties (“We’re signing an accord that opens a new era between Italy and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York”) and driving home that the motivation for Italy’s demands was preserving the “context of excavation” and working “against clandestine digging and illicit trafficking.” There was none of the Fascist nationalism de Montebello and his supporters had predicted. Although the krater was now Italy’s, the two sides had agreed the Met could hold on to the pot until January 15, 2008.
The terms of the accord would result in a net export of antiquities from Italy to the Met, including loans of antiquities made in exchange for the repatriated works, other future art loans from all periods of Italian history, and even more antiquities on long-term loan from planned joint excavations with the Met in Italy.
De Montebello spoke next, leaving behind, for the moment, the defiant tone he had taken on Charlie Rose’s show earlier in the month. “The Metropolitan is extremely pleased to have reached an agreement which puts an end to a very long and vexing dispute,” he said, citing “the emergence in recent years of new evidence” as the reason for his coming to this agreement almost thirty-four years after his predecessor had stood up to Italy’s first claims.
“The good faith in which both sides have entered into this agreement—an agreement that from our point of view corrects a number of improprieties and errors committed in the past—will pave the road to new legal and ethical norms for the future.”
If de Montebello thought he could close the door on the controversy that easily, he was mistaken. As soon as the panel opened the floor to questions from the assembled news media, another work by Euphronios reared its head: the fragmentary krater depicting Heracles that Bunker Hunt sold at his 1990 auction alongside the Sarpedon chalice. The partial krater was now the property of Leon Levy’s widow, Shelby White, but it was on loan to the Met. The Italians, led by Culture Ministry lawyer Fiorilli, had nudged de Montebello with no success to include eight vases from White’s collection in the Met’s talks, and now the journalists in Rome did some nudging themselves. A reporter from Il Messaggero asked about White’s collection.
“We are prepared to work with the ministry and with Mrs. White and with her lawyer to try to arrive at a solution to her problem. Mrs. White is eager to reach a solution and, of course, very much in the spirit of the Metropolitan’s own negotiations,” the Met’s director said.
One by one, if not piece by piece, the Euphronioses that Robert Hecht had sold decades before were most likely on their way back to Italy.
Toward the end of the press conference, a reporter from TG Lazio, the local TV news for the region surrounding Rome, asked a question that made sense to only a handful of people in the room. “Now that the Euphronios krater is being turned over to the Italian government, will the state pay the premio to compensate the owner of the land for taking the vase?” The assembled Italian officials looked at one another, perplexed, glancing back and forth across the table to see who might answer this odd question. Which of them actually knew that Giacomo Medici had owned that land not long after the krater was looted from it? The culture minister, not knowing that the journalist had asked an ironic question about Medici, tried to field this one.
“My experts say the specific patch of land isn’t known, only the zone,” Buttiglione said.
Proietti, a serene grin on his face, was the only one who didn’t seem flummoxed. Seeing that no one else knew what this was about, he raised his finger and took the microphone.
“The piece of land hasn’t been precisely identified,” he said. Anyhow, because the vase was the fruit of the illicit trade, it could hardly qualify for the reward.
Incredibly, only moments after the Met signed over title to the world’s most famous vase, Proietti admitted that he and the Italian government did not know where exactly in Cerveteri the krater had been excavated. He had led the postlooting salvage excavation at Medici’s Greppe Sant’Angelo property, but didn’t know for sure if that land was where the tombaroli had made their find.
Baffled that so little could be known about the krater’s archaeological origins, I tracked down every book and article Proietti had written about his first dig. None of them referred to a Euphronios vase having originated at the site. That meant no officials had ever conclusively placed the looting, as described by Armando Cenere, at Medici’s land.
There had to be a way to solve that mystery. Maybe Medici could help confirm that the tomb raiders had taken the pot from his little slice of Greppe Sant’Angelo. Even better, maybe I could learn the precise find spot of the Sarpedon krater. Doing so could undo the damage the tombaroli had done to the archaeological record.
For Italy and its quest for Euphronios vases, the deal with the Met was one down, but there was still one to go. The fate of the matching Sarpedon chalice still hinged on the outcome of Medici’s case, and whether the cup would revert to Medici or the Italian government.
So much had been happening that Hoving and I had never had a chance to resolve his questions about the photos of the shattered Sarpedon kylix. During an e-mail exchange on May 16, 2006, he stunned me with news about the picture of a Euphronios cup that Hecht had shown him in his office thirty-two years ear-lier:
I was able to confirm a month ago with Dietrich von Bothmer that the kylix photo we saw showed a very early rendition of Sleep and Death carting away the stiff body of Sarpedon held like a log of wood over their shoulders and that what we saw was DEFINITELY NOT what Medici bought at the Hunt sale.
That meant only one thing: a second Sarpedon chalice by Euphronios was still hidden in private hands.
Thomas Hoving had written to me in his earlier e-mails that the Hunt-Medici kylix didn’t exactly look like the one Hecht offered him in 1973, but now he had Dietrich von Bothmer backing him up that they were indeed two different pieces. My mind was spinning. I had located the lost chalice and found that it was smashed to bits in a box in Rome. Now the photos of the broken cup were leading to another mystery of yet another missing Euphronios that also depicted Sarpedon.
I wrote back to Hoving:
Neat. (Now to find the missing kylix…)
Still, I needed Hoving to explain away the evidence that there was just one cup. Von Bothmer presented a photo of a Sarpedon chalice in Philadelphia in 1972. The next year, Hecht tried to sell a Sarpedon chalice to the Met. In 1976, during his Berlin lecture, von Bothmer referred to a Sarpedon chalice (and did so again in Troy, New York). He even helped edit the Getty’s 1981 publication of the chalice, with photos. The 1990 Sotheby’s Hunt sale catalog cited von Bothmer’s 1976 article in German as the earliest published reference to the same Sarpedon cup that was up for auction—and that von Bothmer wanted to buy.
“How do you sort out which is which?” I asked Hoving.
He stuck to his recollection that the one he was offered in 1973 was smaller and not quite as well drawn as the Hunt-Medici chalice. He believed the cup Hecht showed him was the same one von Bothmer presented in Philadelphia, but he was confident the kylix that surfaced later with Bunker Hunt was different. Hoving wrote:
I am beginning to believe that it’s possible that some Euphronios-obsessed wealthy Etruscan did collect the Euphronioses Hecht-Medici dealt with, because it’s hard to explain otherwise that after so many years of Euphronios drought, at least 4 went through Medici.
By Hoving’s count, the four Euphronioses handled by Medici and Hecht were the Met’s Sarpedon krater, the fragmentary Heracles krater that McNall had sold Hunt and was now on loan to the Met from Shelby White; and, sensationally, two chalices depicting Sarpedon.
If Hoving were right, that meant there was a hitherto unknown three-piece Sarpedon set. If there really were a missing work by Euphronios floating around out there, where was it?
The next day, I met Medici for lunch, and as soon as he sat down, I asked about Hoving’s claim there was a second cup, fully expecting him to laugh. He didn’t.
“There is another kylix,” Medici said. “I know at the time there was this kylix on the market.”
Medici then launched into a story that vaguely followed Hecht’s tale involving Scandinavia. He said the kylix he bought at the Hunt auction had originated in a Swedish collection from the 1960s—a convenient provenance for Medici, who was still fighting the charge that his cup had come from Cerveteri in the 1970s. He said Hecht had bought the chalice from the Swedish collection around 1970. This second kylix was different.
“The other Sarpedon kylix is smaller,” he said. Medici said he knew this because he had seen this second Sarpedon kylix on the art market just after the eruption of the Met’s scandal with the Euphronios krater. By contrast, the depiction of Sarpedon’s death was stronger on the chalice he bought at Sotheby’s, and it was also an older work by Euphronios.
I sent Hoving an e-mail right after lunch, telling him that Medici had recalled there were two cups, almost exactly as he and von Bothmer had. But there were some discrepancies, including Medici’s belief that the Hunt kylix was older than this other, smaller cup.
Hoving replied: “The smaller kylix (I presume Hecht still has it along with the Sarrafian pieces) was exquisitely drawn with all the tiniest details in the correct overlap positions.” However, he and von Bothmer believed it came from the hand of a young painter because, “the body of Sarpedon was rather small and looked like a log of wood on their shoulders. Someone not fully trained in dating styles—Giacomo—might have only looked at the exceptional craftsmanship” and thought the cup was a later work.
He added that the kylix Medici had bought from Hunt was “at least, even more powerful as a drama” than the Met’s Euphronios krater, “for there’s a great deal more poignant action in the act of lifting the body with some difficulty from the ground” than just beginning to lift it.
Maybe Hecht could clear up some of this—if he was in the mood to speak honestly and openly. It would be incredible if there really were a previously unknown, missing Sarpedon chalice by Euphronios.
Had Hecht actually offered one such cup to Hoving in 1973 and then a similar, but different one, seven years later to Bunker Hunt? If so, it’s possible the two chalices had become conflated in the academic literature because nobody had ever published photos of the one Hecht offered to Hoving at the Met.
If, as Hoving believed, Hecht was still holding on to this other Sarpedon cup, Hecht might be the only one who knew this.
I next found Hecht, on November 31, 2006, sitting in the fixed row of metal chairs outside the courtroom door at the Rome Tribunal. I asked him directly: how many Euphronios kylixes, decorated with Sarpedon, had he ever seen?
“One,” he said.
I told him about Hoving’s theory and about von Bothmer’s belief that the chalice Medici bought at the Hunt auction wasn’t the same one Hecht had offered to sell the Met in 1973.
“My knowledge is limited,” Hecht responded, neither confirming nor denying Hoving’s new twist. Then he just went silent.