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Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced last week the return of 58 antiquities valued at nearly $19 million to Italian residents. The 21 objects were from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

From New York to Italy, antiques valued at $19 million

A statement from the Manhattan District Attorney's office reveals that the antiques were sold by local fencing in New York using local thieves in Italy. Most of the works ended up in the collection of Michael Steinhardt, one of the world's foremost collectors of ancient art, who received a first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on the acquisition of antiquities. Remarkably, the Metropolitan Museum named the "Gallery of Greek Art of the 6th Century BC" in his and his wife's honour.

Unique monuments

The most valuable monuments returned certainly include the marble head of Athena, dating to 200 BC, which was looted from an archaeological site in central Italy.  In addition, noteworthy is a white-ground kylix (a kylix was a drinking vessel) dated to 470 BC by the painter Villia Giulia. This painter decorated vases in Athens between about 470 and 440 BC. Inside the vessel is a painted scene with a woman standing in front of an altar and making an offering. The chalice was in fragments when it was stolen from Italy and eventually smuggled into Switzerland. It was purchased by the Met in 1979. Another monument is a bronze bust of a man, dating to the end of the first century BC or the first century AD. The work was given by a Parisian fence, to a fence in Switzerland, who eventually sold it to a person in New York County.

Metropolitan Museum's bad streak 

In August, New York officials returned 30 antiquities to Cambodia, including a Khmer sculptural "masterpiece" from the 10th century. In 2021, the Met returned three objects of African art to Nigeria, including a pair of 16th-century brass plaques from Benin.

Photo source: Reuters.

Added 2022-09-18 in by Alicja Graczyk