Boston Museum of Fine Arts Agrees to Return Antiquities to Italy

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has agreed to return an unspecified number of allegedly looted antiquities to the Italian government, the Boston Globe reports.

In exchange, Italy will loan the MFA objects from its vast holdings of ancient art, and both sides have pledged to work together to ensure the museum doesn't acquire looted artifacts in the future. A joint statement from representatives of the museum and the Italian government referred to the impending deal as a "cultural partnership." Though neither side would comment on which objects were included or when the agreement will be finalized, the arrangement appears to mirror one signed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York earlier this year in which the Met agreed to return twenty objects to the Italian government in return for loaned works of "equivalent beauty and artistic or historical significance."

A deal between the MFA and Italy would bring to an end a lengthy drama that began in October and prompted a series of exchanges between Italian officials and the museum. Earlier this year, Maurizio Fiorilli, the attorney representing the Italian government in its negotiations, provided the museum with a list of forty-two items with questionable provenance, including three objects long thought to have been looted — a six-foot marble statue of Sabina, a 2,300-year-old jar, and a vase from Italy's Apulian region — as well as sixteen items connected with art dealer Robert E. Hecht Jr., currently on trial in Rome for allegedly dealing in stolen antiquities.

Archaeologists critical of the MFA for refusing to return questionable objects said the Italian government should have insisted on stiffer penalties. But Fiorilli praised the museum for its cooperation. "The MFA took our dossier seriously," he told the Globe, "and, motivated by the best of intentions, they want to collaborate with the Italian authorities."

Susanna Pinto. "MFA Agrees to Return Disputed Art to Italy." Boston Globe 07/28/2006.