On Friday, the AP reported that Italy and the Cleveland Museum of Art had reached an oral agreement to return some antiquities to Italy. Lee Rosenbaum rightly points out that this may be an example of Italy (specifically its departing minister Francesco Rutelli) jumping the gun before an agreement has in fact been concluded.
Though Rutelli has certainly achieved a number of notable successes during his term as Italy’s Culture Minister, his actions have also seemingly been motivated in many cases by the desire to gain political and media attention. This present announcement seems to be a case of Rutelli attempting to take credit for one last repatriation as he is soon to be replaced by Sandro Bondi in Berlusconi’s new Italian government. Though an agreement may have been reached in principle with the Cleveland Museum of Art, nothing is set in stone nor reduced to writing, and negotiations appear to be ongoing. The principal issue in these cases often isn’t necessarily what will go back to Italy, but what kinds of loans and agreements Cleveland can hope to receive in return.