|The “Getty Bronze”|
Last weekend at the 2010 ARCA conference, Italian state attorney Maurizio Fiorilli offered his thoughts on the ongoing dispute between Italy and the Getty over the disposition of this ancient Greek bronze, often called the “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth”. Fiorilli has been nicknamed “Il Bulldog” by the Italian press for his quiet persistence in securing the return of illegally exported and illegally excavated cultural objects from a number of American museums, including a number of objects acquired in recent decades from the Getty.
One object which the Italians did not secure was this bronze, which is the subject of a seizure proceeding in Italy. I’ve posted below four videos which find Fiorilli making a reasoned legal case for the return of the bronze. An Italian court in February ordered the return of this object, however difficulty will arise when Italy attempts to convince a U.S. court to enforce the order. The Getty has appealed the Italian decision, but the legal proceedings are important not only for the direct result, but for the shift in public perception which the Getty will have to navigate. Surely the Getty does not relish the idea of a long protracted public debate over the disposition of this bronze. The story of this bronze presents an interesting case. Though it was certainly illegally exported from Italy, it cannot be considered a “looted” object in my view.
The bronze was found by Italian fishermen somewhere in the Adriatic in the 1960’s. I wrote a long summary of the story of the bronze back in 2007. To summarize, the statue was found by fisherman in the Adriatic in 1964, smuggled out of Italy, and eventually purchased by the Getty in 1977. The bronze was discussed a great deal in the very public battle between Italy and the Getty over other looted objects in recent years. Yet there was a lack of direct evidence linking the Getty to any wrongdoing in the acquisition. Criminal proceedings were brought against some of the fishermen and handlers of the statue in Italy in 1968. Left with little concrete evidence to secure a conviction, the fishermen were acquitted. Yet as Fiorilli argued, these proceedings were made difficult because the actual statue had been smuggled abroad, and Italian prosecutors were unable to meet their burden.
I’ll let Fiorilli make his case in the videos below, and apologies for the low sound levels. Fiorilli spoke beautiful English, but chose to make his case in Italian, with the help of a translator.