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Authors: Peter Watson

The Medici Conspiracy

BOOK: The Medici Conspiracy
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
Praise for
The Medici Conspiracy
“Written like a classic crime story, this true-life tale kicks off with a botched robbery and police chase. Authorities raid the villa of a Munich-based antiquarian to discover a collection of [fourth] century B.C. vases soaking off encrustations—and traces of theft—in a . . . swimming pool full of water and caustic chemicals. As the plot thickens, a cast of crooked art dealers, shady collectors, and formidable art institutions are implicated in an investigation that steers Italy's Art Squad to a Geneva warehouse filled with looted national treasures. The warehouse's owner? Giacomo Medici, Italy's most nefarious art dealer. With one of the book's main players, Marion True, the J. Paul Getty Museum's former antiquities curator, on trial for conspiring to purchase stolen antiquities . . . even the timing of this book is a work of art.”
—
TIME
(Europe), named one of the ten best books of 2006
 
“This is a devastating charge, and anyone with an interest in ancient art and archaeology will want to examine it carefully . . . [the] book provides the most comprehensive account yet of the investigation that led to True's trial, and contains much that will be of interest to anyone trying to understand the underground antiquities market and what should be done about it.... Watson and Todeschini are at their best in describing the detective work that led Italy's special art police unit to Medici's warehouses and then to Robert Hecht and other dealers.”
—
The New York Review of Books
 
“Gripping. . . . As a portrait of venality,
The Medici Conspiracy
is both shocking and compelling.”
—
The Observer
(UK)
 

The Medici Conspiracy
is not, as its title might suggest, an allusion to historical Florentine intrigue—though the tale is worthy of such a connection.... Written like a detective story . . . the book is a thoroughly researched . . . and accessible read.”
—
The Guardian
(UK)
 

The Medici Conspiracy
documents convincingly—indeed takes the lid off—the extraordinary way that some of the world's most famous museums, aided by some of the most prominent collectors, have paid corrupt dealers millions of dollars to obtain notable antiquities looted from ancient sites in Italy and beyond and then illegally exported.... Watson and Todeschini have written a fascinating account of conspiracy and corruption in high places. It will rock the world of the complacent collectors who ask no questions. It shows how several museums have undermined their own reputations. And it is a rattling good read.”
—
The Evening Standard
 
“[A] gripping crime story of epic proportions.”
 
“Writing with the zest and seduction of the finest crime novelists, Watson and Todeschini . . . offer an invaluable primer in antiquities . . . [and] a dramatic, fascinating, and rightfully indignant report on outrageous avarice and crimes against civilization.”
—
Booklist
STARRED* review
 
“In light of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's recent decision to return a rare—and by the Italian government's contention, stolen—vase painted by the Greek master Euphronios, Watson and Todeschini's colorful account of Giacomo Medici, an antiquities dealer found guilty of looting last year, and his illegal business dealings, is wonderfully prescient . . . they are at their best when chronicling the international adventures of various investigators, such as the Carabinieri Art Squad's raids on various Italian criminals to recover lost loot.”
—
Publishers Weekly
 
“Giacomo Medici's international criminal network stretched from Italian tombaroli looting antiquities under cover of darkness to fraudulent dealers and high-profile institutions such as Sotheby's and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Watson and Todeschini combine methodical research with the tension of a thriller and genuine passion for their subject. They explain the tricks resorted to by smugglers and write movingly of the loss of our archaeological heritage caused by the careless dismantling of ancient sites. The Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas caused international outrage, but Watson and Todeschini suggest that comparable damage is being done across the world every day.”
—
Scotland on Sunday
 
“This is not about
the
Medici but Giacomo Medici, the spider in the middle of a web of illegal art smuggling. The looting of tombs and archaeological sites is big business in Italy and, as Watson and Todeschini's book shows, some very important institutions have been caught buying the looted goods. They are particularly good at showing just what is lost when an archaeological site is compromised—beautiful objects without provenance [are] another clue to history lost. Reading almost like a thriller at times, this is an exciting exposé of a huge criminal trade.”
—
Publishing News
 
“This title, which combines art history with the pace of a crime thriller, exposes the illegal trade in ancient artifacts and provides a useful background to trials currently taking place. Together, the authors reveal how looted objects have appeared in some of the most prestigious museums in the world.”
—
The Bookseller
 
“Like a good crime novel, the pace is fast. The evolving plot is intriguingly complex. The villains are highly organized and unrepentant. The evidence is convincing, some beyond reasonable doubt. The goods are high-quality treasures and the handlers' profits enormous. The
modi operandi
include guns, chainsaws, ceramic bashing, charm, and threats.... The crimes against heritage involve reckless, intentional, and permanently depriving behaviour . . . the authors spare no punches—the antiquities market [is] stripped bare.”
—
British Journal of Criminology
 
“A ‘true-life thriller' rich in documentation and proof.”
—
Corriere della Sera
(Milan, Italy)
 
“Virtue prevails, as it must: and that is the story of this book. It is argued with a force comparable to the wrath of Cicero arraigning Verres, the rascal among connoisseurs in Late Republican times.... We join Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini in condemning the scrabblers and raiders who have supplied the demand . . .”
—
Times Literary Supplement
 
“[A] landmark exposé…”
—
American Journal of Archaeology
AUTHORS' NOTE
THIS IS A BOOK about art, about the great passions it arouses and the crimes those passions can lead to. In particular it is about very beautiful ancient sculptures and exquisitely painted Greek and Etruscan vases, art works that tell us so much about the great civilizations of the classical world, which are the foundation of the West. It is also about an ugly conspiracy to rip these grand and important objects from the ground and smuggle them abroad. It proves beyond doubt for the first time that a good number of the antiquities in many of our most prestigious museums, and held in the best-known collections, have been illegally excavated and passed through the hands of corrupt dealers, curators, and auction houses, shaming us all. The conspiracy has been the subject of painstaking investigations by the Italian authorities that have led to a series of groundbreaking trials that have shaken the world of archaeology and antiquities-trading to its core.
For this paperback edition, one or two errors have been corrected, and the text has been updated to take account of events since hardback publication in Spring 2006. This includes an entirely new chapter (Chapter 21) on important revelations in Greece.
PROLOGUE ON FIFTH AVENUE
BOOK: The Medici Conspiracy
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