Italian Seizures, the Bronze Athelete, and the Getty

The Getty has decided to appeal the February decision in which an Italian court ordered the seizure of this statue, Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth.  An Italian appeals court judged ordered the work returned to Italy.  This was a new legal approach as nations as far as I’m aware have not attempted to bring forfeiture proceedings domestically, with an expectation that a foreign government or court would uphold the order.  Perhaps the Italian courts could seize other assets the Getty has in Italy in lieu of recovery, but my initial conclusions are shared by Patty Gerstenblith in Martha Lufkin’s excellent summary of the current disposition of the dispute.  Gerstenblith notes two problems.  First, illegal export does not give Italy a tenable claim in U.S. courts.  It may in conjunction with a law like the Cultural Property Implementation Act and bilateral agreements, but those were all enacted after the bronze was brought to California.  Second, an awful lot of time has elapsed, and it is likely that an American court will take a dim view of the length of time Italy has taken before this action.  Indeed, charges were brought in Italy against the fisherman who brought the bronze up in their nets in the 1960’s, but the defendants were acquitted. 

There is an extralegal dimension to the appeal as well, in that Italy continues to put pressure on the Getty, and its means of acquisition of the statue. 

We may question the Getty’s acquisition of the bronze, question where it currently belongs, and even debate the merits of restitution of these objects.  However, there is no evidence that this bronze was “looted” in the same way the Euphronios Krater was for example.  All reports I’m aware of indicate the fishermen fortuitously brought this up in the Adriatic, in international waters, in 1964.  They may have later passed it on to others who smuggled it out of the country, but this is not a looted object.

For noteworthy previous posts on the bronze, see here.

  1. Martha Lufkin, Greek bronze will stay in the Getty Villa, The Art Newspaper, April 14, 2010.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Italian Seizures, the Bronze Athelete, and the Getty”

  1. History has repeatedly shown that appeasement is a poor deterrent to aggression. Use of the NSPA to extend the reach of nationalist laws beyond their legitimate jurisdiction can only be seen as a form of appeasement and it will have dire consequences for all Americans at some point. By the same token, is CPIA intended to help preserve cultural property or merely to satiate the hunger of cultural nationalist regimes?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *