Decades after being stolen in Italy, an ancient statuette and an 18th-century painting were returned to the country’s government after turning up in New York.
The handover of the ancient articles yesterday marked the latest case of US authorities helping Italy and other countries reclaim what they see as cultural patrimony.
“For decades, two significant pieces of Italian heritage have been on the run,” FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez said as he and Manhattan Deputy US Attorney Richard Zabel gave the artworks to Warrant Officer Angelo Ragusa of the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, an art-crimes police force.
The painting, called “The Holy Trinity Appearing to Saint Clement,” is attributed to the renowned artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, also called Giambattista Tiepolo. It was taken from a house in Turin in 1982, prosecutors said.
The Etruscan bronze statuette of the Greek mythological hero Herakles also known as Heracles or, to the Romans, Hercules dates to the sixth or fifth century BC. It vanished from the Oliveriano Archaeological Museum in Pesaro in 1964.
The works eventually ended up with an art dealer and an art-investment firm, which consigned them for sale in recent years. They relinquished the items after learning of the thefts and aren’t accused of involvement.
Italy has campaigned in the last decade to get back cultural items including ancient Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts the government says were looted or stolen.
New York prosecutors have been involved in the effort before. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced in 2011 that a Renaissance painting and a Roman sculpture from about the first century were being returned to Italy after popping up at New York auction houses.