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The Medici Conspiracy : The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums - Peter Watson

The Medici Conspiracy

The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums


Published: 12th June 2007
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Featuring a rich cast of rogues and some of the world's most prestigious art institutions, this true-life thriller completely exposes the network behind the illegal trade in ancient artefacts.

The story begins, as stories do in all good thrillers, with a botched robbery and a police chase. Eight Apuleian vases of the fourth century BC are discovered in the swimming pool of a German-based art smuggler. More valuable than the recovery of the vases, however, is the discovery of the smuggler's card index detailing his deals and dealers.

It reveals the existence of a web of tombaroli - tomb raiders - who steal classical artefacts, and a network of dealers and smugglers who spirit them out of Italy and into the hands of wealthy collectors and museums. Peter Watson, a former investigative journalist for "The Sunday Times", and author of two previous exposes of art world scandals, names the key figures in this network that has depleted Europe's classical artefacts.

As an expert witness in the trial of Giacomo Medici, the antiquities dealer who is the linchpin of the story, Watson was given access to hundreds of thousands of documents, objects and photographs that paint the only full picture of this shady underworld. Among the loot are the irreplaceable and highly collectable vases of Euphronius, the equivalent in their field of the sculpture of Bernini, or the painting of Michelangelo. The narrative leads to the doors of some major institutions including Sotheby's, the Getty Museum in LA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Filled with great characters and human drama, The Medici Conspiracy authoritatively exposes another shameful round in one of the oldest games in the world: theft, smuggling and duplicitous dealing, all in the name of art. It is repackaged to emphasise the investigative thriller aspects of the book. It is updated with a new chapter about the Greek antiquities scandal. Scandals in the antiquities trade are far from over - the Marion True court case has yet to be resolved, creating continuing news and publicity stories.

About the Authors

Peter Watson writes for the New York Times, and has written weekly columns for The Times, Observer and Evening Standard. In June 1997 he was appointed Research Associate at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University. He is the author of The Caravaggio Conspiracy : From Manet to Manhattan (0-1400-7635-2), and Sotheby's : The Inside Story (0-7475-3808-5).

Cecilia Todeschini is a researcher and translator who has worked for the BBC, ITV, CBS, ABS and NBC. She has covered papal conclaves and the great mafia trials in Italy among many other subjects.

"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, pacey and accessible read." The Guardian "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... At times the tale is as complex as The Da Vinci Code, but this time the cast is composed of real characters. This is not fiction.... 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 "Watson combines methodical research with the tension of a thriller and genuine passion for his subject." Scotland on Sunday "(B)rilliant... This real-life conspiracy should oust The Da Vinci Code from every bookshelf" New Scientist "(G)ripping... As a portrait of venality, The Medici Conspiracy is both shocking and compelling." The Observer "Reading almost like a thriller at times, this is an exciting expose of a huge criminal trade." Publishing News"

Authors' Notep. vii
Prologue on Fifth Avenuep. ix
Operation Geryonp. 1
Sotheby's, Switzerland, Smugglersp. 25
Connoisseurs and Criminals-the Passion for Greek Vasesp. 33
Corridor 17p. 48
Forensic Archaeology in the Freeportp. 53
The Paper Trail, the Polaroids, and the "Cordata"p. 66
The Getty-the "Museum of the Tombaroli"p. 80
The Metropolitan in New York and Other Rogue Museumsp. 100
"Collectors Are the Real Looters"p. 112
The Laundries of London and New Yorkp. 135
Phone Taps and the Great Rumorp. 146
The Paris Raid on Robert Hechtp. 156
Raids in Zurich and Geneva, Arrest and Interrogations in Cyprus and Berlinp. 182
Interrogations in Los Angeles and Manhattanp. 203
The Puzzle of the "Orphans"p. 222
The "Cordata" Continues-in Egypt, Greece, Israel, and Oxfordp. 230
The Fall of Robin Symesp. 248
The Woodcutter's Archivep. 265
The Trial of Giacomo Medicip. 269
Trading with Japan, Trials in Romep. 284
Operation Eclipsep. 306
Conclusion: $500 Million + 100,000 Looted Tombs = Chippindale's Lawp. 325
Epilogue on Fifth Avenuep. 353
Acknowledgments and Dedicationp. 360
Dossierp. 361
Notesp. 384
Indexp. 391

ISBN: 9781586484385
ISBN-10: 1586484389
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 407
Published: 12th June 2007
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.0 x 14.0  x 3.1
Weight (kg): 0.395
Edition Number: 1