Getty returns stolen art to Italy

American museum sends three antique objects back to rightful owners

Editorial Staff
November 17, 2005

Satisfied Italian Cultural Minister Rocco Buttiglione reported on November 11 that three artefacts from an important American museum have now been returned to their true owners. Buttiglione also noted that another two items may soon be on their way home as well.


The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has returned an ancient bowl, candelabra, and funeral inscription after a dispute over the legality of the objects’ departure from Italy. The items are among 42 objects that Italy claims were illegally dug up without any permits and then smuggled out of the country.


The Getty Museum’s antiques curator, Marion True, now stands charged by Italian courts with the handling and receiving of stolen artefacts. They claim she was aware the items were looted, but that she brought them back to the U.S. museum regardless. An American art dealer, Robert Hecht, is also faced with similar charges and will be tried alongside True on November 19. This is the first time a U.S. antiquities curator has faced charges of this type in Italy. The charges are part of a concerted effort by Italian authorities to combat the plundering of the country’s valuable art and artefacts.

In the meantime, Giacomo Medici, a convicted Roman antiquities trafficker, is appealing his 10-year sentence for receiving and exporting stolen artefacts related to this case.


The returned items were unveiled during Buttiglione’s announcement of their return, and the event was also attended by Ugo Zotin, head of the Italian police’s art theft division, and by U.S. customs representatives.


The bronze candelabra is of Etruscan origin, and the funeral stone was carved in the sixth century BCE. They were both unearthed at the site of an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily. The bowl, dating back to 340 BCE, was dug up in the Campania region and is a work of Asteas, a painter from the ancient southern Italian city of Paestum.

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