“Victorious Youth,” Greek, 300 – 100 B.C., J. Paul Getty Museum
”Today marks the end of the sacking of our archaeological treasures,” former Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli exulted after today’s ruling by an Italian appeals court that ordered the immediate seizure and return to Italy of the Getty Bronze.
Not so fast.
Here, in full, is the statement that just hit my inbox from the J. Paul Getty Trust:
The Getty is disappointed in the ruling issued February 11 by Judge [Lorena] Mussoni in Pesaro, Italy, involving the Statue of a Victorious Youth, often referred to as the Getty Bronze. The court’s order is flawed both procedurally and substantively.
It should be noted that the same court in Pesaro dismissed an earlier case in 2007 in which the same prosecutor claimed the Statue of a Victorious Youth belonged to Italy. In that case, the judge held that the statute of limitations had long since expired, that there was no one to prosecute under Italian law, and that the Getty was to be considered a good faith owner.
In fact, no Italian court has ever found any person guilty of any criminal activity in connection with the export or sale of the statue. To the contrary, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, held more than four decades ago that the possession by the original owners ‘did not constitute a crime.
The Getty will appeal the Pesaro court’s order to the Court of Cassation in Rome and will vigorously defend its legal ownership of the statue.”
ANSA, the Italian news agency, in its report of the court order, stated:
Mussoni’s decision overturned a 2008 ruling by another Pesaro judge rejecting Italy’s petition to have the statue seized.
Missoni argued that it had become state property the moment it was
fished out of the Adriatic off the town of Fano in 1964 and could not
have been sold afterwards without breaking Italian laws on antiquities.
The Getty has argued that the bronze was likely found in international waters. But even so, it then arrived in Italy and was likely smuggled out of the country in contravention of Italian law, before ultimately being purchased by the Getty in 1977.
The case continues…