On the Tomb-rider trail

Exhibition at the Coloseum fetes Italy’s recovered art

Editorial Staff
October 16, 2008

Once the arena where ancient Rome witnessed public performances and gladiator fights, the Coloseum is currently the setting for a showcase of Italy's retrieved lost and stolen artworks.


Italy's tradition of preserving its art heritage began in the Renaissance. Today, the country boasts one of the world's most authoritative law enforcement units on art crime, a division of the Carabinieri known as the art cops, that specializes in tracking down and recovering stolen art from thieves, tomb raiders and traffickers.


The exhibition, Ruins and Rebirth of Art in Italy, celebrates Italy's efforts to repatriate its priceless antiquities. Approximately 60 works, many of which date from the classical era, are showcased on the second tier of the Roman amphitheatre.


Each work has a story, and the exhibit includes the details of how Italy?s art cops foiled thieves and outsmarted traffickers. The exhibition also examines Italy's art protection laws over the centuries, including the country's recent campaign to negotiate with museums the return of many ancient treasures.


Running until February 15, 2009, the show marks the 100th anniversary of the landmark law to protect Italy?s immense trove of antiquities. The 1909 law is part of the National Heritage Code, and its principles are included in Italy's 1948 constitution. For more information, see www.beniculturali.it 

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