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Italian judge orders Getty Museum to return prized bronze statue

February 11, 2010 | 10:50 am

An Italian judge ordered the seizure today of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s iconic statue of a bronze athlete, citing the museum’s “grave negligence” in its acquisition of the piece in 1977.

As The Times reported last month, the Getty bought the ancient statue despite the legal concerns of the museum’s founder, who insisted its purchase be cleared with Italian authorities. The statue was acquired after his death.

The ruling is the first time an Italian court has demanded the return of the statue, which has been the subject of heated negotiations between Italy’s culture ministry and the Getty since the 1970s.

The Getty vowed today to appeal the ruling to Italy’s highest court, noting that previous Italian courts have thrown out Italy’s demand for the statue, which was found by Italian fishermen in international waters in 1964 and smuggled out of the country sometime after.

If the ruling is upheld, Italy will have to convince a U.S. court that it should be enforced under American law. 

-- Jason Felch


Culture Monster blog: Judge in Italy orders return of Getty Bronze