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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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Italy Unveils Museum for Previously Trafficked Artifacts


Some of the ancient objects – which had been stolen by Italian and Swiss criminals – in Rome museum. | Image by Remo Casilli/Reuters

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Italy has inaugurated a museum for relics and works of art stolen from the country. The Museum of Rescued Art is housed within a vast building formerly a part of the ancient Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

The display area, the Octagonal Hall, was created to showcase Italy’s success in recovering valuable stolen antiquities that often required patient diplomacy and legal challenges over decades.

The artifacts on exhibit will be rotated every few months so they can be returned to what the museum’s curators believe to be their original homes.

Dario Franceschini, the Italian minister of culture, explained why the new museum would feature rotating exhibits rather than a permanent collection.

“We thought it’s right to have the pieces return to the places where they were stolen from,″ Franceschini said.

Items of unclear origins will be repatriated to the broad geographic region where they were discovered.

Many of these locations were once a part of the ancient Etruscan and Magna Graecia civilizations in modern southern and central Italy. The pieces on exhibit, many of which were found during secret excavations and exported illegally, include magnificently engraved Etruscan statuettes and beautiful painted jars from several centuries B.C., before the Roman era.

The items were formerly held in museums, auction houses, and private collectors. The debut exhibition will display more than two dozen items rescued from U.S. soil by Italy’s Carabinieri art squad in December 2021.

According to Massimo Osanna, the director-general of Italy’s state museums, the recently opened museum in Rome displays artifacts “never before seen in Italy.” Osanna’s former position was recovering stolen works from the old Roman city of Pompeii, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

A new collection of recovered antiques will be on display after October 15, when the present exhibit ends.

Italy is proud of the 3 million antiques and artworks it has reclaimed since 1969, but it is also encouraging other countries to return ancient relics.

Italy’s Carabinieri Commanding General Teo Luzi expressed confidence that Victorious Youth, a bronze statue unearthed in the Adriatic Sea by an Italian fishing boat in 1964, might one day be returned to Italy by its purchasers, the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. Italy’s supreme court declared in 2018 that the California museum had to return the statue, but the museum contested the order because it claims the work was recovered from international waters.

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