After her husband’s death, White created a foundation in his name that has made sizable gifts to, among others, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Botanical Garden and Lincoln Center. In 2006 she gave $200 million to New York University to help create the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, which operates in a townhouse her foundation bought near the Met.

In 2017, in something of a crowning recognition, White was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. The citation noted that “the multifaceted breadth of her giving is ever evolving.”

But even as she and her husband built a reputation for generosity, their collecting drew criticism.

White and Levy had begun amassing their extensive collection of more than 700 antiquities in the 1970s. At that time, to curb looting, countries were beginning to adopt guidelines that discouraged the trade in items that lacked ownership histories dating back to at least 1970. But a good bit of time would pass before museums, dealers and private collectors fully embraced the new practice, and White and Levy, like many others, took in objects with limited provenance.

Beginning in 1993, the couple agreed to relinquish 16 items after claims they had been looted from an ancient Roman site in England. In 2008, White surrendered 10 objects to Italy and two to Greece. Italian investigators had traced several of them to Giacomo Medici, an Italian accused in 2004 of trafficking in illegal antiquities, and White and her husband had bought some of these same ones from Robin Symes, a prominent British antiquities dealer who later became embroiled in a series of investigations into looted art.

One of the returned items was a much-celebrated antiquity, a vessel with scenes of Zeus and Herakles, attributed to the fifth-century B.C. painter Eucharides. It had been part of the “Glories of the Past” exhibition at the Met in 1990.

“It’s astonishing that so many pieces from that exhibition have now gone back to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and so on,” said David Gill, an archaeologist and a fellow with the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent in England.



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