In the ongoing war between museums that collect antiquities and modern states that claim to be the legal heirs of their ancient societies and cultures, Italy has won some battles.
For years, Italy and Getty Museum in Los Angeles have been in a legal dispute over the ownership of an ancient Greek bronze statue that was pulled out of the Adriatic Sea in 1964 by an Italian fisherman, off the coast of Fano. The Getty purchased the statue for $4 million from the fisherman in 1977.
According to Judge Lorena Mussoni from Pesaro, who ordered the immediate return of the bronze on February 11, 2010, the statue, which dates from 300 BC to 100 BC, had become state property the moment it was fished out of the Adriatic, and its subsequent sale violated Italian law.
Mussoni ordered the statue, widely known as the Getty bronze, to be ‘confiscated from the museum' and returned to Italy immediately. Mussoni's decision overturned a 2008 ruling by another Pesaro judge, who rejected Italy's petition to have the statue returned.
The ruling was met with praise from a group of Italian art lovers gathered outside of the courtroom, who cheered the decision with champagne. In response to the ruling, the Getty issued a statement saying the court order was ‘flawed both procedurally and substantively,' and that it would appeal the decision.