February 21, 2006

Italy signs deal with Met over disputed art

ROME (Reuters) - Italy signed a deal over disputed artworks
with New York's Metropolitan Museum on Tuesday, ending decades
of controversy and paving the way for the return to Italy of
antiquities Rome says were plundered.

Under the agreement, the Met pledged to return several art
works, including a 2,500-year-old Greek vase and a set of 15
Hellenistic silver pieces to Italy in exchange for long-term
loans of equivalent beauty and importance.

Tomb raiders have looted antiquities in Italy for
centuries, and Rome says some of them have ended up on display
in museums abroad, particularly in the United States.

Authorities have undertaken an aggressive campaign in
recent months to bring back art treasures stolen after 1939,
when Italy passed a law stating that ancient artefacts from
digs belong to the state. Art works excavated after that date
can only leave the country on loan.

Rome was particularly keen to recover the Euphronios
krater, a Greek vase from the sixth century B.C. regarded as
one of the most prized treasures in the Met's collection, and
the silver pieces from Sicily's Morgantina site.

The former curator of another respected U.S. art
institution, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, is on
trial in Rome on charges of knowingly acquiring stolen

Both the Euphronios krater and the Morgantina silver pieces
were sold to the Met by Paris-based art dealer Emanuel Robert
Hecht, who is also a defendant in the trial.