September 23, 2005

Slovenia wants Italy to return old artworks

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia said on Friday it would
formally ask Italy to return 94 artworks seized before World
War II from churches, monasteries and museums in a Slovenian
region then ruled by Italy.

"The Slovenian government has decided that it will send to
the Italian side a request for the return of all artworks that
were taken from the (Slovenian part of) Istria," the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Istria is a triangle-shaped peninsula in the northern
Adriatic, shared by Slovenia and Croatia. It was ruled by the
Italians until the end of World War II. The statement did not
say when the request would be filed.

"The artworks taken from Istria are very valuable as they
include some top pieces by masters like Vittore Carpaccio," art
historian Salvator Zitko, who is in charge of restitution of
the artworks at a regional museum in Istria, told Reuters.

The artworks, mostly paintings, were made between the 14th
and 18th century.

They were taken from the Istrian cities of Koper, Piran and
Izola, most of them in 1940. The Italian authorities said they
wanted to protect them from the war.

After the war, the region became a part of Yugoslavia,
which tried for decades to negotiate with Italy the artworks'
return. Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991
and joined the European Union in 2004.