This week, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced the repatriation of three antiquities collectively valued at $725,000 to Yemen. The items are an alabaster ram with an inscribed base, an alabaster female figure, and a silver vessel with elaborate inscribed decorations.
The three items had been recovered as part of the criminal investigation into private collector and Metropolitan Museum of Art trustee Shelby White. As a result of the investigation, 89 items from 10 different countries, valued at nearly $69 million, were seized from White. These included nine antiquities repatriated to Turkey last month and seizures of Roman and Greek antiquities that took place last December.
According to the Manhattan DA’s office, the three items were acquired by White from the Mansour Gallery in London; art dealer Robin Symes, who was later convicted of antiquities trafficking in 2005; and from a Christie’s auction in New York.
The first item of the three repatriated items, an alabaster ram, is a funerary object from the Hayd bin Aqeel necropolis in Shabwa, Yemen. The ram was looted in 1994 during the country’s civil war and dates back to the 5th century B.C.E. The second, an alabaster female figure, is also a funerary item depicting a female god. The figure dates back to the 2nd century B.C.E. The third, an inscribed silver vessel, dates back to 200 to 300 C.E. It features an inscription that allowed experts to identify its origin as the same looted location as the alabaster ram.
“This repatriation underscores how art and culture can serve as powerful symbols of hope,” District Attorney Bragg said in a statement. “Our investigation into the collector Shelby White has allowed dozens of antiquities that were ripped from their countries of origin to finally return home,”
Due to the ongoing civil war in Yemen, the three items will be temporarily displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.