Follow by Email

Monday, April 30, 2012

Stolen artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S.

From an 15th century illuminated vellum
choir book page of "a generic Olivetan Martyr in the form of a monk" clutching a red book, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

In a repatriation ceremony last week at the Embassy of Italy, the U.S. government returned seven stolen and looted artifacts and antiquities to Italy, recovered by joint operations conducted by global law enforcement authorities.


The presentation "marks a new step in the fruitful bilateral collaboration between Italy and the United States," Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero said in a statement.


The pieces included two 2,000-year-old ceramic vessels, one Roman marble sculpture, a Renaissance painting, and three 13th century music sheets removed from choir books.

Apulian Red-Figured Situla, c. 365-350 B.C., one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie

A warrior leaving home, probably Prince Hector and his father, Priam, the King of Troy, c. 480-460 B.C., one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie
At the Embassy of Italy, seven artifacts recovered by global law enforcement agencies were returned to Italy by the U.S. in a repatriation ceremony/Patricia Leslie


Among those participating in the recovery of the works were the Carabinieri, Italy's national police force, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. 



Said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: "We are giving back to the Italian people a small piece of their history--and that could not be more gratifying."

Two of four investigations led to Italy's Gianfranco Becchina, an alleged smuggler, who supposedly masterminded the theft of the ceramic vessels from Italian archaeological sites into Switzerland.  Later they were shipped to a gallery in Beverly Hills, California and then transferred to Christie's auction house in New York where they were seized by Homeland Security.



The Roman marble sculpture also was supposedly lifted in Italy, again by Becchina's forces who followed the same route into Switzerland. After shipment to the U.S., the piece was sold at Christie's for $26,250 and then seized by Homeland Security.

Roman marble janiform herm, c. 1st century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie



In 2006 the painting Leda e il Cigno by Lelio Orsi was illegally imported into the U.S. by way of JFK International Airport and auctioned in early 2008 by Sotheby's in New York for $1.6 million. Learning of the investigation, the buyer rescinded the purchase, and the painting was confiscated.



The mystery of the illuminated choir book pages ended in Portland, Oregon in 2010 after a rare book dealer put them up for sale on the Web drawing law enforcement's attention.  Ultimately, the dealer surrendered them along with another of the pages uncovered last June and included in the repatriation ceremony.  Two of the pages are believed to have come from a chorus book stolen from St. Paul Church in Pistoia in 1990, and the other from the Monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Siena taken in 1975. 

From an 15th century illuminated vellum
choir book page of "a generic Olivetan Martyr in the form of a monk" clutching a red book, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie


An illuminated vellum choir book page, c. 13th century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie


An illuminated vellum choir book page, c. 14th century, one of seven artifacts returned to Italy by the U.S./Patricia Leslie



Laws signed by the U.S. and Italy prohibit the importation of certain Italian artifacts without proper documentation.



Persons found guilty of trafficking in stolen cultural heirlooms can face fines, restitution to purchasers, and prison terms of 20 years.  Homeland Security has returned more than 2,500 items to more than 23 countries since 2007. 


patricialesliexam@gmail.com

No comments: