Italian Court Orders Getty Villa to Return Greek Bronze

The Court of Cassation in Italy has decided that a bronze sculpture found in the Adriatic Sea in 1964 should be taken from the Getty Villa near Los Angeles and returned to Italy. The bronze is known as Victorious Youth and was purchased by the Getty Trust in Germany in 1977. It appears to date from the second or third century B.C. Since its discovery, it was sold multiple times and smuggled out of Italy without an export license. Italian authorities thus argue that the Getty must bear the consequences of buying a statue without checking for the license. (The license requirement is based on a 1939 Italian law.)

The Getty has argued in response that the sculpture is Greek and was found in international waters, contrary to the Italian position that it was found in Italian territorial waters. This uncertainty over the statue’s origin had prevented Italian prosecutors from winning a series of skirmishes in lower courts over the last 10 years. They finally won this victory after finding more compelling evidence. People in the town to which the statue was initially brought after being discovered are looking forward to welcoming its return.

However, the legal battle may be far from over. The Italian government still needs to ask the U.S. Justice Department to confiscate the bronze from the Getty Villa. The Getty is expected to oppose this request as a violation of U.S. and international law. Meanwhile, the Getty may be able to bring a legal action in the U.S. to validate its claim for title and assert that the Italian government does not have superior title.

Photo Credit:  Rolf_52 /