Stolen artifacts repatriated to Italy from New York
New York officials have returned stolen antiquities valued at nearly $14 million to Italy, including artifacts seized from US billionaire Michael Steinhardt.
Dozens of looted artifacts - some dating to the 4th century B.C. - were repatriated to a museum for rescued art in Rome after New York investigators seized the art pieces and brought them to Italy this week.
In a criminal investigation, a fresco dating to A.D. 50, was among the 142 antiquities recovered; the painting's source was an ancient town that was buried under volcanic ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted. It was looted from a villa in the Herculaneum archaeological site, in 1995, and one of the world’s largest ancient art collectors, the hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt, bought it that year for $650,000, as per the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The Ercolano Fresco, showing an infant Hercules strangling a snake, is worth $1 million and is part of the collection of recovered items valued at around $14 million.
The collection includes an Archaic pithos (storage jar) dating back to 700 B.C. and three pieces of fresco that depict mourning women and date back to the 4th century. These frescos came from an old Greek city in southern Italy. According to New York officials, the thieves hacked the paintings from the wall of a tomb.
However, they will be repatriated to the Museum of Rescued Art in Rome, which opened last month in the Italian capital to show recovered artifacts before they are taken back to the regions where they were plundered or lost.
“Though the pieces being repatriated today have a written price tag of millions of dollars, the historical, artistic, and cultural values attached to each of the relics are immeasurable and priceless," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said.
After Italian and US investigators traced trafficked art back to Steinhardt’s collection, he gave up late last year 180 pieces, with the sections of fresco, and accepted a lifetime ban on buying antiquities.
48 of the artifacts handed back to Italy at a repatriation ceremoney on Wednesday in New York came from Steinhardt, and 60 others were recovered from the New York art dealership Royal-Athena Galleries, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said.
“These artifacts deserve a place in their homeland, where the people of Italy can jointly appreciate the marvels of their country’s past,” Bragg said.
Consul General of Italy Fabrizio Di Michele, who attended the repatriation ceremony, said, the “repatriation of these 142 masterpieces, previously stolen or looted in Italy, is very important for our country.”
Read more: $10m worth of antiques trafficked in the US return to Italy