On Monday, Italy’s Cassation Court rejected the J. Paul Getty Museum’s appeal against the lower court ruling in Pesaro, issued by Magistrate Giacomo Gasparini. That earlier ruling, issued on June 08, 2018, was in favour of the prosecution’s request for seizure of the bronze statue, commonly known as the Statue of a Victorious Youth or colloquially as the Getty Bronze, il Lisippo or l’Atleta di Fano.
The Pesaro judge’s decision was heavily based upon the failure of the fishermen who found the statue “to report the find to the exportation office to obtain possible authorization for its temporary importation,” and on the object’s “illegal exportation and smuggling” after the bronze was brought clandestinely ashore to Italy and then later secretly removed in violation of Italian law.
The California museum had sought a judicial review from the Court of Cassation of Gasparini’s decision in an attempt to prevent the enforcement of the lower court’s judgment for confiscation. Their application however has been rejected and Italy’s highest court has announced “la confisca dell’opera è definitiva” . [English: the confiscation of the work is final].
Now, unless the museum voluntarily relinquishes the statue, the case may need to be taken up with the judicial authorities in the US. According to the United States National Stolen Property Act, which “allows foreign countries’ cultural patrimony legislation to be effectively enforced within U.S. territory by U.S. courts,” to do so would imply another round of documents being shuffled between attorneys representing both sides, albeit in the United States.
For the Italians to win in the US, the bronze must be considered stolen in the United States. Additionally Italy’s attorneys would need to prove that the statue was discovered within the Italian territories and that Italy’s cultural patrimony law unequivocally vests ownership of such antiquities to the State. They must also show that the country’s foreign patrimony law is not so vague as to be in violation of due process.
For now though, we wait for Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation to publish an explanatory statement on its own ruling and for the Italian government to submit a Letters Rogatory Request to the United States seeking their assistance in investigating the circumstances of the statue’s exportation and asking the US government to confiscate the bronze so that it can, after more than 50 years, be returned to Italy
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