May 30, 2024


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The European Court upholds Italy's right to confiscate precious Greek bronze from the Getty Museum, and rejects the appeal

The European Court upholds Italy's right to confiscate precious Greek bronze from the Getty Museum, and rejects the appeal

ROME (AP) — A European court on Thursday upheld Italy's right to confiscate a… Precious Greek statue from the J. Paul Getty Museum In California, it ruled that Italy was justified in trying to restore an important part of its cultural heritage and rejected the museum attraction.

the European Court of Human RightsThe European Court of Human Rights decided that Italy's decades-long efforts to recover the “Victorious Youth” statue from the Getty Hotel in Malibu were not disproportionate.

“Victorious Youth,” a life-size bronze dating from 300 to 100 B.C., is one of the highlights of the Getty Collection. Although the artist is unknown, some scholars believe the statue was made by Lysippos, the personal sculptor of Alexander the Great.

The bronze statue, which was pulled from the sea in 1964 by Italian fishermen and then illegally exported out of Italy, was purchased by the Getty in 1977 for $4 million and has been on display there ever since.

AP correspondent Donna Warder reports on the international battle over a treasured Greek statue.

Getty had appealed to the European Court after Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation in 2018 upheld the confiscation order issued by a lower court. The Italian legal rulings were part of the country's years-long campaign to reclaim antiquities looted from its territory and sell them to museums and private collectors around the world.

Getty said her rights to the statue, under the European Human Rights Protocol on the Protection of Property, had been violated by the Italian campaign to restore it.

The European Court ruled on Thursday that no such violation had occurred. It went further, confirming in an online English ruling what the Italian Court of Cassation had decided: that the statue was part of Italy's cultural heritage, that international law strongly supports Italy's efforts to recover it, and that Getty was negligent at best when it bought it without fully verifying its provenance. correct.

“This is not just a victory for the Italian government. It is a victory for culture,” said Maurizio Fiorelli, who as an Italian government lawyer led Italy’s efforts to recover its looted antiquities, in particular the Getty bronze statue.

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The Getty has long defended its right to the statue, saying Italy has no legal right to it. The museum pledged Thursday to continue the legal battle to retain it.

Despite Thursday's ruling, the museum said in a statement, “We believe that the Getty's nearly fifty-year public possession of an artwork neither created by an Italian artist nor found within Italian territory is appropriate, ethical, and consistent with U.S. and international law.” statement.

Among other things, Getty argued that the statue was of Greek origin, was found in international waters and was never part of Italy's cultural heritage. She cited a 1968 Court of Cassation ruling that found no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.

Italy claimed, and the Court of Cassation later found, that the statue was indeed part of its cultural heritage, that the Italians had brought it ashore on a ship flying the Italian flag and had been exported illegally, without any customs declarations or payments.

The decision of the European Court of Human Rights, based in France, on Thursday was a ruling issued by a chamber. The two sides now have three months to request that the case be presented to the court's Grand Chamber for a final decision, and Getty said it was considering such an application.

Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano praised Thursday's decision as an “unequivocal ruling” recognizing Italy's ownership of the statue, and said his government was renewing contact with US authorities “to help implement the confiscation order.”

Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are binding on states parties to the court. The United States is not a party, but it has a tradition of judicial cooperation with Italy. Italy had asked the US Attorney's Office to implement the confiscation order in 2019. The European Court of Human Rights ruling noted that “the action is still pending.”

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Experts in cultural heritage law said the ruling is important, including for the broader debate over restitution that has roiled American and European museums, but the next steps remain uncertain. Italy can ask a US court directly to recognize and implement the cassation ruling, or it can ask the US Attorney General to initiate proceedings.

“If the US court implements the ruling, it will open huge doors for American museums,” said Patti Gerstenblith, an expert in cultural heritage law at DePaul University.

However, she noted that if Italy had tried to sue Getty directly in a US court, it likely would not have been successful. It has been a long time coming and there has yet to be a final conclusion on whether the statue was found in Italian territorial waters or international waters, which is the main test under US law to determine ownership.

Derek Fincham, a cultural heritage researcher at South Texas College of Law, said the ruling was a “huge win for Italy” and other indigenous nations, especially since the court affirmed that nations have a “wide margin of appreciation when it comes to cultural heritage.” we are worried.”

“It's a very good goal for the Getty because they filed the claim, and now there are all these details in English” from the Italian cassation ruling and Italy's 50-year effort to recover the statue, he said.

Italy recently stopped cooperation with foreign museums that do not recognize Italian confiscation orders, and prohibits loans to museums Minneapolis Institute of Arts after a dispute On an ancient marble statue believed to have been looted from Italy nearly half a century ago.

“Victorious Youth,” nicknamed the “Getty Bronze,” is a signature piece for the Getty. Standing about 5 feet (1.52 m) tall, the representation of a young athlete raising his right hand to the olive wreath crown around his head is one of the few life-sized Greek bronzes to have survived.

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It is believed that the bronze piece sank along with the ship carrying it to Italy after the Romans invaded Greece. After being found in the nets of Italian fishermen trawling in international waters in 1964, he was allegedly buried in an Italian cabbage patch and hidden in a priest's bathtub before being taken out of the country.

The statue resurfaced in Germany in the early 1970s in the possession of a German art dealer, identified in court documents as Mr. H.H., who held it on behalf of a Liechtenstein-based company.

In 1972, G.I. Consultants entered Paul Getty, American oil tycoon and art collector, is in negotiations with His Highness to purchase it. The European Court of Human Rights ruling reproduced court documents showing that Getty himself wanted to ensure he could obtain legal ownership of the statue.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruling said Getty's advisers did not go further in ascertaining whether the sellers had acquired and exported them legally from Italy. She said they relied on legal opinions from the sellers' lawyers who “had a clear interest in presenting the source as legitimate.”

Citing lower court rulings, the ECtHR judges decided that the Getty Trust had “very strong reason to doubt the legitimate provenance of the statue.” When they went ahead and bought it anyway after Getty's death, they acted “at the very least, negligently, if not in bad faith.”

She said Getty could not expect to receive compensation for the statue, because she had “accepted, at least implicitly, the risk of the statue being confiscated.”

Italy has successfully recovered thousands of artifacts from museums, art collections and private owners around the world that it says were looted or stolen from the country illegally. He. She The museum was recently opened To shelter them until they can be returned to the areas from which they were looted.