How does a 2,500-year-old Roman artifact, dug up illegally by antiquities poachers in Italy, find its way into the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art?
That question has been on a lot of people's minds after last weeks surprise admission by the Met that its prized "Euphronios krater," which had been acquired in 1971 under mysterious circumstances, was stolen property and was being relinquished to Italy. Enter the New York Times, which has actually been involved in the story for thirty years.
The initial $1 million dollar purchase of the krater by the Met, from an anonymous owner, was met with great fanfare by the museum. It's quality is such that the museums' curator of Greek and Roman art at the time said that "the histories of art will have to be rewritten." It was so good that the Times' chief art critic, John Canaday, was suspicious, leading him to write a memo to Arthur Gelb, then the Metro editor, saying as much. Gelb put reporter Nicholas Gage on the case which he slowly unraveled into a classic story of greed, antiquities and international intrigue. All that seems to be missing is Indiana Jones.
Close up from the Met's Object page