Italy strengthens case for return of Getty Museum’s ‘Victorious Youth’ bronze in decades-long heritage feud

Statue of a victorious youth (300-100 BC)

The Italian Senate last week passed a resolution that politicians say will ultimately strengthen the government’s hand in tackling complex rendition cases. Using the ad as a platform, Massimo Seri, the mayor of Fano, renewed his calls for the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to restore the “Victorious Youth” (aka “Atleta di Fano”), the Greek bronze of 300-100 BC the subject of the highest international heritage dispute in Italy.

An unrelated government document released last year, which was seen by The arts journal, indicates that the Italian Ministry of Culture has effectively embargoed the American museum on the saga. However, requested by The arts journal While the Getty Museum intends to return the bronze, a museum spokesperson referred to a 2018 statement that said, “We will continue to defend our legal right to the statue.”

According to the resolution, the Italian government pledged to assign a smaller group of district magistrates to restitution cases “to allow greater specialization”, to promote the training of magistrates in cultural heritage law and to encourage universities. to teach legal archeology in the relevant courses. In addition, the government will work with public service broadcasting Rai to educate citizens about restitution through programming, the resolution said.

Written by Senator Margherita Corrado, the resolution was unanimously approved on Wednesday by the Senate Culture Committee made up of 23 people and chaired by Socialist Riccardo Nencini.

“Italian legal proceedings against those who steal and illegally trade artifacts are often too long and we want to streamline these processes,” Corrado said. The arts journal. The senator stressed the importance of the fact that the ministers concerned had given the green light to the resolution at its draft stage. “The previous government [led by Giuseppe Conte] took a hard line on restitution. Now we know that [new prime minister Mario] Draghi is also listening to the topic, ”she said.

In a press release issued on Wednesday, Seri, who has been a persistent advocate for the return of bronze, said: “This act gives Italy a tool to reclaim the artistic heritage […] Senator Nencini has confirmed that the first revolutionary act could be to reclaim Atleta di Fano. “

In April, Seri publicly called on the government to make bronze the emblem of a meeting of international ministers of culture as part of the G20 Leaders’ Summit, which Italy is hosting this year. His proposed initiative was not accepted.

The Victorious Youth – a five-foot statue of a Greek athlete valued at $ 16 million today and one of the few life-size Greek bronzes still alive – was discovered by Italian fishermen offshore de Fano in 1964, sold to Italian merchants and bought by the Getty Museum for $ 4 million in 1977.

The Italian government first requested the restitution of the bronze in 1989. Unlike previous Italian court rulings, in 2018, Pesaro magistrates concluded that Italy had a legal right to the statue. While the Getty Museum immediately challenged the ruling, Pesaro’s ruling was later upheld by Italy’s highest court. In response, the museum reiterated claims that the bronze had been found in international waters and that “the accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object”.

A diplomatic stalemate ensued. Asked by the Senate Culture Committee whether the Torlonia Marbles – one of the finest groups of Greco-Roman antiquities in the world still in private hands – would be on display at the Getty Museum, the Italian Ministry of Culture published on June 24, 2020 an internal communication which said: “After the refusal of the Getty Museum to recognize the sentence of the Court of Cassation […] the ministry limited relations with the American museum to projects already initiated.

In an email exchange, a museum spokesperson said The arts journal: “During the pandemic, the Getty did not have the opportunity to discuss bronze with the Italian government”. Italy’s Culture Ministry had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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