Mr. Medici, reached in Italy, denied any role in connection with the recently seized vase, which the Met bought at auction at Sotheby’s in 1989 for $90,000. An official for the auction house declined to identify the consignor, citing privacy concerns, but said Sotheby’s had no knowledge of any issues with its provenance when it handled the sale.
Experts date the vase, which is also known as a bell krater, to 360 B.C. and attribute it to the Greek artist Python, considered one of the two greatest vase painters of his day.
While its significance does not rise to the level of the far larger Euphronios Krater, which the Met sent back to Italy after a 30-year dispute, the newly confiscated vessel is a remarkably intact survivor of an age when the Greeks colonized Paestum, a Mediterranean city in the Campania region south of Rome, and created temples and artworks of legendary beauty.
The forensic archaeologist who tracked the Python vase, Christos Tsirogiannis, a lecturer with the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, published his suspicions about the antiquity in The Journal of Art Crime in 2014 and said he sent his evidence to the Met then as well.
But Dr. Tsirogiannis said in an interview that he never heard back from the museum and, more recently, grew frustrated that no action appeared to have been taken. So last spring he sent his evidence to a Manhattan prosecutor, Matthew Bogdanos, who specializes in art crime. That evidence included Polaroid photos shot between 1972 and 1995 that he said were seized from Mr. Medici’s storehouses in 1995 and that showed the same Python vase still encrusted with dirt.
“When I sent American police the information, they immediately told me that this was ‘a great case,’ ” Dr. Tsirogiannis said. “It was abundantly clear that this rare object had been stolen.”