Writer, journalist, translator, and television researcher. Has worked as a researcher and translator for various television networks, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Independent Television (ITV), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), and the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
(With Peter Watson) The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities, from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2006.
Cecilia Todeschini is a writer, translator, journalist, and television researcher. She has worked for major television networks in Italy, England, and the United States. She is fluent in both English and Italian, and frequently works as a translator for publishers and broadcasters. As a journalist, Todeschini "covered all the great mafia trials in Sicily and got to know many of the main prosecutors in particular, becoming friends with some who were killed," reported her coauthor, investigative journalist Peter Watson, in an interview in Archaeology. She has also covered a number of notable papal conclaves and other events throughout Italy.
In The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities, from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums, Todeschini and Watson examine in depth a particularly scandalous and illegal aspect of the international art and antiquities market. In the book, Watson and Todeschini profile Giacomo Medici, an Italian antiquities and art dealer found guilty of looting in 2005. The authors carefully reconstruct Medici's elaborate network of Tombaroli, or tomb robbers, and trace the stolen materials through dealers and middlemen to well-known and respected auction houses and museums. The authors base much of their account on an elaborate eight-year investigation conducted by Italian police and headed by Roberto Conforti, the chief of the Carabinieri Art Squad.
Watson and Todeschini assert that Medici "supplied most, if not all, of the major collections of classical antiquities that have been established since WW II," whether through legal means or, more likely, through looted and stolen artworks, noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. This distribution of illegally obtained items came about through a highly organized network of looters, smugglers, collectors, dealers, and authenticators. Collectors often have little regard for how a piece was acquired, or whether it was excavated under rigorous scientific scrutiny, or if its acquisition and passage to them was entirely legal. Even some of the world's largest and most prestigious museums have acquired art objects under questionable circumstances, many of them from Medici. Todeschini and Watson describe Medici's relationship with Marion True, curator of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. They assert that True could have had little doubt about Medici's dubious background and the uncertain provenance of the many Greek and Roman items she bought from him, yet she remained willing and even eager to regularly acquire materials from Medici. Other museums, including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, also purchased items from Medici. The prominent auction house Sotheby's was also known to deal in antiquities supplied by Medici, though Watson and Todeschini suggest that Sotheby's were unknowing participants in Medici's illegal activities.
Todeschini and Watson offer a series of suggestions for preventing illegal and illicit excavation of artworks and irreplaceable archaeological treasures. First, they urge museums to not acquire items that do not have a proper provenance and history, including information on how the object was excavated, the circumstances behind the excavation, and who performed it. They suggest that museums refuse to accept items from individual collectors if they do not also have this type of provenance background for each item. They also request that museums publicize the circumstances under which they acquire an object, and publish the item's background and provenance. These measures, the authors hope, will help preserve the priceless and irreplaceable knowledge that is lost when artworks, archaeological objects, and other materials are indiscriminately looted.
"As a portrait of venality, The Medici Conspiracy is both shocking and compelling," commented Jonathan Bouquet in the London Observer. New Scientist reviewer Maggie McDonald called the book a "brilliant analysis of the illicit trade" in antiquities. In total, commented Booklist critic Donna Seaman, Watson and Todeschini present a "dramatic, fascinating, and rightfully indignant report on outrageous avarice and crimes against civilization."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Archaeology, June 14, 2006, "Exposing the Culture Thieves," interview with Peter Watson.
Booklist, May 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities, from Italy's Tomb Raiders to the World's Greatest Museums, p. 57.
Choice, October, 2006, F.W. Robinson, review of The Medici Conspiracy, p. 287.
New Scientist, June 17, 2006, Maggie McDonald, review of The Medici Conspiracy, p. 60.
Observer (London, England), June 11, 2006, Jonathan Bouquet, "Why the Getty Paid Top Dollar to Tomb Robbers," review of The Medici Conspiracy.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006, review of The Medici Conspiracy, p. 76.
Public Affairs Books Web site,http://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/ (March 17, 2008), author profile.