The artist Omero Bordo has a message for Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He is prepared to offer the museum what he says is an exact replica (down to the fractures) of the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old vase that the Met has agreed to surrender to Italy after three decades of haggling over its legal status.
The artist Omero Bordo specializes in replicating ancient Etruscan art. Earlier in life, he says, he had a different specialty: robbing tombs.
“If the museum is interested, it’s a perfect copy, same height, same everything,” said Mr. Bordo, who made the faux-Etruscan piece by hand about 20 years ago. Of course, he added, some money would have to change hands.
“As they say, no one sings Mass for free,” Mr. Bordo said.
Should Mr. de Montebello wish to inspect the replica of the vase that Italy contends was stolen from Italy’s archaeologically rich underbelly 35 years ago, he will have to trek to this former Etruscan stronghold about 50 miles north of Rome and venture into the depths of an underground grotto, beneath one of the city’s newer suburbs.
There, Mr. Bordo has transformed a mushroom farm that was once an ancient quarry into Etruscopolis, a quirky museum celebrating the art of a civilization that flourished in roughly the eighth to second centuries B.C. The imitation krater is displayed in one of the glass cases that line the 3.7-acre underground site, each one filled with “Etruscan” pieces fashioned by hand by Mr. Bordo.
Mr. Bordo, 62, describes himself as an artist who creates “contemporary Etruscan” pieces. Less than 40 years ago, however, he was a self-professed tombarolo, or tomb robber.
His trajectory from clandestine digger to attention-hungry entrepreneur reflects the changing attitudes here regarding the looting of antiquities. In the old days, Mr. Bordo said, the government was largely indifferent to the nighttime activity of poor farmers poking about the countryside. But as the artifacts became big business, the state began clamping down, through police action and legal prosecutions.
So Mr. Bordo, a talented artist, moved into an equally lucrative field.
“Don’t call them fakes; I’ve never made fakes,” Mr. Bordo, a compact man with powerful stubby hands and a gravelly voice, said of his pots and frescoes.
Charges of passing off his pieces as the real thing landed him in jail once - “30 years ago,” he said vaguely, waving off requests for firm details - and he is still testy about the subject. (He was also feeling a bit exasperated because he was housebound, his legs spattered with buckshot and bandaged, after what he said was a recent hunting accident.)
“If someone mistakes them for antiques, that’s their business,” he said.
There's more (including a photo of some of the reproductions ... they're really good) ... but let's see ... former tombarolo making 'not-fakes' evading questions about sales ... hmmmmmmmmm