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Italian Art Critic Zeri Dies

October 5, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Federico Zeri, Italy’s leading art critic and historian, died of a heart attack Monday in his artwork-filled villa in Mentana, outside Rome. He was 77.

An expert in Italian paintings from the 14th to 16th centuries, Zeri had won respect in foreign art circles as well as Italy’s.

``It’s a great loss for the culture of Italy and of the whole world,″ Culture Minister Walter Veltroni said. Zeri had been the vice president of the National Council for Cultural Patrimony since 1993.

In 1995, he became the only Italian to be awarded foreign membership of France’s Academy of Fine Arts.

Zeri was an art history professor in the University of Rome and taught at several American universities, including Columbia and Harvard. A consultant with several galleries and private collections, he had also been the trustee for the Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, Calif.

He lived in a villa-museum in Mentana, his hometown, about 40 miles north of Rome, surrounded by his private collections and his own paintings and sculptures.

In Italy, Zeri’s fame went beyond literary and academic circles. His ironic and outspoken personality made him a perfect guest for national TV shows _ a role he didn’t disdain.

In the early 1980s, he was the first one _ and, for a long time, the only one _ to realize that some newly found sculptures were not attributable to Modigliani, as all the other experts claimed. The case drew national attention _ and the sculptures were proven to be fake.

Zeri was also a prolific writer. Among his major publications were the 1959 essay ``Pittura e Controriforma″ (``Painting and Counterreformation″) and a four-volume catalogue of the Italian paintings in New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

No funeral plans were announced for Zeri, who was single.

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