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July 26, 2007

Paros Nights

Paros PAROS, Greece – The sun is quickly sinking over the bay of Paros, a honey-orange ball easing its way beyond the undulating hillside of this island. The light has cast a pinkish hue over the water, while a huge ship – Blue Star Ferries – slides into the port, with tourists mainly eager to mount scooters and head for the beaches. But Paros is a center of antiquity, home to many rich archeological sites, many of them fairly recent finds. Still, it’s most famous as the source of the finest marble used in the ancient world, a pale translucent stone which allows light to reflect from within. Parian marble was used, for example, for the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and many other monuments (including many by Praxiteles, whose exhibit was inaugurated last night in Athens). Paros is also the place where Marion True, the former curator of the Getty, has her second home. I am here to learn more about True, how she is viewed now that she is accused of a crime. For many years True mixed with high society, befriended the local archeologists and collectors alike, doling out grants and buying for the museum. Last year her home here was raided by police, who claim to have found illegal antiquities there. True says the pieces were in the home when she bought it, apparently a common custom around here, and that she’d informed the authorities when she bought the house. Few are willing to associate with her today. As one former friend said, anonymously, told me: “Well, when you have power, you have many friends….” Still on trial in Italy for related alleged crimes, True comes to Paros, but is seldom seen.