Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Robert E. Hecht, 92, Dealer in Antiquities

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Robert E. Hecht, 92, Dealer in Antiquities

Article excerpt

Robert E. Hecht, a U.S. expatriate antiquities dealer who skipped in and out of trouble for much of his career, weathering accusations that he trafficked in illicit artifacts, died Wednesday at his home in Paris.

Robert E. Hecht, an American expatriate antiquities dealer who skipped in and out of trouble for much of his career, weathering accusations that he trafficked in illicit artifacts, including a 2,500-year-old Greek vase that he sold for more than $1 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, died Wednesday at his home in Paris. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Elizabeth.

An urbane world traveler with an often coy and seemingly imperturbable manner, Mr. Hecht began running afoul of the authorities in the early 1960s, when he was accused of dealing in looted art in Italy and smuggling coins out of Turkey.

In the case of the Greek vase, sold to the Metropolitan in 1972, an Italian judge, acting on a claim that it had been looted from an excavation site near Rome, issued a warrant for Mr. Hecht's arrest; the warrant was subsequently revoked.

"I have never been involved in the illegal exportation of art objects," Mr. Hecht said to The New York Times in 1973, adding, "I have never spent one minute in a cell."

The controversy over the vase -- a vessel known as a krater that was used to mix wine and water and was painted and signed by the artist Euphronios in the late sixth century B.C. -- lingered for more than 30 years, with claims and counterclaims and conflicting testimony.

Mr. Hecht repeatedly said he had handled the sale of the krater on behalf of its owner, a Lebanese coin dealer whose family had acquired it in 1920. The Italian authorities maintained that it had been illegally dug up and smuggled from an Etruscan tomb in Cerveteri, just northwest of Rome, in 1971.

The Met returned the Euphronios krater to Italy in 2008. By that time, Mr. Hecht had long been under suspicion of involvement in a conspiracy to steer looted artifacts through illicit channels to museums, including the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The investigation began in the 1990s, when a raid on two Swiss warehouses used by Mr. Hecht and one of his alleged conspirators, an Italian dealer named Giacomo Medici, turned up photographs of dirt- encrusted artifacts.

Italian officials said the photographs indicated that Mr. Hecht knew he was trafficking in newly -- and illegally -- unearthed treasures. …

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