Greek bronze sculpture found off the Italian coast gets its day in court
By Hannah McGivern. Web only
Published online: 25 February 2014
The Getty’s star athlete
Italy’s Supreme Court is due to hear today, 25 February, the case of the ancient Greek bronze at the centre of a long-running restitution battle between Italy and the Getty in Los Angeles.
The statue, known as the Athlete of Fano or the Victorious Youth, has long been a star object of the Getty Villa in Malibu. It was acquired by the Getty in 1977. Found in 1964 by Italian fishermen in the Adriatic off the coast near Fano, Italy claims that it was illegally exported.
The legal battle over the sculpture began in 2007 when a local cultural association called 100 Cities opened the case for its restitution at the regional court of Pesaro. In 2009, Lorena Mussoni, the judge of the preliminary hearing, ordered the bronze be repatriated as the “inalienable property” of the Italian state that had been acquired by the Los Angeles museum in “bad faith”.
Today’s hearing in Rome’s Corte di Cassazione follows the Getty’s appeal against the court order for repatriation. Ron Hartwig, the vice president of communication for the Getty, says “We are hopeful that the court will provide an appropriate analysis of applicable Italian law, under which we expect our ownership of the Victorious Youth to be upheld.”
The Getty maintain that the sculpture was found in international waters and so the Italian state has no jurisdiction over the object. “Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object. Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the bronze has only a fleeting and incidental connection with Italy,” Hartwig says.
It is unclear how a repatriation order would be enforced, if the court finds against the Getty.