Getty museum of Los Angeles returns antiquities to Italy
The Italian Culture Ministry and the J. Paul Getty Museum have reached an agreement for the return of 40 artifacts to Italy - including a prized statue of the goddess Aphrodite.
It was the latest victory in Italy`s efforts to recover antiquities it says were looted from the country and sold to museums worldwide.
Italy and the Getty also agreed on widespread cultural cooperation, which will include loans of other treasures to the Los Angeles museum, the two sides said Wednesday in a joint statement.
"Both parties declare themselves satisfied with the fact that, after long and complicated negotiations, an agreement has been reached and now they move ahead with a relationship of renewed cooperation," the statement said.
The Getty has denied knowingly buying illegally obtained objects.
Most of the artifacts will be returned within the next few months, according to a calendar drawn up by experts from both sides.
The agreement includes one of the most disputed works, a fifth-century B.C. statue of the goddess Aphrodite, which will remain on display at the Getty until 2010, the ministry said. Italian authorities believe the 7-foot statue, bought by the Getty for $18 million in 1988, was looted from an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily.
The Culture Ministry said it would release further details on the agreement at a news conference scheduled for Thursday morning.
The ministry had threatened to suspend all collaboration with the Getty if a deal was not reached by the end of July. Despite the agreement, the fate of some treasures was left hanging.
The two sides agreed to postpone further discussion of at least one key piece that had held up negotiations for months: the "Statue of a Victorious Athlete," a Greek bronze believed to date from around 300 B.C. The museum believes the bronze was found in international waters in 1964 off Italy`s eastern coast and that Rome has no claim on it. The Italians say the statue was pulled up by fishermen off the east-coast town of Fano and that even if the find occurred in international waters, the statue was still brought into the country and then exported illegally.
Italian authorities have launched a worldwide campaign to recover looted treasures and had been at odds with the Getty over dozens of antiquities they say were illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country despite laws making all antiquities found in Italy state property.
Authorities have signed separate deals with New York`s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston`s Museum of Fine Arts for the return of a total of 34 artifacts - including Hellenistic silverware, Etruscan vases and Roman statues - in exchange for loans of other treasures.
Italy has also placed former Getty curator Marion True and art dealer Robert Hecht on trial in Rome, charging them with knowingly receiving dozens of archaeological treasures that had been stolen from private collections or dug up illicitly.
The two Americans deny wrongdoing. It was not immediately clear if the political agreement would affect the trial.