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Met to return 21 looted antiquities to Italy

After Getty, another major recovery thanks to US investigators

(ANSA) - ROME, SEP 5 - New York's Metropolitan Museum is to return 21 looted antiquities to Italy, the New York Times reported at the weekend in the wake of the recent announcement of the return of a famed Magna Graecia statuary group from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
    Prosecutors in New York have been seizing the antiquities over the last few months, the NYT said.
    According to the investigators, eight of the pieces came into the museum's collections via Gianfranco Becchina, a Sicilian art dealer with a gallery in Switzerland who has been the focus of several trials in Italy.
    The works are worth some 13 million dollars.
    Among them, valued at three million, is a colossal marble head of Athena dated to 200 BC and a terracotta Etruscan kylix attributed to the Painter of Villa Giulia that was made around 470 BC, and which the Met bought from Becchina's Basel gallery in 1979.
    Another piece, a terracotta stauette of a goddess dating to 400 BC, had been donated in 200 by Robin Symes, the British collector involved in the sale of the colossal Venus of Morgantina, acquired by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for 18 million dollars in 1988 and returned to Italy amid fanfare in 2007.
    On August 12 the Getty Museum in Los Angeles said it would return a famed and illicitly exported Ancient Greek statuary group, Orpheus and the Sirens, to Italy.
    The groups includes life-size terracotta figures of a poet and two sirens, or mythical singing mermaids who lured sailors to their deaths.
    It was discovered in Puglia and dates back to the fourth century BC, when Magna Graecia culture was at its peak in southern Italy.
    Italy had been seeking to get it back since 2006.
    Manhattan prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos recently proved that the group was exported from Italy illegally.
    The prosecutor's efforts also recently resulted in the return to Italy of 142 other antiquities, mostly from the collection of New York financier Michael Steinhardt.
    Bogdanos specified that the Orpheus group had been seized from the Getty, which had thus "left out half the truth" in announcing its return.
    Bogdanos also told ANSA that "we investigate people, not museums," saying that other art dealers in the investigators' cross-hairs included the notorious Giacomo Medici, and another Italian antiquities merchant, Pasquale Camera.
    Another six Ancient Egyptian works that were recently confiscated will be returned to Egypt, prosecutors told the NYT.


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