For quite some time, the Italian Culture Ministry has been trying to get the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to return the priceless Statue of a Victorious Youth (covered in the January 17, 2019 edition of The Italian Tribune). Now the Ministry has upped the ante and has requested the return of a four additional works of art. These include “The Oracle” by 19th century painter Camillo Miola, which was stolen from the Instituto San Lorenzo in Aversa (province of Caserta) sometime between 1943 and 1946; two limestone lions dating from the Roman Empire that were taken from Palazzo Spaventa at Preturo near Aquila and a mosaic of Medusa which belonged to the Museo Nazionale Romano. The Ministry believes the works to have been stolen or exported without permission of the government and has asked the Getty to review the provenance of each of the works.
In January, the Supreme Court of Cassation said that the Getty Museum showed “unjustifiable carelessness” in buying the ancient Greek Statue of a Victorious Youth by famed sculptor Lysippus and chided the museum for relying on opinions of its purportedly legal provenance from consultants appointed by the seller. This, despite the perplexity shown by the most authoritative party in the talks, the Metropolitan Museum of New York. After a lengthy legal battle, the Italian high court has ruled that the priceless bronze statue, long a centerpiece of the Getty, belonged to Italy and must be returned.
Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli hopes U.S. authorities will act as soon as possible to favor the restitution of the fourth century BC statue to Italy. In response, the Getty said in a statement that it will continue to defend its right to the statue, claiming that it has had possession of the statue for almost a half century. The legal wrangling has already gone on for eleven years and the statue, also known as the Lysippos, has been contested ever since the Getty bought it for almost four million dollars in 1977 from a German art dealer. The fishermen who discovered the bronze were paid the equivalent of $5,600 for it in 1964. Italy has long claimed the statue was smuggled out of the country and has demanded that the Getty hand it back.
Earlier this year, the Getty did return a bust of the Greek god Hades to Museo Archeologico di Aidone, but the stakes have been raised in this latest round, as Italy continues to press the world-famous museum for the return of the statue of a Victorious Youth.