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Italy Hopes to Retrieve Valuable Artifact - 2000-Year-Old Greek Statue from Getty Museum

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Photo: Italy Hopes to Retrieve Valuable Artifact - 2000-Year-Old Greek Statue from Getty Museum. Source: twitter.com/g_sangiuliano
Photo: Italy Hopes to Retrieve Valuable Artifact - 2000-Year-Old Greek Statue from Getty Museum. Source: twitter.com/g_sangiuliano

Italy has every right to reclaim a 2000-year-old Greek statue from the Getty Museum in California. This decision was made by the European Court of Justice, The Guardian reports. 

A photo of the bronze statue was posted on X (Twitter) by Italian Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano and wrote: "I am happy for the decision of the Strasbourg court, which recognises our motives regarding the athlete from Fano."

The life-size victorious young man, also known as the "Fano Athlete" or simply the "Getty Bronze", has been at the centre of a long-running dispute after Italy claimed it was illegally acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday rejected the Trust's appeal against the confiscation order issued by the Italian Supreme Court in 2018.  In its ruling, the Strasbourg-based ECtHR found that the Italian authorities "acted with a view to recovering the illegally exported part of the cultural heritage" from the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu and that the confiscation order was "proportionate" to ensure its return. 

As a reminder, the statue was discovered by fishermen near Pesaro, on the Italian coast of the Adriatic Sea, in 1964 and sold several times before being acquired by the Getty Trust in 1977. The artifact was purchased in Munich from German art dealer Hermann Heinz Herzer for nearly $4 million under a contract concluded in the United Kingdom. It arrived in the United States via the port of Boston and has been on display at the Malibu Museum since 1978.

Italy has always maintained that the statue was taken out of the country and acquired illegally, making the first official request for its return from the United States in 1989.

As Italy stepped up efforts to recover relics stolen from the country and smuggled abroad, a lower court in Pesaro was the first to issue a confiscation order in 2010. 

The Getty Museum has always defended its "legal right" to the statue, which scholars believe was made by the Greek sculptor Lysippus between 300 and 100 BC. The museum argued that it was found in international waters and therefore was never part of Italy's cultural heritage. In its defence, the Getty cited a 1968 ruling by the Italian Supreme Court, which concluded that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy. 

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