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First display of excavated Etruscan tomb opens at the Dallas Museum of Art
Left to Right: (bottom row) Red-Figure Oinochoe, Polynices Offering a Necklace to Eriphyle; Red-Figure Oinochoe, Young Woman Running; Fibula (Safety Pin); Alabastron (Perfume Vase); Red-Figure Bell Krater, Theseus and Sinis; Red-Figure Kylix, Hero or God at a Tree; (Top row) Bronze Statuette of a Man.

DALLAS, TX.- A set of art objects from a 5th-century B.C. burial site in Spina, Italy, which have never previously been displayed or loaned, will go on view at the Dallas Museum of Art tomorrow, November 1, 2013. The exhibition is the first display of this excavated tomb since its discovery almost a century ago, and features four Attic red-figure vases, dating from 470–400 B.C., a 5th-century B.C. silver fibula, a bronze statuette from the latter half of the 5th century B.C., and an alabaster vessel. The works will remain on view through 2017 in the Museum’s second floor galleries.

The group was discovered together in the summer of 1926 in a grave at Spina, one of 4,000 tombs excavated in the ancient Etruscan city since 1922. The works will make their world debut at the DMA as part of the Museum’s cultural exchange program, DMX, which is designed to establish collaborations for the loans of works of art and sharing of expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, and new media. The program promotes cross-cultural dialogue and provides audiences at home and abroad with expanded access to artworks that span time period and culture.

This collaboration with Italian authorities is part of an ongoing partnership that began in 2012, when the DMA transferred ownership of six objects in its collection to Italy in recognition of evidence attesting to their being looted several years earlier. The transfer was completed in collaboration with the Foundation for the Arts and Munger Fund, which held ownership of three of the works for the benefit of the Museum. Those objects, which include three kraters, dating from the 4th century B.C., a pair of bronze shields from the 6th century B.C., and a head of an antefix, an architectural decoration for a tiled roof, dating from the 6th century B.C., remain on long-term view at the DMA. The loan of art from Spina marks the official signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Italian Ministry of Culture, which emphasizes continued collaboration between the Museum and Italian officials.

“We are honored to cement a partnership with our Italian colleagues and grateful for the opportunity to bring this group of works from Spina to audiences in Dallas and to those visiting our city. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to display these objects together, and to highlight their combined role in ancient funerary practices,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “In our digital society, access to cultural knowledge is ever growing. The DMX program builds on the possibilities of access by nurturing a collaborative approach to the exchange and presentation of artworks and expanding dialogue on cultural heritage—not just among cultural institutions but with our communities through the exhibition of a diverse range of artworks.”

The Italian Minister for Cultural Assets, Activities and Tourism, Massimo Bray, announced: “I am particularly pleased about the successful outcome of the negotiations that led to the return of six objects whose provenance was in question. I am, moreover, satisfied that we are able to offer a splendid long-term loan from the tomb and contents found in the Necropolis of Spina, now conserved in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Ferrara, which will offer to the viewing public in the United States a group of important archaeological objects in context. While thanking the Director of the DMA, Maxwell Anderson, for his high moral approach in resolving the problem, I would also like to take this occasion to thank the persons, on both sides, whose tireless work contributed to the signing of this important Cultural Agreement. ”

Under Anderson’s leadership, the DMA has expanded its focus on access through a number of initiatives in addition to the DMX program. Through its DMA Friends membership program, which the Museum launched in January 2012, anyone who wishes to join the Museum may do so for free. The membership includes opportunities for increased access to Museum programs and staff through an la carte rewards system determined by active participation. Earlier this year, the DMA received an IMLS grant to research opportunities to extend the program to other institutions, including the Denver Art Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The DMA has also expanded its conservation program with the opening of a new conservation studio and gallery, which focuses on new research opportunities and allows audiences to view the conservation process live through a large glass wall. The Museum also previously launched the Laboratory for Museum Innovation with seed capital to develop collaborative pilot projects in the areas of collection access, visitor engagement, and digital publishing.

The DMX program was launched in October 2012 with the appointment of Sabiha Al Khemir as the Museum’s first Senior Advisor of Islamic Art. Al Khemir, the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, supports Anderson and senior staff in building the Museum’s DMX partnerships. Last December, the Museum signed a memorandum of understanding with the Turkish Director General for Cultural Heritage and Museums, O. Murat Ssl, marking the first initiative of the program. Al Khemir and Anderson are continuing to travel worldwide to further the Museum’s connections with the great collections of Islamic art. They are presently in conversations with officials from Indonesia as well as several other countries.

The objects come from Tomb 512 of the necropolis of the ancient Etruscan city of Spina. The city was located at the mouth of the River Po, and its cemeteries were located on the top of some coastal strips of land created by river debris. The cemeteries were in two different areas: Valle Pega and Valle Trebba. This tomb was located at Valle Trebba. The set of grave goods delineate the social status of the deceased person and reaffirm the person’s familial role in the community. The objects on view include:

• an oinochoe (wine jug) by the Shuvalov Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 435–430 B.C. depicts the mythical figure Polynices offering a necklace to Eriphyle, who is seated before him;

• an oinochoe by the Eretria Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure oinochoe from 470 B.C. depicts a woman running to the left;

• a kylix (drinking cup) by the Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure kylix from the end of the 5th century B.C. shows a hero or god, perhaps Attis, standing by a tree;

• a bell krater by the Sini Ferrara Painter. The ceramic Attic red-figure krater from 420–400 B.C. shows Theseus punishing Sinis for his cruel ruse against passersby; two ephebes are on the other side of the vase;

• an Etruscan silver fibula from the second half of the 5th century B.C.;

• an Etruscan bronze statuette from the second half of the 5th century B.C.; and

• an alabaster alabastron, a container for perfume and unguents.

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