The Italian Court of Cassation, the nation’s highest court, on Wednesday ordered the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles to return a valuable Greek statue recovered by Italian fishermen and sold to the Getty Museum in 1977 for USD $4 million.
“[T]hree different judges have reaffirmed that the statue belongs to the Italian state and that it must be given back,” said prosecutor Christina Tedeschini.
The statue, called “The Victorious Youth,” was sculpted by Ancient Greek artist Lysippos around 200 BC. It was lost in a shipwreck, recovered by Italian divers in international waters in 1964, and sold to the Getty Trust, which claims ownership over the artifact. “Over more than four decades, the Getty has worked closely with Italian colleagues in conserving, protecting, researching and celebrating Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage,” says the museum in an official statement on the forfeiture order. “It is unfortunate that this issue has been a distraction from that important work.”
Getty Museum sources claim that the statue is one-of-a-kind and one of the few existing Greek bronze statues to survive to the present day, and that it should not be returned because of a 1968 Court of Cassation ruling that the statue did not belong to the Italian nation.
In 2007 the Getty Museum agreed to return 40 ancient objects of Roman and Greek origin, and now Italy demands “The Victorious Youth.” “The Lysippos must return to Italy, it’s the last word from Italian justice,” said prosecutor Silvia Cecchi.
“The law and facts in this case do not warrant restitution to the Italian government of a statue that has been on public display in Los Angeles for nearly a half century,” asserts the Getty Trust. “We will continue to defend our legal right to the statue.”