New York Returns 142 Looted Artifacts to Italy

Another 142 purloined Italian antiquities seized in the last year by Manhattan investigators are on their way to the new Museum of Rescued Art in Rome after they were handed over to Italian officials on Wednesday during a ceremony in New York.

Among the repatriated objects, valued at about $14 million, is a fresco stolen from the famed archaeological site at Herculaneum, a town that was buried under volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Known as the Ercolano Fresco, it depicts the infant Hercules strangling a snake and was seized from the collection of Michael H. Steinhardt, the hedge fund pioneer, last year.

The fresco, valued at $1 million, was among 180 items given up by Mr. Steinhardt after Italian and Manhattan investigators determined the pieces had been stolen and illegally placed on the art market. Mr. Steinhardt, 81, had bought it from a dealer, Robert Hecht, who has been accused of illicit trafficking. Mr. Steinhardt agreed to a lifetime ban from acquiring antiquities as part of the case’s resolution.

Of the 142 items returned on Wednesday, officials from the Manhattan district attorney’s office said 48 had been recovered from Mr. Steinhardt. Officials said another 60 of the items were recovered from Royal-Athena Galleries in Manhattan, a premier dealer in Greco-Roman artifacts.

The antiquities were returned during a repatriation ceremony at the district attorney’s office attended by Italy’s consul general in New York, Fabrizio Di Michele, who said they would be added to the many pieces already on display at the Museo dell’Arte Salvata, or Museum of Rescued Art, which recently opened as a showcase for repatriated antiquities and other salvaged art works.

Many of the looted items now on display in Rome were also seized by the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit.

In a statement, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg Jr., said: “These artifacts deserve a place in their homeland, where the people of Italy can jointly appreciate the marvels of their country’s past. There are far too many important cultural artifacts being illegally looted and trafficked across the globe.”

Among the recovered items, officials said, were three fresco paintings dating to the fourth century B.C. and stolen from Paestum, an ancient Greek city located in southern Italy. The paintings depict scenes of mourning women and were hacked from the wall of a tomb by looters. Also recovered was a pithos, or storage jar, dating to 700 B.C., near the time of the founding of Rome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *