Getty Museum Agrees to Return More Antiquities to Italy

The Italian government and the J. Paul Getty Museum have reached an agreement that will require the museum to return forty artifacts, including a fifth-century B.C. statue of the goddess Aphrodite, the Associated Press reports.

Italy, which has launched a worldwide campaign to recover antiquities it claims were looted from the country and sold to museums worldwide, and the Getty also agreed on widespread cultural cooperation, including loans of other treasures to the Los Angeles museum. For example, the prized seven-foot statue of Aphrodite will remain on display at the Getty until 2010. Italian authorities believe the statue, bought by the Getty for $18 million in 1988, was looted from an ancient Greek settlement in Sicily. The Getty has denied knowingly buying any illegally obtained objects.

In a statement, the Italian Culture Ministry said, "Both parties declare themselves satisfied with the fact that, after long and complicated negotiations, an agreement has been reached and now they move ahead with a relationship of renewed cooperation."

Despite the agreement, the fate of some treasures remains up in the air. The two sides have agreed to postpone further discussion on at least one piece — the "Statue of a Victorious Athlete," a Greek bronze believed to date from around 300 B.C. — that had held up negotiations for months. The museum argues that it was found in international waters in 1964 off Italy's eastern coast, while Italy says the statue was pulled from the sea floor by fishermen near Fano, and that even if the find occurred in international waters the statue was still brought into Italy and then exported illegally.