Irene Bald Romano’s Research on the Fate of Antiquities in the Nazi Era

May 20, 2022

Professor of Anthropology and Art History and Curator of Mediterranean Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum, Irene Bald Romano, gave a lecture at the German Embassy in Washington D.C. on May 2 on “The Fate of Antiquities in the Nazi Era: Status Update.” She summarized her research findings and those of a group of American, German, Italian, French, Polish, and Greek scholars who are contributing to a monograph on this subject, edited by Romano, to be published in 2022 as a Special Issue of RIHA Journal (Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art), in collaboration with the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, and the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich. In connection with her research on this subject, Romano has been instrumental in effecting a recent repatriation to Italy. In a five-month period in 1944 when the Nazi agency assigned to cultural protection (Kunstschutz) was moving collections from regional museums and deposits in southern Italy to Rome, selected artifacts that had been excavated in 1931 at the ancient site of Minturnae in the region of Campania were plundered, with some sent to Germany. A late Roman marble portrait head found in those excavations and published in a 1938 catalogue of the sculpture finds was purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MFA) in 1961 from the dealership Münzen und Medaillen in Basel. Romano shared evidence with the Provenance Department at the MFA that the sculpture was from Minturnae and almost certainly plundered during the war. The MFA deaccessioned it in October 2020 and announced its transfer to Italy on April 28, 2022. There was press coverage of this following a press release issued by the MFA: