Italy’s Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli just returned from a visit to the United States, and no visit is complete without more criticism of the Getty. Yesterday Rutelli repeated his claims. The LA Times has a good compilation of the Wire reports here. There is little new information save a new deadline. Rutelli says the Getty has until the end of July to return contested objects, else risk a “real embargo” which would preclude loans and collaborations with Italy in research and conservation projects. Rutelli said he had submitted a “final proposal for dialogue and agreement [and if no deal is done,] a real conflict will begin, a real embargo–that is, the interruption of cultural and scientific collaboration between Italy and that museum.”
What exactly the “final proposal” entails is unknown. Ron Hartwig the Getty spokesman did say that Rutelli sent a “very cordial…very encouraging” letter and that Michael Brand had “responded in kind”. As I understand it, the Getty has agreed to return many of the contested objects which Italy wants. However, the Getty is unable to reach an agreement because Rutelli has insisted no deal can be finished without the return of this statue, the “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth”. I’ve discussed this particular claim before, which you can read about by clicking the label below. Italy has no legal claim to the bronze statue, and a weak ethical argument for its return as well.
Rutelli is trying to associate the stronger claim the Getty has in the Bronze statue with the other objects with far more dubious provenances. It gets Rutelli’s comments in the papers, and it keeps the repatriation issue open, but seems unlikely to lead to a workable compromise.
Rutelli made yesterday’s announcement from the fishing port of Fano in Italy, where the statue was brought ashore by the fishermen who found it. I have updated the first paragraph accordingly.