Italy Celebrates Return of Stolen Arts

03:08 May 31, 2024

Italy Celebrates Return of Stolen Arts

Italy celebrated the return of hundreds of its antiquities from the United States this week. The property included ancient bronze statues, gold coins, mosaics and documents valued at $65 million.

The pieces were stolen years ago. They were later sold to American museums, galleries and collectors. Their return came after a successful criminal investigation.

Officials of Italy’s Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage presented the returned objects at a press event in Rome.

A team of American officials attended the presentation. They included U.S. Ambassador Jack Markell and Matthew Bogdanos, chief of the antiquities trafficking unit of the New York district attorney's office.

It marked the latest presentation of property return in Italy’s long effort to recover antiquities stolen from its territory. The thieves, called tombaroli in Italy, sold to antiquities dealers who often lied on ownership records to resell the antiquities.

Markell said that the United States is firm in its goal of returning stolen property “to where it belongs...We know that safeguarding this history requires care and vigilance, and this is why we do what we do."

Among the most valuable pieces presented was a fourth-century Naxos silver coin. The coin has an image of the Greek god of wine, Dionysius. It was taken from an illegal dig site in Sicily and transported to Britain. Bogdanos said the coin was found in New York last year as part of an investigation into a noted British coin dealer. It was being offered for sale for $500,000.

Bogdanos said that other objects were returned from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The returned objects also included a life-sized bronze statue of a person, as well as several vases from the ancient Etruscan civilization.

Italian officials said the returned property also included paintings from the 16th and 19th centuries that once belonged to Italian museums, religious centers and private homes.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

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