Investigators Seize (More) Antiques From Hedge-Fund Billionaire Michael Steinhardt’s Collection

The Manhattan DA's office is cracking down on illicit antiquities trafficking.

Billionaire Michael H. Steinhardt in 2004. Photo: Evan Agostini/Getty Images.

Investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office seized at least nine works of suspected looted ancient art from the home and office of retired hedge-fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt on Friday, the New York Times reports.

The seizure is the latest chapter in a recent crackdown on antiquities trafficking led by district attorney Cyrus R. Vance. He established a dedicated unit to address looted art last month and it has already led to a number of high-profile seizures from museums, auction houses, and private collections.

Ceremonial Greek oil vessel featuring a funerary scene. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan district attorney.

Steinhardt spent approximately $1.1 million over the last 12 years on the antiquities that were confiscated from his private collection, according to documents. The items include a ceremonial Greek oil vessel (purchased for $380,000); a pair of proto-Corinthian figures in the shape of an owl and duck ($250,000); an Apulian terra-cotta flask in the shape of an African head from the 4th century B.C. ($130,000); an Ionian sculpture of a Ram’s head from the 6th century ($70,000); and an Attic perfume vessel from the 5th century ($25,000). The filings say Steinhardt could face charges of criminal possession of stolen property.

Apulian terra-cotta flask in the shape of an African head from the 4th century B.C. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan district attorney.

Last month, the US repatriated two Eshamun sculptures seized from Steinhardt’s collection after investigators discovered they were stolen during the Lebanese civil war. Last summer, a 2,300-year-old marble bull’s head on loan from the collector to the Metropolitan Museum of Art was also taken into custody by prosecutors after it was suspected of having been looted.

Ionian sculpture of a Ram’s head from the 6th century. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan district attorney.

Steinhardt is one of the most prolific American buyers of ancient art, having collected antiquities for over 30 years. He also enjoys close philanthropical ties to the Metropolitan Museum, where a gallery Greek art from the 6th century B.C. is named after him. This latest case reinforces the hazards of collecting ancient art, where provenance can be murky and even the most careful collectors can have difficulty piecing together the provenance of certain artworks and artifacts.


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