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Court Orders the Getty to Return Iconic Greek Bronze to Italy

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles was ordered to restitute its famous ancient Greek bronze known as Statue of a Victorious Youth to Italy, reports Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times. Issued by an Italian court on Friday, June 8, the ruling states that the work was illegally exported. However, the institution claims that its acquisition of the work was legitimate.

The piece, which some scholars have attributed to Lysippus—Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor—was originally found by an Italian fisherman in international waters in 1964. The mariner then sold the work, which dates to 300 to 100 BCE, and the museum eventually purchased it for $3.95 million from a German dealer in 1977.

“The statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage,” Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said in a statement. “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.”

The Italian culture ministry first requested that the Getty return the piece on “ethical grounds” in 1989. The institution has been in a legal battle with the country over who has rights to the piece ever since. Hartwig said that the museum was “disappointed” by Judge Giacomo Gasparini’s latest ruling on the work and that it plans to appeal. “The facts in this case do not warrant restitution of the object to Italy.”