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Press release

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Republic of Italy, Sicilian Region, Announce New Reciprocal Loan Agreement

(New York, May 11, 2023)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today a new collaborative agreement with the Republic of Italy, Sicilian Region, that provides for long-term loans of ancient masterpieces to the Museum and the exchange of three-year loans between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Archaeological Regional Museum “Antonino Salinas” of Palermo. The agreement follows decades of successful collaboration between the Museum and the Republic of Italy.

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art is honored to deepen its long-standing collaboration with the Republic of Italy through this new agreement, which enables us to showcase ancient treasures with audiences and scholars here in New York and in Palermo,” said Max Hollein, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Marina Kellen French Director. 

Seán Hemingway, John A. and Carole O. Moran Curator in Charge of the Department of Greek and Roman Art at The Met, stated, “This exchange of important loans heralds a new era of collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Archaeological Museum ‘Antonino Salinas’ in Palermo. I look forward to furthering our partnership with new projects in the years to come.”  

Caterina Greco, Director of the Archaeological Regional Museum “Antonino Salinas” of Palermo, added, “The collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art consolidates the important role that the Salinas Museum has taken on in recent years in the context of relations between international cultural institutions—relations that, in addition to the exchange of works, aim to build ‘scientific communities’ inspired by criteria of authentic reciprocity.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art now has on display a selection of important objects from the “Antonino Salinas” Museum that will be on view for the next three years. The arrangement highlights the significance of Sicily’s ancient cultural heritage and enhances The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s presentation of the art of major Greek regions during the Archaic period. The three current loans are: a temple limestone metope (ca. 480–470 B.C.); a terracotta altar, or arula (first quarter of the 5th century B.C.); and a carved marble lamp (early 6th century B.C.). All come from early excavations at Selinus (present-day Selinunte), an ancient Greek colonial city in Sicily, and call attention to a significant site that has been excavated since 2006 by New York University Institute of Fine Arts in collaboration with the Sicilian Region. Since the 19th century, Selinus’ remains have been renowned for their impressive architecture, which features some of the earliest sculptural metopes known in the Greek world. 

In exchange for the objects from Sicily, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Greek and Roman Art has lent four outstanding Cypriot jugs to the “Antonino Salinas” Museum. These objects, from the Cesnola collection of Cypriot art, date back to ca. 750–600 B.C. Two of them show Assyrian and Phoenician influence, with scenes centered on the sacred tree represented as a monumental lotos ornament. On one (74.51.509), it is flanked by human figures in long, elaborately embellished garments, each facing an outsize flying bird. On the other (74.51.510), the sacred tree is flanked by similar birds and by stags. Both vases may have been decorated by the same artist. The two other vessels are in the “free field” style, with a single central motif. The depiction of a merchant sailing ship (74.51.511) is of exceptional significance. The rider on horseback (74.51.539) may be an acrobat. 

Other major agreements between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Italy include the 2006 agreement in which the Museum transferred title and returned 21 antiquities to Italy, including the famous Euphronios krater. Rotating loans of important Greek vases have been displayed at the Museum since that time. At present, the Museum is delighted to exhibit an exceptional drinking cup from the Archaeological Museum of Florence (L.2019.54). The landmark agreement of 2006 included a group of 16 outstanding silver vessels of the Hellenistic period (3rd century B.C.), bought in good faith by The Met in 1981 and 1982, for return to Sicily. The group’s reputed place of discovery was near Morgantina. As part of the agreement, the custody of these superb objects—the so-called Morgantina Treasure—was to be shared between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Sicilian Region on a rotating basis every four years. Accordingly, the objects remained on display at the Museum until 2010, then traveled to the Archaeological Museum of Aidone, near Morgantina. The latest presentation was between 2015 and 2019, including their display in the award-winning special exhibition Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World in 2016. Considering the importance of the silver vessels to the museum of Aidone, in which the objects are housed, and especially acknowledging the fragility of the precious artifacts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Republic of Italy, Sicilian Region, recently agreed to suspend the rotating agreement in order to allow the objects to remain at the Archeological Museum of Aidone. 

About the Loans from the Archaeological Regional Museum “Antonio Salinas” 
The metope on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art was discovered in 1890 and once belonged to an unknown temple on the Acropolis. Carved in relief, it depicts Eos, goddess of the dawn, enticing the handsome youth Kephalos. The scene captures the moment before his abduction, as shown on the arula, also on loan. Scenes of Eos chasing young men are widespread in Greek vase painting, but the use of the theme for architectural decoration and arulae is unique to Sicily. The terracotta arula and marble lamp were discovered in 1905 and 1903, respectively, in a rural sanctuary about half a mile to the west of Selinus’ Acropolis that was dedicated to the agricultural goddess Demeter Malophoros. Both objects probably served in rituals and were likely offered as votive dedications as well. The unusual marble lamp, one of four examples known from the sanctuary, with a nozzle in the shape of a female head, may have been lit during religious rites related to the cult of Demeter. Carved from marble quarried on the Greek islands, these lamps were probably made in Greece and exported across the Mediterranean. The lamp from Selinus has a counterpart in the same gallery (06.1072). It shows real and imaginary animals carved in low relief and is completed with a fragment on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (L.1974.44). 


May 11, 2023

Contact: Alexandra Kozlakowski


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