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Quid Pro Quo: Etruscan Tomb Art Comes To The DMA

by Jerome Weeks 31 Oct 2013 9:36 AM

Last year, the DMA returned ownership of six items to Italy, once evidence was found indicating they were looted. Tomorrow, the museum puts on display seven ancient Etruscan art objects – part of the ongoing collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Culture.


Spina installation wide_2

L to r, bottom: Red-Figure Oinochoe, Polynices Offering a Necklace to Eriphyle; Red-Figure Oinochoe, Young Woman Running; Fibula (Safety Pin); Alabastron (Perfume Vase); Red-Figure Bell Krater, Theseus and Sinis; Red-Figure Kylix, Hero or God at a Tree. Top: Bronze Statuette of a Man. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Arts.

Last year, the Dallas Museum of Art returned ownership of six objects to Italy when evidence indicated they’d been looted years earlier. The objects included three kraters (large vases for mixing wine and water) as well as bronze shields — but they remain on display at the DMA as part of an ongoing partnership with Italian authorities.

And tomorrow, the DMA puts on display a set of 5th century B.C. objects from the ancient Etruscan city of Spina — on a long-term loan from Italy. The transfer marks the “official signing of a memorandum of understanding” about continued collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Culture, says the DMA press release. The artworks, including a 5th century B.C. silver fibula (safety pin or brooch), four Attic red-figure vases and an alabaster vessel, come from a grave in Spina discovered in 1926 — and this is the first time they’ve been loaned or put on display. This is all part of DMX, the museum’s cultural exchange program.

Perhaps the most impressive thing, though, as this AP story reports: The Italians did not have to threaten the DMA with lawsuits, as they’ve been forced to with other American institutions. “Director Maxwell Anderson spontaneously offered to return the items after the museum couldn’t determine their provenance.”

The full release is below.




DMA and Italian Officials Sign Agreement to Continue Long-Term Partnership

October 31, 2013 Dallas, TX — A set of art objects from a 5th-century B.C. burial site in Spina, Italy, which have never previously been displayed or loaned, will go on view at the Dallas Museum of Art tomorrow. The exhibition is the first display of this excavated tomb since its discovery almost a century ago, and features four Attic red-figure vases, dating from 470–400 B.C., a 5th-century B.C. silver fibula, a bronze statuette from the latter half of the 5th century B.C., and an alabaster vessel. The works will remain on view through 2017 in the Museum’s second floor galleries.

The group was discovered together in the summer of 1926 in a grave at Spina, one of 4,000 tombs excavated in the ancient Etruscan city since 1922. The works will make their world debut at the DMA as part of the Museum’s cultural exchange program, DMX, which is designed to establish collaborations for the loans of works of art and sharing of expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, and new media. The program promotes cross-cultural dialogue and provides audiences at home and abroad with expanded access to artworks that span time period and culture.

This collaboration with Italian authorities is part of an ongoing partnership that began in 2012, when the DMA transferred ownership of six objects in its collection to Italy in recognition of evidence attesting to their being looted several years earlier. The transfer was completed in collaboration with the Foundation for the Arts and Munger Fund, which held ownership of three of the works for the benefit of the Museum. Those objects, which include three kraters, dating from the 4th century B.C., a pair of bronze shields from the 6th century B.C., and a head of an antefix, an architectural decoration for a tiled roof, dating from the 6th century B.C., remain on long-term view at the DMA. The loan of art from Spina marks the official signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Ministry of Culture, which emphasizes continued collaboration between the Museum and Italian officials.

“We are honored to cement a partnership with our Italian colleagues and grateful for the opportunity to bring this group of works from Spina to audiences in Dallas and to those visiting our city. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to display these objects together, and to highlight their combined role in ancient funerary practices,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “In our digital society, access to cultural knowledge is ever growing. The DMX program builds on the possibilities of access by nurturing a collaborative approach to the exchange and presentation of artworks and expanding dialogue on cultural heritage—not just among cultural institutions but with our communities through the exhibition of a diverse range of artworks.”

The Italian Minister for Cultural Assets, Activities and Tourism, Massimo Bray, announced: “I am particularly pleased about the successful outcome of the negotiations that led to the return of six objects whose provenance was in question. I am, moreover, satisfied that we are able to offer a splendid long-term loan from the tomb and contents found in the Necropolis of Spina, now conserved in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Ferrara, which will offer to the viewing public in the United States a group of important archaeological objects in context. While thanking the Director of the DMA, Maxwell Anderson, for his high moral approach in resolving the problem, I would also like to take this occasion to thank the persons, on both sides, whose tireless work contributed to the signing of this important Cultural Agreement. ”

Under Anderson’s leadership, the DMA has expanded its focus on access through a number of initiatives in addition to the DMX program. Through its DMA Friends membership program, which the Museum launched in January 2012, anyone who wishes to join the Museum may do so for free. The membership includes opportunities for increased access to Museum programs and staff through an à la carte rewards system determined by active participation. Earlier this year, the DMA received an IMLS grant to research opportunities to extend the program to other institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The DMA has also expanded its conservation program with the opening of a new conservation studio and gallery, which focuses on new research opportunities and allows audiences to view the conservation process live through a large glass wall. The Museum also previously launched the Laboratory for Museum Innovation with seed capital to develop collaborative pilot projects in the areas of collection access, visitor engagement, and digital publishing.

The DMX program was launched in October 2012 with the appointment of Sabiha Al Khemir as the Museum’s first Senior Advisor of Islamic Art. Al Khemir, the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, supports Anderson and senior staff in building the Museum’s DMX partnerships. Last December, the Museum signed a memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Director General for Cultural Heritage and Museums, O. Murat Süslü, marking the first initiative of the program. Al Khemir and Anderson are continuing to travel worldwide to further the Museum’s connections with the great collections of Islamic art. They are presently in conversations with officials from Indonesia as well as several other countries.

About the Burial Objects

The objects come from Tomb 512 of the necropolis of the ancient Etruscan city of Spina. The city was located at the mouth of the River Po, and its cemeteries were located on the top of some coastal strips of land created by river debris. The cemeteries were in two different areas: Valle Pega and Valle Trebba. This tomb was located at Valle Trebba. The set of grave goods delineate the social status of the deceased person and reaffirm the person’s familial role in the community. The objects on view include:

• an oinochoe (wine jug) by the Shuvalov Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 435–430 B.C. depicts the mythical figure Polynices offering a necklace to Eriphyle, who is seated before him;

• an oinochoe by the Eretria Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 470 B.C. depicts a woman running to the left;

• a kylix (drinking cup) by the Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure kylix from the end of the 5th century B.C. shows a hero or god, perhaps Attis, standing by a tree;

• a bell krater by the Sini Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure krater from 420–400 B.C. shows Theseus punishing Sinis for his cruel ruse against passersby; two ephebes are on the other side of the vase;

• an Etruscan silver fibula from the second half of the 5th century B.C.;

• an Etruscan bronze statuette from the second half of the 5th century B.C.; and

• an alabaster alabastron, a container for perfume and unguents.


About the Dallas Museum of Art

Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 22,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. In January 2013, the DMA returned to a free general admission policy and launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program in the country.


The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Partners and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.