Italy demands return of stolen Roman-era copy of Greek statue from US Museum


Italy has demanded the return of a Roman-era copy of an ancient Greek sculpture from The Minneapolis Institute of Art following allegations it was stolen, leading the country to impose a ban on future loans of works to the museum until the issue is resolved.

According to Associated Press,  the dispute began in March 2022 when an Italian court ruled that the Minneapolis museum was irregularly in possession of the Stabiae Doriforo, the Roman-era copy of The Doryphoros of Polykleitos, an ancient Greek sculpture. A spokesman for Italy´s Culture Ministry confirmed the ban on Wednesday.

Rome claims that the sculpture was looted in the 1970s from an archaeological site at Stabiae, an ancient city close to Pompeii that was also covered by lava and ashes when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

In February 2022, Italian prosecutors issued an international warrant for the artwork to be impounded and returned. At a news conference earlier this year, Nunzio Fragliasso, chief prosecutor at the Torre Annunziata court, said they were "still awaiting a response."

In 1984, while the work was on display in a German museum, Italy initiated a legal proceeding to claim it. The claim was denied in 1986. The U.S. museum, which bought the statue in 1986 for $2.5 million, said it was purchased from art dealer Elie Borowski and imported into the United States.

"Since that time, the work has been publicly displayed and extensively published," the Minneapolis museum said in a statement. "While it takes issue with recent press reports regarding the Doryphoros, Mia (the museum) believes that the media is not an appropriate forum to address unproven allegations."

The museum asserted that it has always acted "responsibly and proactively" with respect to claims related to its collection. However, it added, "where proof has not been provided, as well as where Mia has evidence reasonably demonstrating that a claim is not supported, Mia has declined to transfer the work."

The museum called Italy´s new ban on loans "contrary to decades of exchanges between museums."

(Source: AP)

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