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Judge in Italy orders return of Getty Bronze

February 11, 2010 |  9:06 am

Gettybronze A judge in Italy has ordered the confiscation of the famed Statue of the Victorious Youth, which is also known as the Getty Bronze. The artwork, which dates from 300 B.C. to 100 B.C., is currently in the collection at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The decision was handed down Thursday by Judge Lorena Mussoni in Pesaro, Italy. The 37-page order demands that the statue be confiscated from the Getty and be immediately returned to Italy, according to reports.

The bronze, which appears to depict a young athlete, has been an object of contention between the Getty and Italy for years. In 2008, a court overturned a previous decision and rejected a request to return the statue to Italy.

The J. Paul Getty Trust said Thursday it will appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation in Rome and will defend its legal ownership of the statue.

"The court’s order is flawed both procedurally and substantively," the museum said in a statement.

In the past, the museum has stated that it believes the bronze was found around 40 years ago in international waters and thus does not belong to Italy. The Getty said it acquired the statute in 1977.

Italy's former culture minister, Francesco Rutelli, used Thursday's ruling to proclaim victory. "Today marks the end of the sacking of our archaeological treasures,'' he was quoted as saying by ANSA, an Italian news service.

Check back with Culture Monster later today for more on the breaking news.

-- David Ng

Photo: Statue of the Victorious Youth. Credit: Getty Museum

Comments () | Archives (19)

So anything made in Italy belongs to Italy. What about my Murano glass? I paid for it.

Italy should perhaps pay a lot more attention to the deliberate scuttling of Italian ships, or other ships, by Italian organized crime. The ships are typically scuttled (all over the Mediterranean) in order to both be graveyards for expensive to destroy toxic substances and to collect insurance on ships past their best years.

As to the statue at hand, it really goes back to documents stating where the statue was found. Unless Italy has proof that it was found in Italian waters, they should go pack sand.

You're comparing a piece of glass that you bought on Venice to a statue that is priceless and is a part of their culture. I'm pretty sure J. Paul Getty and his famed assistant did not "purchase" the statue at a shop like you and your glass.

While we're at this giving objects of supposed wealth back to those who have only recently discovered what cultural property is...perhaps Alaska back to the Russians, Oklahoma to American natives, Florida to the Spanish, The Louisiana Territory to the French and the former Colonies back to England. ...and deliver Italy into the hands of the Greeks where they pilfered the classical arts.

It wasn't made in Italy. It was made in Greece!

I love Italy, but the legal system there is whacked as is their postal system and pretty much any government run system. Leave the Bronze at the Getty.

I did notice that people are pointing out the statue is GREEK in origin.

Illicit trading of archaeological findings deprives objects from all the valuable information that they carry. Non-professional opportunists from Greece, Italy or wherever, who are just aiming at making money, illegally remove objects from the place where they were found, under obscure circumstances that might even cause the destruction of objects. Institutions who have the goal to contribute to the dissemination and appreciation of cultures shouldn't be promoting networks that function illegally. Sorry, GT it's just inaccurate to claim that other peoples of the world just "recently" started appreciating their culture when all these renown institutions who want to teach the rest of the world what culture means are contributing to its destruction. Cultural goods should travel the world, but not illegally...

J. Paul Getty declined the opportunity to purchase this statue during his lifetime, because of the dubious provenance (it was illegally exported from Italy). His estate had no moral issue regarding purchasing what could be viewed as stolen property. This should be returned to Italy.

The statue may have been made by Greeks, but that does not necessitate that it was made in the territory of the modern nation of Greece. It could very easily have been made in Western Turkey.

The late Paul Getty had serious doubts about purchasing this statue when he was still alive, and new documentation has surfaced in which he indicated
specifically that he was not satisfied that purchase would be legal. After he
died, the scoundrels and thiefs who were in charge at the Getty Foundation made sure to ignore his objections and proceeded with the purchase. NOW
they are crying foul because they are being exposed for what they are.
The Getty Museum should return the statue asap and work on maintaing a
good relationship with Italy, Greece, and other countries, otherwise it can
forget any "special temporary exhibitions" in the future.

I think this one belongs in LA because if you look at it from the side it appears that the youth is on a cell phone. Kidding aside, its rough that Italy decided that they want to take the statue, but it doesn't diminish the impressiveness of the Getty Villa and unless it will set a precedent it should be returned.

International covenants regarding possession of antiquities date to the mid-70s. Many of the works of art since repatriated to Italy, Greece, Egypt and other countries were acquired by western museums during the hazy times just before or after those laws were adopted. The irony of the so-called Getty bronze is that it was originally of Greek manufacture and was looted (or compellingly purchased) to decorate the villa of a Roman patrician when the ship carrying it sank. One could argue that a similar act of piracy was perpetrated bringing the statue to Rome two thousand years ago as the Italian judge has now ruled the Getty Museum did when it purchased the bronze in 1977. A further irony is that the only reason this magnificent bronze has survived and been so well-conserved at the Getty is because the statue was underwater all those years. Ancient life-sized bronzes are so scarce because most above-ground examples were melted down after the fall of Rome to make new armaments, coins, or other statues.

"Sorry, GT it's just inaccurate to claim that other peoples of the world just "recently" started appreciating their culture..." ~ MS

My statement was made partly tongue in cheek, but being truthful the Italians did not get on the cultural bandwagon until recently and that being 1999 when they petitioned the United States Cultural Property Advisory Commission to include among "requested banned imports" Ancient coins to the United States. As I have spoken before both this Committee and Congress, I assure you that most countries have "recently" discovered their cultural heritage and the tourism dollars that it brings to their bottom line.
Other nations from which goods have been "exported" for historical / financial gains have been on this cultural property bandwagon more recently than you might think; that being to the mid-1960's with the establishment of a United Nations commission and the term of "recent" as being less than one hundred years is accurate.

Who cares what an Italian judge rules? Since when does Italy have jurisdiction in the USA? Hey Italy, you want it back? Come and try to take it!

I think the Getty should agree to return the Greek statue to Italy, on the condition that the Vatican also return statues not of Italian make to their country of origin.

Let's see how far that gets, as "Mother Church" has pilfered art from around the world for centuries.

Nothing like a crook calling someone else a crook... please, the Italian legal system is as corrupt as it gets!

Dear chatmandu: your Murano glass is yours because you purchased it legally, nobody will claim it back!

Dear Allen Braun: Italy claims it back not because it was found in Italian waters (even if in this case it was just outside Italian waters), but because it was found by an Italian boat, then brought to Italy and then misteriously ended up abroad and sold to Getty. It is not really clear how it ended up in Munich and then sold to Getty Museum; the museum should have checked before purchasing it that the statue had been exported legally from Italy. When some find is discovered in Italy or by some Italian boat, Italy has the right to preempt it; in this case Italy could not exercise their right to preempt the statue, because it was illegally brought abroad. There are hundreds of Italian masterpieces abroad (also in the U.S.), but Italy is asking them back if they were bought and exported legally. This is not the case of this statue

If Italy wants to buy the statue from Getty then Getty should allow them to do that. It might not even be around anymore had the Getty not picked it up. The name calling towards the Getty is unfair. They have taken good care of the statue, I'm sure and Italy wouldn't even know where the thing was if the Getty had not obtained it. Italy should show some appropriate respect and gratitude.

Wasn't this originally a Greek statue that the Romans were looting? Also what about all the money the museum has sunk into the statue?


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