Getty mu­seum must re­turn 2,000-year-old statue, Ital­ian court rules

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Angela Gi­uf­frida in Rome

Italy’s supreme court has ruled that the Getty mu­seum in Los An­ge­les must re­turn a 2,000-year-old bronze statue it bought for al­most $4m in 1977.

The mu­seum has vowed to de­fend its “le­gal right” to the an­cient Greek statue of Vic­to­ri­ous Youth, also known as Ath­lete from Fano or sim­ply the Getty Bronze, which was made by Greek sculp­tor Lysip­pos be­tween 300 and 100 BC, af­ter the court said it must be re­turned to Italy.

The bronze statue was dis­cov­ered by fish­er­men off Pe­saro, on Italy’s Adri­atic coast, in 1964, sold sev­eral times, and even­tu­ally bought by the Amer­i­can mu­seum over 40 years ago.

But Italy has al­ways main­tained that it was smug­gled out of the coun­try and ac­quired il­le­gally, mak­ing its first for­mal re­quest for its re­turn from the US in 1989.

Af­ter an 11-year le­gal bat­tle, the supreme court re­jected an ap­peal by the J Paul Getty Mu­seum against an or­der from the Pe­saro judge Gi­a­como Gas­parini in June for the statue to be con­fis­cated.

Pe­saro pros­e­cu­tor Sil­via Cec­chi told Ital­ian me­dia that the supreme court rul­ing was “the fi­nal word from the Ital­ian jus­tice [sys­tem]” and that the Lysip­pos statue “must be re­turned”.

Cul­ture min­is­ter Al­berto Bon­isoli urged US au­thor­i­ties to act quickly on the coun­try’s be­half to “favour the resti­tu­tion of the Lysip­pos to Italy”.

“I am happy that this ju­di­cial process has fi­nally ended and the right to re­cover an ex­tremely im­por­tant piece of our coun­try’s her­itage has been recog­nised,” he added.

Italy’s bat­tle over the statue in­cluded a let­ter to US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump from art critic Vit­to­rio Sgarbi call­ing on him to en­sure its resti­tu­tion.

But the Getty has re­fused to sur­ren­der the relic, say­ing it would ap­peal against the de­ci­sion. The mu­seum

ar­gued that the statue was dis­cov­ered

in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters and pointed out that it was ac­quired by the mu­seum nine years af­ter Italy’s top court con­cluded there was no ev­i­dence that the statue be­longed to Italy.

“The court has not of­fered any writ­ten ex­pla­na­tion of the grounds for its de­ci­sion, which is in­con­sis­tent with its hold­ing 50 years ago that there was no ev­i­dence of Ital­ian own­er­ship,” Lisa Lapin, Getty’s vice-pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said in a state­ment.

“More­over, the statue is not and has never been part of Italy’s cul­tural her­itage. Ac­ci­den­tal dis­cov­ery by Ital­ian cit­i­zens does not make the statue an Ital­ian ob­ject. Found out­side the ter­ri­tory of any mod­ern state, and im­mersed in the sea for two mil­len­nia, the Bronze has only a fleet­ing and in­ci­den­tal con­nec­tion with Italy.”

The statue is among the most pop­u­lar works at the Los An­ge­les mu­seum, but its le­gal own­er­ship has been in dis­pute ever since Getty bought it from Ger­man art dealer Herman Heinz Herzer in 1977.

The sum paid was nearly 800 times the $5,600 that Ital­ian art deal­ers gave to the fish­er­men who found it.

Tris­tano Ton­nini, a lawyer for Cento Città, an as­so­ci­a­tion lead­ing the fight for the statue’s re­turn, said he is con­vinced that the mu­seum “al­ways knew it was buy­ing a smug­gled and il­le­gally ex­ported arte­fact”.

Pho­to­graph: The J. Paul Getty Mu­seum

Also known as the ‘Getty bronze’, the statue was made by Greek sculp­tor Lysip­pos be­tween300 and 100 BC.

The statue of a Vic­to­ri­ous Youth is amongthe most pop­u­lar works at the Los An­ge­lesmu­seum.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.