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European Court: California must return Greek statue to Italy


ROME – The European Court of Human Rights said that Italy has every right to demand the return of a Greek bronze statue, the Victorious Athlete, attributed to Lysippus that is currently in the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu, California.

The court unanimously ruled to reject an appeal filed by the J. Paul Getty Trust against the confiscation order issued by the Italian authorities, saying there had been no violation of the right to protection of property.

It said the Italian authorities acted with the purpose of recovering an unlawfully exported piece of cultural heritage.

It said the confiscation order had been proportionate to the aim of ensuring the return of an object that was part of Italy’s cultural heritage “owing to the Getty Trust’s negligence or bad faith in purchasing the statue despite being aware of the claims of the Italian State and their efforts to recover it.”

The statue, which dates from the classical Greek period and is also known as the “Athlete of Fano” and the “Lysippus of Fano,” was discovered by fishermen in the Adriatic Sea, off the coast of the Marche town of Pedaso, in 1964.

It was sold in 1965 to an unknown party. In July 1977 the Getty Trust bought the statue in Munich through a contract concluded in the United Kingdom for $3.95 million. It entered the United States via Boston in August 1977 and arrived at the Getty Villa in Malibu in March 1978.

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