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Italy Issues Ultimatum to LA’s Getty

Does Italy have enough in the way of historical artifacts and pieces of art with worldwide significance to keep visitors happy? Definitely. Will it all keep the locals happy? Apparently not. Italy’s Culture Minister and Deputy Premier Francesco Rutelli has issued an ultimatum to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles: Either return our pillaged art treasures, or we’ll sever ties with the Getty.

At issue are several pieces of art, including two “priceless antiquities,” a bronze statue of an athlete and a marble Venus. Rutelli says that they’ve “shown that these works were stolen, illegally exported and then bought by the Getty.” In fact, a former curator of the Getty is on trial in Rome for allegedly acquiring stolen artifacts. The Getty claims the bronze (discovered in 1964) was found “in international waters” and so cannot belong to any one country. Italy countered with a “yeah, but,” saying that even though it was “outside territorial waters when it was disovered” it was subsequently removed from the country illegally.

So far, after months of negotiations, the Getty returned three of the pieces in question and has offered to return the marble Venus (in a co-ownership situation) only if “joint investigations established it had been plundered.” Rutelli has repeatedly said Italy will settle for nothing less than the return of the entire group of items in question.