Antique works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
New York justice returned 58 looted and stolen works of art to Italy on Tuesday, some of which date back to Roman antiquity and had been trafficked internationally to the United States and to the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Following a ceremony with the Consul General of Italy Fabrizio Di Michele, New York State District Attorney Alvin Bragg, announced in a statement the return to the Italian people of 58 antiquities worth nearly $19 million.
According to Mr. Bragg, 21 of these pieces had been seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), one of the largest and most prestigious art museums on the planet.
These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history; yet traffickers across Italy have resorted to looters to steal them and line their pockets, he said.
They had been enthroned for too long in museums, residences and art galleries which had no right of ownership, denounced the prosecutor Bragg.
The works had been trafficked by Giacomo Medici, Giovanni Franco Becchina, Pasquale Camera and Edoardo Almagiá, who sold them to Michael Steinhardt, one of the greatest collectors of art; ancient art in the world, Mr. Bragg denounced.
Since 2020, New York State Justice has engaged in an extensive restitution of works of art: from the summer of 2020 to the end of 2021, at least 700 coins were returned to 14 countries, including Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Greece or Italy.
The American collector Michael Steinhardt was thus forced to return in 2021 around 180 antiques stolen in recent decades, worth 70 million dollars.
An agreement between the New York justice and Mr. Steinhardt had allowed him to escape an indictment, but it prohibits him for life from acquiring works on the legal art market.
Among the works returned to Rome is a marble head of Athena dating from the year 200 BC. AD, stolen in central Italy, trafficked from Giacomo Medici's network and finally landed at the Met in 1996.
But also a bronze bust of a man dating from the 1st century BC or AD, which had been trafficked by the Parisian art dealer Robert Hecht to another merchant in Switzerland before eventually being sold to an individual in a New York county.
The Consul General of Italy, Mr. Di Michele, praised the intense and fruitful cooperation between the Italian and American authorities, in particular with the New York Prosecutor's Office, for the return of looted or stolen antiques.