Getty to Return Three Major Sculptures to Italy

A beautifully preserved group of three life-size terracotta statues dating to circa 300 B.C., seized by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, will be sent back to Italy after the museum agrees to take them . It was illegally exhumed, 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 Eighty-three people have been convicted of receiving stolen antiques from Greece, officials said. The warrant listed his current value as $8 million. The Getty Museum announced its return on Thursday.

“When we notified the museum of our investigation and evidence, they fully cooperated. Matthew Bogdanos Head of the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Division. Bogdanos said his office was able to reach out across state lines with the help of federal agents from the Department of Homeland Security because the investigation falls under his jurisdiction.

Getty director Timothy Potts said in an interview Friday that the removal of the group known as “Orpheus and the Sirens” was a huge blow. and a loss for visitors, but there is clear evidence that it was illegally excavated, so it had no choice but to return it to Italy.”

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

With the confiscation and return, the Getty Villa Museum strips away one of the iconic works that once proudly hung near the museum’s entrance. Built to recreate a gorgeous Roman country house, the massive Getty Villa Museum, attached to a major Los Angeles museum, is filled with Greek his Roman artifacts.

In 2001, Becchina was briefly detained in Italy and charged with receiving stolen goods, exporting illegal goods, and conspiring to smuggle goods. In 2011, after a lengthy legal battle, his charges were dismissed as the statute of limitations had expired. But the judge said he had to let go of the thousands of stolen ancient Roman artifacts.

According to museum officials, the three statues were acquired by Getty himself in 1976, show Getty’s diary entries from that day, and were priced at $550,000. The extreme fragility of “Orpheus and the Sirens” requires specially calibrated equipment and procedures, according to the museum.

The museum said it would remove the object from public display and ship it to Rome in September. According to the Getty website, the group was colorfully painted and may have been used to decorate the tomb. Officials said it will be displayed at the newly opened Rescue Museum in Rome before finding a permanent home in Taranto, Puglia.

Osanna added that she still has a disagreement with Getty about the statue. “Victory Youth” Also known as the Getty Bronze, it has been the subject of debate between museums and Italy for decades. “We are still hoping to reach an agreement,” he said.

Italian authorities say the bronze was smuggled out of Italy without proper export documentation, accusing the museum of willfully failing to exercise due diligence before purchasing it.

Getty counters that it’s actually a Greek statue found on the high seas hundreds of years after it was made, and that it has only a fleeting connection to Italy. He said the allegation is baseless.

Like other museums, Getty has returned numerous items to Italy in recent years after evidence of their trafficking came to light. For example, in 2007 the museum handed over 40 of his items from its antiquities collection after “long and complicated negotiations” with the Italian authorities.

The antiquities trafficking division itself last month returned to Italy 142 items that belonged to billionaire businessman Michael H. Steinhardt and Manhattan’s Royal Athena Gallery. Officials said many of the items seized last year ended up in Bequina’s hands.

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