Getty on Folios from Zeytun Gospel — To Return or Not To Return?
November 21, 2011
In 1994, the J. Paul Getty Museum bought eight pages belonging to an Armenian medieval illuminated manuscript known as the Zeyt’un Gospels. Reported purchase price was just under $1 million. According to Elizabeth Morrison, the Getty’s acting senior curator of manuscripts, nobody asked questions about the legitimacy of the folios’ ownership until the mid 2000s, and that the level of due diligence exercised in determining their provenance at the time of purchase was sufficient to meet the museum’s standards, then and now.
The Armenians challenge Getty’s possession, asserting that the Museum either knew the pages were stolen or failed to do appropriate provenance research. The Armenians note that these were pages from a manuscript that had been a treasure of the Armenian church since the 13th century. Lawyers representing the Armenian church have to argue both that the manuscript is a national treasure of great historical importance, and that it is not surprising that the discovery that pages were missing is only as recent as 2006. The folios were in a private collection in the United States for at least 60 years.
For details, read LA Times report.