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 $4 million in 1977.
But the Getty 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 United States in 1989.
After an 11-year legal battle, the Italian 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, the Guardian newspaper reported.
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.”
The statue of a Victorious Youth is among the most popular works at the Los Angeles museum.
Culture minister Alberto Bonisoli urged U.S. 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 recognized,” he added.
Italy’s battle over the statue included a letter to the President Donald Trump from art critic Vittorio Sgarbi calling on him to ensure its restitution.
But the museum 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 Guardian reported.
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