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Vitrine EXTRA #2

Vitrine EXTRA #2

Back in the future – A Cup Story

Cup with dipticon of two nude ephebes

Attic, red-figure
Late 6th cent. BC
Inv.-Nr. IV 4712

The second edition of the Vitrine EXTRA series, which presents different ancient artefacts temporarily in the permanent exhibition at regular intervals, lets visitors trace the history of a Greek cup from its manufacture in the late sixth century BCE to the present day. After being illegally confiscated in the twentieth century, the cup was restituted and finally bought back by the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where it is now on display in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities for the first time.

We know nothing more about its earliest owners or its use in everyday life or as a burial object. Neither the potter nor the painter left their names in a signature, as was often the case with ancient vases. On the basis of stylistic criteria, however, the cup could be attributed to a painter by whom about 150 works from the early Greek classical period of the late sixth and early fifth century BCE have survived.

The scene depicted points to the world of athletes and sporting competitions (agones), which was so important for the ancient world. The training on the court (palaestra) usually was done naked in the ancient gymnasia, places of physical and intellectual training.

In the twentieth century, it finally became the private property of Albert Pollak in Vienna. Persecuted by the Nazis in Vienna after the ‘Anschluss’ in 1938, arrested and robbed of his possessions, he managed to flee to his native town of Bielitz/Bielsko. He was unable to take his extensive collection of paintings, ornamental objects made of porcelain or glass, textiles from all over the world, furniture, and other art and cultural objects, which he had built up over more than thirty years, with him. It was seized by the Nazi regime, divided up, and distributed among numerous museums. When the German Wehrmacht marched into Poland, Albert Pollak fled to the Netherlands, but was deported later to the Westerbork transit camp and died in Groningen University Hospital in 1943.

After the end of the war, Pollak’s siblings began to search for the more than 800 objects that had once belonged to him. Part of the collection was restituted to them on the basis of the restitution laws. In return for the necessary export permits – after 1945, the family lived in exile in various countries – the heirs had to leave individual objects behind, giving them to the museums ‘as gifts’ – including this cup. It was not until the Art Restitution Act was passed in 1998 that the Republic of Austria took responsibility for these actions. In 2001, the Art Restitution Advisory Board finally recommended the return of the vessel. It will be on display in the Vitrine EXTRA in the rooms of the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, commemorating the art collector Albert Pollak, who was forgotten for decades.

With the kind support of

General Partner


1 June 2023
to 1 October 2023

Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Room XIV

Opening hours

Tue – Sun, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Monday closed

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