A marble stele from Greece which was given as a wedding gift in 1958, has been returned to a museum in Munich, Germany after an investigation by an Oxford scholar and antiquities dealers.
The marble stele, from the first half of the second century BC, had been offered as a gift by an English diplomat who was residing in Munich to a German scholar and his English wife when they married in 1958.
The stele given as a present to the couple came from the diplomat’s own home, in which a Nazi officer had previously lived during the war. After the diplomat made inquiries with the German authorities concerning the marble, it was confirmed that the state had no legal claim to it.
Although the couple returned to England in the mid-1980s with the stele, they felt that the ancient artifact should one day be publicly displayed in a museum.
After discussions with London antiquities dealers Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch and Dr. Georgy Kantor of St. John’s College, Oxford, the marble stele was discovered to have belonged to a museum in Munich in the late nineteenth century.
Following this revelation, it was agreed that the artifact should be returned to the museum which had once featured the object in its collections.
The stele is originally from Erythrae, one of the Ionian cities in Asia Minor, and was unearthed by an archaeologist there between the years 1852-1857.
It was later taken to Munich, where it was legally obtained in 1866 by the Royal Antiquarium, the previous name of the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, which holds Bavaria’s collections of Roman and Greek sculptures.
The widow who had received the stele as a wedding present 61 years ago has now handed the artifact over to the museum, and it will be showcased at the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek when it opens again in 2020.