Getty to return three major sculptures to Italy

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Getty to return three major sculptures to Italy
Sculptural Group of a Seated Poet and Sirens (2) with unjoined fragmentary curls (304) and shells (2), 350–300 BC, Greek. Terracotta with white slip of calcium carbonate and polychromy (orange-gold, black, red, gold-yellow, brown, pink). 76.AD.11.

by Tom Mashberg and Elisabetta Povoledo

NEW YORK, NY.- A beautifully preserved grouping of three life-size terra-cotta figures dating to 300 B.C. that was seized from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles by the Manhattan district attorney’s office in New York will be sent back to Italy after the museum agreed that it had been illegally excavated, museum and law enforcement officials said.

The three objects were confiscated in April as part of an investigation into an accused Italian antiquities smuggler, Gianfranco Becchina, 83, who has been convicted of receiving stolen antiquities by Greece, officials said. The warrant listed its current value at $8 million. The Getty Museum announced the return Thursday.

“Once we notified the museum of the investigation and the evidence we had, they cooperated fully,” said Matthew Bogdanos, the head of the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit. Bogdanos said his office was able to reach across state lines with the help of federal Homeland Security agents because the investigation is in his jurisdiction.

The director of the Getty, Timothy Potts, said Friday that the removal of the grouping, known as “Orpheus and the Sirens,” was a hard blow. “It’s a very important example of ancient art and a loss to our collection and to our visitors,” he said, “but there is clear evidence that it had been illegally excavated, so there was nothing left to do but return it to Italy.”

Massimo Osanna, director general of museums for Italy’s Culture Ministry, said discussions with the Getty over the return of “Orpheus and the Sirens” had begun last February, when museum officials visited Rome. The subsequent seizure order “accelerated the situation,” he said.

The confiscation and return will strip the Getty Villa Museum of one of its signature pieces, which held pride of place near the museum’s entrance. The Getty Villa Museum, a large adjunct to the main museum in Los Angeles that was built to re-create a luxurious Roman country home, is filled with Greco-Roman antiquities.

In 2001, Becchina was briefly detained in Italy and charged with receiving stolen goods, illegally exporting goods and conspiring to traffic goods. In 2011, after a long legal battle, the charges were dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. But the judge in the case said he must relinquish thousands of stolen ancient Roman artifacts because they had clearly been looted by tomb raiders.

The three figures were acquired by Getty himself in 1976, museum officials said, and they pointed to Getty’s diary entry for that day, which said the purchase price was $550,000. The extreme fragility of “Orpheus and the Sirens” requires specially tailored equipment and procedures, the museum said.

The museum said it has removed the objects from public view and will ship them to Rome in September. According to the Getty’s website, the grouping likely was colorfully painted and used to decorate a tomb. Officials said it will be exhibited at the newly opened Museum of Rescued Art in Rome before finding a permanent home in Taranto, Italy.

Osanna added that there is still disagreement with the Getty over a statue, “Victorious Youth,” also known as the Getty Bronze, which has been the subject of contention between the museum and Italy for decades. “We are still hoping to come to an accord,” he said.

Italian authorities say the bronze was smuggled out of Italy without proper export papers and have accused the museum of being willfully negligent in carrying out due diligence before buying it.

The Getty counters that it was in fact a Greek statue discovered in international waters hundreds of years after it was crafted, so it has only a fleeting connection to Italy. The museum has said claims to repatriate it are groundless.

As with other museums, the Getty has returned numerous items to Italy in recent years after evidence emerged that they had been trafficked. In 2007, for example, the museum handed over 40 objects from its antiquities collection after what was described as a “long and complex negotiation” with Italian officials.

The Antiquities Trafficking Unit itself last month returned to Italy 142 items that had mostly belonged to billionaire industrialist Michael H. Steinhardt and the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York. Officials said many of those objects, seized last year, had gone through Becchina’s hands.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

August 14, 2022

After Basquiat raid, Orlando Museum faces crisis of credibility

Berggruen Gallery opens an exhibition of recent paintings by California artist Clare Kirkconnell

Pace Gallery opens a solo exhibition of new and recent work by Kiki Smith at its East Hampton gallery

Getty to return three major sculptures to Italy

Kehrer Verlag publishes 'Oliver Jordan Portraits Band / Volume II'

Casa da Cultura de Comporta presents "I Could Eat You"

White Cube presents an exhibition of recent paintings and drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz

Casterline │ Goodman Gallery presents an exhibition of works by Boaz Vaadia

Tim Ferguson Sauder's Americans Flags on view Cape Ann Museum

Gerald Peters Contemporary opens an exhibition of works by Patrick Dean Hubbell

Passages Insolites: A public art circuit in Quebec City

Museum service unveils fresh look and name to celebrate inspiring culture and art across the city

Bill Pitman, revered studio guitarist, is dead at 102

Review: In a rueful 'Night Music,' the clowns are finally here

Gallery EXIT extends LI Ning's 'Welcome Jon Looka' exhibition until 27 August

Ukrainian Children bring a play from a bomb shelter to Brooklyn

Martos After Dark resents 'Night Fever, One Halo' by Arthur Simms

Too darn hot: How summer stages are threatened by climate change

Overlooked no more: Alda Merini, a poet of mental illness

Summer-fall exhibitions at the University Art Museum presents works by Sara Magenheimer and Chryssa

Monumental watercolours go on display at unique Lake District museum

Anna Laudel Bodrum presents Ardan Özmenoğlu’s solo exhibition 'Bodrumania'

Around the World in 80 Days 150th Anniversary Coin

How to Become an Airbnb Superhost

Sacred Art: Everything about sacred art unfiltered

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful