The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is returning a group of life-sized terracotta statues, dating to between 350 and 300 BC, and four other objects to Rome after an investigation revealed the relics had been stolen and smuggled out of Italy.
The three statues, known as Orpheus and the Sirens, have been removed from the museum and are being prepared to be transported back to Rome in September.
The image series, depicting a seated man and two mythical sirens, was purchased by John Paul Getty in 1976 from a now-defunct private bank in Switzerland.
They are believed to be from the Taranto area of the southern Italian region of Puglia and have been on a list of stolen items since 2006 that Italy wants to reclaim possession of.
The museum said in a statement it has ordered the items to be returned to Rome following an investigation conducted by Matthew Bogdanos, who heads the antiquities trading unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
The museum is also working with the Italian Ministry of Culture to return four other relics, including three works purchased in the 1970s and an 1881 oil painting by Camillo Miola called The Oracle, after research by scholars revealed that the objects had also been illegally removed from Italy.
“We value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and with our many archaeological, conservation, curatorial and other scientific colleagues across Italy, with whom we share a mission to promote the preservation of ancient cultural heritage,” said the Getty director, Timothy Potts.
Meanwhile, 260 Etruscan, Greek and Roman artifacts looted from Italy before ending up in American museums, private collections or auction houses are being gradually returned after an investigation was completed late last year. The items are on display at the recently established Museum of Rescued Art, which is hosted in a space among the ruins of the ancient Baths of Diocletian in Rome.
Many of the 260 relics were looted during clandestine excavations by tombaroli, or grave robbers, dating back to the early 1980s, before being smuggled out of Italy. Among them was an ancient Roman sculpture that nearly ended up in Kim Kardashian’s possession.
Since the unit was founded in 1969, more than 3 million stolen objects have been recovered by the Italian Cultural Heritage Protection Team.