July 28, 2006

Boston museum agrees to return works to Italy

BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston's Museum of Fine Arts this week
reached a tentative agreement with the Italian government to
return objects suspected of being plundered antiquities.

The museum will transfer "certain objects of Italian origin
in the Museum's collection to Italy," it said in a statement.
In return Italy has agreed to loan pieces to the museum to be
displayed in special exhibitions, the two sides said.

Museum spokeswoman Kelly Gifford would not say which items
would be shipped back to Italy.

In February New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art reached a
similar agreement with the Italian Culture Ministry in Rome to
return works including a 2,500-year-old Greek vase and third
century B.C. silverware from Sicily.

The Boston museum also pledged to work with Italian
officials to make sure that it will not buy stolen works, the
statement said.

Tomb raiders have looted antiquities in Italy and Greece
for centuries, and Italy has accused U.S. museums, including
the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, of owning
stolen artifacts.

Italian authorities have mounted an aggressive campaign to
bring back art works stolen after 1939. An Italian law, passed
that year, states that all ancient artifacts found in digs
belong to the state. Antiquities excavated after 1939 can only
leave the country on loan.

Earlier this month the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
agreed to return two ancient artifacts to Greece, the first
part of a deal to send back antiquities that were illegally
removed from that country, officials said.

The objects to be returned are a 2,400-year-old large
stele, or grave marker, and a votive relief from the 6th
century B.C., the museum and Greece's culture ministry said in
a joint statement.