Italy and the Getty Reach a Deal

The Associated Press is reporting an agreement has been reached between Italy and the Getty. The baseball trading deadline yesterday must have inspired both sides. As expected the deal will include loans from Italy. The Morgantina Aphrodite will stay at the Getty until 2010. The two sides agreed to postpone negotiations over the Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth. What remains unclear is how this deal will affect the prosecution of former curator Marion True. One would hope the Italians were not prosecuting her merely to leverage the Getty into returning objects.

Here’s the wire story:

ROME (AP) – The Italian Culture Ministry said Wednesday it has reached a deal with the J. Paul Getty Museum for the return of 40 artifacts _ the latest victory in Italy’s efforts to recover antiquities it says were looted from the country and sold to museums worldwide.

Italy and the Getty also agreed on widespread cultural cooperation, which will include loans of other treasures to the Los Angeles museum, the ministry said in a statement.

“Both parties declare themselves satisfied with the fact that, after long and complicated negotiations, an agreement has been reached and now they move ahead with a relationship of renewed cooperation,” the statement said. The Getty has denied knowingly buying illegally obtained objects. Most of the artifacts will be returned within the next few months, according to a calendar drawn up by experts from both sides.

The agreement includes one of the most prized works in dispute, a 5th century B.C. statue of the goddess Aphrodite, which will remain on display at the Getty until 2010, the ministry said. Italian authorities believe the 2.2-meter (7-foot) statue, bought by the Getty for US$18 million in 1988, was looted from an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily.

The ministry had threatened to suspend all collaboration with the Getty if a deal was not reached by the end of July. Despite the agreement announced Wednesday, the fate of some treasures that had been in contention was left hanging.

The statement said the two sides agreed to postpone further discussion on at least one key piece that had held up negotiations for months: the «Statue of a Victorious Athlete,» a Greek bronze believed to date from around 300 B.C.

The museum believes the bronze was found in international waters in 1964 off Italy’s eastern coast and that Rome has no claim on it. The Italians say the statue was pulled up by fishermen near Fano and that even if the find occurred in international waters the statue was still brought into the country and then exported illegally.

Italian authorities have launched a worldwide campaign to recover looted treasures and had been at odds with the Getty over dozens of antiquities they say were illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country despite laws making all antiquities found in Italy state property.

Authorities have signed separate deals with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts for the return of a total of 34 artifacts _ including Hellenistic silverware, Etruscan vases and Roman statues _ in exchange for loans of other treasures.

Italy has also placed former Getty curator Marion True and art dealer Robert Hecht on trial in Rome, charging them with knowingly receiving dozens of archaeological treasures that had been stolen from private collections or dug up illicitly.

The two Americans deny wrongdoing. It was not immediately clear if the political agreement would affect the trial.

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