Over $1m of art seized from home of prominent New York philanthropist

The art, worth a total of more than $1 million, is believed by prosecutors to have been looted from Greece and Italy.

January 8, 2018 09:47
1 minute read.
Police chat near a patrol car

Police chat near a patrol car . (photo credit: MARK PROBST / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Several pieces of ancient art were seized from the office and home of billionaire philanthropist Michael Steinhardt.

The art, worth a total of more than $1 million, is believed by prosecutors to have been looted from Greece and Italy, the New York Times reported Friday. Steinhardt, co-founder of the Birthright program and a major donor to Jewish and Israel causes, is an avid and long-time collector of art from ancient Greece.

The raids are part of a push by New York district attorney Cyrus Vance to return stolen antiquities found in New York City to their countries of origin.

In recent months Vance has overseen the return of three ancient statues to Lebanon, a mosaic from one of Caligula’s ships to Italy, and a second-century Buddhist sculpture to Pakistan, according to the Times.

Among the pieces reported seized from Steinhardt’s home and office are: a Greek oil vessel from the fifth century BC, depicting a funeral scene with the figures of a woman and a youth, worth at least $380,000;  proto-Corinthian figures from the seventh century BC, depicting an owl and a duck, together worth about $250,000; an Apulian terra-cotta flask in the shape of an African head from the fourth century BC; an Ionian sculpture of a ram’s head from the sixth century; and a vessel for oil or perfume, from the early fifth century. The ancient pieces were all bought in the last 12 years for a total cost of $1.1 million, according to the warrants, the New York Times reported.

Steinhardt could face charges of possession of stolen property, according to the newspaper. He declined to comment “for now,” he told the Times.

In October, a piece discovered in Steinhardt’s apartment — a sixth-century BC marble torso of a man carrying a calf, worth about $4.5 million — was returned to Lebanon where it had been stolen from the Temple of Eshmun in Sidon.

The torso had been purchased from collectors in Colorado who had purchased them from an antiquities dealer in London.

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