Italian police suspended this Thursday an auction of Mexican archaeological goods that was taking place in Rome, at the Casa Bertolami Fine Arts. In addition to blocking the sale of the pieces, they prevented the delivery of those that had already been assigned and secured 17 objects that, “immediately, will be put to a ruling on their illicit origin” to, where appropriate, be returned to the country, they reported officers of that corporation.
Under the command of Commander Roberto Riccardi, one of the main combatants in the illicit trafficking of cultural property in Italy, the action was carried out after the Mexican embassy expressed to the Italian authorities its “astonishment, indignation and firm protest” at the announcement. of the auction.
“These types of sales damage the cultural and historical heritage of Mexico and humanity. The pieces are taken out of context and are trafficked as decorative objects, leaving aside all their historical and cultural value, ”argued the diplomatic representation in statements posted on their social networks on the morning of September 16.
They added that regarding the legality of the auction of the Casa Bertolami, “since 1934 Mexican legislation prohibits the departure of said assets from the country. By not having export certificates, it is understood that these are pieces stolen illegally from Mexico. Therefore, the Mexican embassy in Italy expresses its surprise and firm protest and alerts potential buyers that these are stolen pieces in the case of those of pre-Hispanic origin. Or counterfeits in the case of recently manufactured parts. “
An opinion made by Alejandro Bautista, an archaeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) determined that only 17 of the 31 pieces grouped in 13 lots belong to the Mexican national heritage. In total, the Italian auction house wanted to get a little more than 2,300 euros from the sale of these objects.
Although it is not an onerous sum, it is the first time that authorities of a European country have stopped a sale of Mesoamerican archaeological works, in response to the multiple protests that the government of Mexico has made against these auctions.
The INAH opinion details that it was Lieutenant Pompeo Micheli, a member of the Carabinieri Command for the protection of the cultural heritage of Italy, who asked that institute to carry out an opinion on archeology based on the review of the images of the pieces announced as pre-Hispanic from Mexico in the auction catalog to be held on Thursday at noon (Italian time) by the Casa Bertolami Fine Arts. ( https://auctions.bertolamifinearts.com/it/lot/108143/olla-policroma-con-protomi-plastichemessico-/ )
Various origins and periods
After consulting various archaeologists and reviewing the pertinent bibliography, it was determined that the two anthropomorphic clay figures from lot 81 come from the Gulf of Mexico coast, specifically from the center of Veracruz, of Totonac cultural affiliation, made in the Mesoamerican classical period ( 400–900 AD).
Among the recovered pieces there is also a clay tripod bowl, modeled and painted that comes from Western Mexico, specifically from the region of Michoacán, of Tarascan cultural affiliation, made in the Mesoamerican post-classical period (1200-1521 AD), which reached a figure in the sale of 340 euros.
Also recovered were a clay pot with designs painted in red on brown on the outside and two zoomorphic representations on the rim, from western Mexico, of Coyotlatelan cultural affiliation (early postclassic period 900–1200 AD), and an effigy pot of clay, which due to its morphological and stylistic characteristics also comes from western Mexico, in the Tumbas de Tiro style (Mesoamerican classical period (200–900 AD).
The opinion includes an appraisal in euros and Mexican pesos, “established based on the maximum value indicated in each lot by the auctioneer, since it is not possible to assign an economic price to this type of goods, since they are out of the trade. in accordance with the Federal Law on Monuments and Archaeological, Artistic and Historical Zones ”, the document clarifies.
INAH specialists reveal that Bertolami Fine Arts offered a lot made up of five figurine fragments and a clay seal as originating from Teotihuacan, when in reality “they are archaeological goods that come from the territory that Ecuador currently occupies, in the Bahia style. and Chorrera ”, as well as an effigy pot made of clay that he attributed to the Nayarit area, when,“ due to its morphological and stylistic characteristics, it is a piece of pre-Columbian origin made in the territory currently occupied by Peru, in the Moche style ”.
Most of the pieces come from the collection of Maria Pia e Amintore Fanfani, the latter wealthy and influential Italian politician who died in 1999, founder of the conservative Christian Democracy party, and once considered the most powerful man in his country after Mussolini.