Un cadeau diplomatique porté disparu

Le premier billet que nous publions dans cette rubrique concerne un vase apulien disparu, figurant d’un épisode sombre de l’histoire et connu par des photos d’époque. Dans le cadre d’une recherche sur le collectionnisme des antiquités durant la période nazie, Irene Bald Romano nous présente ici son histoire et lance un avis de recherche.


Apulian Column Krater Given to Hitler by the Fascist Party in 1938

    Irene Bald Romano, PhD; Professor of Art History and Anthropology, University of Arizona



Top of rim: ivy wreath

Edge of rim: laurel wreath; dots frieze

Neck: ivy wreath with berries

Shoulder: tongues

Base line: meander and saltire squares

Side A: Procession towards right of a woman fluting, an Oscan youth holding a nestoris, a woman holding a nestoris, and an Oscan youth with a barbiton.

Side B: two groups of two draped youths, the one on the left extending hand towards the other.


Red-figured Apulian column krater given to Hitler by Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party in Rome on 9 May 1938. (Reprod. from A. Cambitoglou and A.D. Trendall, Apulian Red-Figured Vase Painters of the Plain Style, pl. 12, figs. 55-56).


On the occasion of Adolf Hitler’s first state visit to Rome in 1938, among the gifts presented to him by Mussolini, the Italian Fascist Party, and Italian royal family members was an Apulian column krater by the Tarporley Painter; it was formerly in the possession of Giuseppe Sisto (d. 1982) from Ceglie (Bari), a professor of history and geography at the University of Bari, as well as a collector/dealer of stolen antiquities, who claimed it was excavated in Lucania1. The presentation of the vase in the Palazzo Littorio in Rome on 4 May 1938 was captured by Hitler’s official photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and publicized in the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (BIZ), a mouthpiece for Goebbels’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, and in Hoffmann’s photo book memorializing Hitler’s trip to Italy2.  It was clearly the swastikas on the chitoniskos of the youth holding the nestoris (second from left on the obverse) that was of special interest to the Nazis. 


Letter from Giuseppe Sisto to John Beazley, 8 October 1937, in the Beazley Archive (Courtesy of the Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford)


Presentation of Apulian column krater to Josef Goebbels and Adolf Hitler by Mussolini (with his back to the camera), 9 May 1938. Captioned by Hoffmann “an Etruscan vase.” (Reprod. from Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler in Italien, 1938, p. 65)

Presumably, the vase was taken back to Germany in 1938, but we do not know where it went (perhaps to the Führerbau in Munich?), what happened to it during or at the end of the war (destroyed, looted or removed?), or where it might be today3. In 1961, never having seen the vase, but probably using copies of the photographs sent to Beazley by Sisto4, Cambitoglou and Trendall published the krater as that of one of the Tarporley Painter’s (360-340 B.C.).

Bibliography and sources

Alexander Cambitoglou and Arthur Dale Trendall, Apulian Red-figured Vase-Painters of the Plain Style, New York 1961, p. 35, no. 23, pl. XII, figs. 55-56; A.D. Trendall and Alexander Cambitoglou, The Red-Figured Vases of Apulia. Vol. 1: Early and Middle Apulian, Oxford, 1978, p. 51, no. 42.

Thomas Mannack, An Oxford Reject, in Faculty of Classics Newsletter, University of Oxford 2013, pp. 12-13.

I. B. Romano, “Collecting Classical Antiquities Among the Nazi Elite” for an online Special Issue of the RIHA Journal on The Fate of Antiquities in the Nazi Era (forthcoming 2021).


I am publishing an article on “Collecting Classical Antiquities Among the Nazi Elite” for an online Special Issue of the RIHA Journal on The Fate of Antiquities in the Nazi Era (forthcoming 2021). I would be grateful to receive any information about the whereabouts of this vase.



  1. See the October 1937 letter from Sisto to John Beazley in Mannack, “An Oxford Reject,” p. 13 in which Sisto offers the vase for sale to Beazley for Oxford. Giuseppe Sisto’s activities were exposed in 2007 when Sisto’s grandson turned over antiquities and other cultural objects to the FBI that his grandfather and father had illicitly exported from Italy (https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/chicago/press-releases/2009/cg060809.htm). I am very grateful to Thomas Mannack for sharing information and providing a scan of the letter from Sisto to Beazley []
  2. Berliner Ill. Zeitung 19 (12 May 1938), 698; Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler in Italien, Munich 1938, 65: “a valuable Etruscan vase” []
  3. Denis Zhuravlev, Senior Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the State Historical Museum in Moscow, confirmed that this vase is not among those he curates that were formerly in Germany []
  4. Ian McPhee kindly confirmed that there is no further information about this vase in the Trendall Archives, and photographs of it are no longer there []

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  1. 18/01/2021

    […] à ce sujet, le destin du cratère à colonnettes apulien attribué au Peintre de Tarporley […]

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