London antiquities dealer James Ede is handing back a rare bronze statuette – stolen from Samos Museum during the Second World War – to Greece.
It is an expensive gesture for Mr Ede, head of Charles Ede Ltd, chairman of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art and vice-chairman of the Antiquities Dealers Association. Had he sold the statuette, he could have expected to make £30,000, and despite being entitled to – and offered – a reward for its return, he has turned down any payment from the Greek Government.
The story came to light after Mr Ede bought the early sixth century BC solid cast-bronze statuette of a Greek youth, of a type known as Kouros, from the widow of a Greek collector who had lived in Switzerland for many years.
The collector acquired it on the European art market in the 1950s or 60s and Mr Ede has no doubt that he had done so in good faith.
Returning to London, Mr Ede showed the statuette and other pieces from the collection to Dr John Prag of the Manchester Museum. The following day Dr Prag alerted him to the fact that the piece was published in 1942 by Gisela Richter in her definitive work Kouroi. Further research revealed Richter used pictures first published in 1934 and the statuette’s museum inventory number was Samos B.89. At that time the Samos Museum catalogue was maintained by the German Institute of Archaeology, who had first photographed the piece in 1927.
It seemed clear that the statuette had been removed from the museum during the war and when Mr Ede contacted Dr Victoria Solom-onides, the cultural counsellor at the Greek Embassy, she confirmed the fact.