Italian Court Upholds Criminal Seizure Order for Getty Bronze

Posted on May 9, 2012


An Italian regional magistrate has upheld an order for the seizure of the Greek statue, now named the “Getty Bronze,” from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s antiquities collection.

Italy claims the bronze statue of a victorious athlete was illegally exported from Italy before the museum bought it for $4 million in 1976. The statue is one of the rare complete bronzes and believed to have been made by Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor Lysippus.

In 1964, Italian fisherman found the statue caught in their nets in international waters and brought it ashore in the small town of Fano. They then buried it in a cabbage field and hid it in a priest’s bathtub instead of declaring it to the custom officials. For some time, the statue was missing but then resurfaced in London during the early 1970’s, which is when Mr. J. Paul Getty was first captivated by the piece. Getty never authorized the purchase of the statue, aware of the potential legal issues. After his death, that his museum purchased the statue.

In 2007, a criminal case was filed in an Italian court concerning the statue after Italy’s requests for return of the statue from the museum were denied. In 2010, a judge ordered the statue be seized, but Getty appealed the ruling to Italy’s highest court. Getty argued that the seizure order is not valid because no crime has been proved. Even if Italy’s high court upholds the seizure order, Italy will still need to convince U.S. authorities to enforce it.

Read Settlement Negotiations in the Getty Bronze Dispute (with a great narrative of the statue’s origin)

Read the full article Italian court upholds claim on Getty Bronze

Thanks to Kristina Bauer for her assistance with this post.