Monday, May 14, 2012

Italian Court Rules American Museum Must Return An Illegally Exported Statue

Posted by Peter Quennell

Now everybody holds their breath. Will it be returned or not?

The valuable statue is now at the Getty Museum (above) on a coastal hilltop just north of Los Angeles. Ironically it is actually Greek, and was hauled out of the Aegean Sea by fishermen almost directly east of Perugia. It is so valuable because only very few Greek statues remain intact. 

Very doubtfull that the US federal government gets involved though the courts might. The Los Angeles Times and some Italian newspapers carry the story.

An Italian court has upheld an order for the seizure of a masterpiece of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s antiquities collection, finding that the bronze statue of a victorious athlete was illegally exported from Italy before the museum purchased it for $4 million in 1976.

Since 2005, the Getty has voluntarily returned 49 antiquities in its collection, acknowledging they were the product of illegal excavations and had been smuggled out of their country of origin. Hundreds of other objects were returned by other American dealers, collectors and museums.

In the wake of those returns, several American museums struck cooperative deals with Italy and Greece that allow for long-term loans of ancient art.

Most such repatriation claims have been settled without legal action. The dispute over the Getty’s bronze ended up in Italian court thanks to its complicated legal status “” an accidental discovery in international waters off Italy’s Adriatic coast.

The statue was most likely lost at sea after being plundered by Roman soldiers in Greece around the time of Christ. (The government of Greece has never asked that the statue be returned there.)

In 1964, Italian fishermen found the statue snagged in their nets. They hauled it ashore in the small port town of Fano, buried it in a cabbage field and then hid it in a priest’s bathtub rather than declare it to customs officials, as required under Italian law.

Three brothers and the priest were convicted of trafficking in stolen goods, but an appeals court threw out their convictions in 1970, citing insufficient evidence. At the time, the statue was still missing, and its value was unknown.


Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/14/12 at 02:41 PM in The judical timelineThe wider contextsItalian context


The obvious FOAK contempt of Italy and things Italian which so hurts their cause now is quite an anomaly. Do any of them actually know Italy? Did impugning it ever work?!

Despite its present economic stresses (essentially not of its own making) Italy remains very admired on any of a number of dimensions, and it repeatedly wins international votes about this and that.

Here are just five of many stories in the news describing how Italy still comes out ahead.






Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/14/12 at 03:38 PM | #

just one?

Posted by mojo on 05/14/12 at 07:00 PM | #

Hi Mojo.

Yes in this case just the one. First time an Italian court has got involved. Most disputed pieces seem to be handed back fairly readily.

This one dispute has had a 40 year history. The Italian reports explain it more thoroughly. There was also some dispute on the statue’s title within Italy itself. The worth now is in the tens of millions.

The family who were initially prosecuted for disposing of it illegally were in Gubbio, near Perugia, where Rocco Girlandfa comes from.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 05/14/12 at 07:07 PM | #
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