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Italian Ministry of Culture declines to honor earlier agreement to finalize a long-term cooperative relationship with the Getty

November 21, 2006

LOS ANGELES—Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, announced today that the Getty intends to return 26 objects from its antiquities collection to Italy, including 25 that were on a list of objects claimed by the Italian Ministry of Culture, and an additional object the Getty determined should be returned during its own research into Italian claims.  It also advised the Ministry of Culture that it will continue its own research into the origins of the disputed Cult Statue of a Goddess, and, if this research suggests that the statue should be returned to Italy, the Getty is prepared to transfer title.

The Getty has decided to return to Italy these 26 objects – including a number of highly significant works of art – despite the Ministry’s apparent repudiation of an agreement signed jointly by representatives of the Ministry and the Getty in Rome on October 5.  Among other points, that agreement would have guaranteed long-term loans to replace certain of the objects being returned by the Getty, as well as establish a framework for long-term collaborative efforts.

Dr. Brand said he made a renewed effort to revive the October agreement during a meeting held on November 17 in Rome, but the Ministry instead continued to press for additional concessions, including the return of the Statue of a Victorious Youth, often referred to as the Getty Bronze.

Dr. Brand informed Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli that the Getty would not return the Getty Bronze given the substantial evidence that this statue was found in international waters in 1964 and was obtained by the Getty Museum only after Italian courts had declared that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.  He advised the Minister that the Getty believes its ownership of the statue is not subject to reasonable challenge.

“The Getty wishes to work with the Italian Ministry of Culture to foster a greater understanding of Italy’s artistic and cultural heritage, and to celebrate and promote its rich artistic history.  Given the great value we at the Getty place on reaching a resolution with the Ministry that would pave the way for many years of collaboration and friendship between us, I am disappointed by the Ministry’s rejection of a signed agreement that would have led to just that.  We firmly believe that collaboration is the best way to foster appreciation of universal cultural heritage,” said Dr. Brand.  “We are prepared to resume talks focused on building a productive long-term relationship at a moment’s notice.”

The document signed by representatives of the Getty and the Italian Ministry of Culture in October included an agreement by the Getty to return the 26 objects, which it intends to honor.  That signed agreement also included the Getty’s suggestion of an innovative joint ownership approach to the Cult Statue of a Goddess. This proposal was designed to allow both sides to collaborate on scholarly research and further investigation, with neutral binding arbitration available at the end of a four-year period to decide the issue of ownership should research fail to produce conclusive evidence as to whether the Getty Museum or Italy was the rightful owner of the statue.  Dr. Brand said the Ministry rejected this approach.  During the November 17 meeting, the Getty offered to transfer full title to the Cult Statue during the study period, but this approach was also rejected.  Therefore, the Getty has decided it will conduct the additional research itself, but will still transfer title to Italy if this research supports the Italian claim.  This research will be completed within a year.

Finally, the October agreement included provisions relating to loans of objects from the Italian government to the Getty, collaboration in research, scholarship, conservation, the joint development of exhibitions and a pledge to work cooperatively in stopping the illicit trade of antiquities.  In late October, Dr. Brand announced that the J. Paul Getty Museum has adopted a strong new acquisitions policy designed in part to address this very issue.

“While we continue to hope that the Italian government will honor its commitment to work collaboratively with the Getty in the future, as it agreed to do in October, the Getty’s transfer of objects is not conditioned on any such arrangement.  Quite simply, we believe that transferring these objects to Italy is the right thing to do, whether or not we now receive anything in return,” said Dr. Brand.

He continued, “While I am fully committed to ensuring that the J. Paul Getty Museum fulfills all its international obligations, I have an equal obligation to preserve and protect the Getty Museum’s collection and abide by laws regulating California trusts. That means I cannot return objects, like the Statue of a Victorious Youth, to which Italy has – by its own admission – no legal claim, or objects for which there is insufficient or inconclusive evidence to support the Italian claim.”

The Getty is awaiting instructions from the appropriate Ministry officials regarding the return of the 26 objects in the near future.  The Getty has made it clear during its negotiations with Ministry officials that the Getty did not knowingly acquire any illegally excavated or exported objects, and pointed out that its conservation, public exhibition, and publication of all these objects clearly demonstrated the Getty was only interested in pursuing its mission as a museum devoted to the expansion of cultural knowledge.

Objects to be Transferred to the Italian State
Download a list with images of the objects. (PDF - 122KB)

1. Askos in Shape of a Siren – 92.AC.5
2. Fresco Fragments – 71.AG.111
3. Lekanis – 85.AA.107
4. Two Griffins Attacking a Fallen Doe – 85.AA.106
5. Apulian Red-Figured Pelike – 87.AE.23
6. Apulian Red-Figured Loutrophorus – 84.AE.996
7. Attic Black-Figured Zone Cup – 87.AE.22
8. Attic Red-Figured Kalpis – 85.AE.316
9. Attic Red-Figured Kylix – 84.AE.569
10. Apulian Pelike with Arms of Achilles – 86.AE.611
11. Attic Red-Figured Calyx Krater – 88.AE.66
12. Douris Phiale Fragments – 81.AE.213 (various)
13. Apulian Red-Figured Volute Krater – 85.AE.102 
14. Attic Red-Figured Calyx Krater – 92.AE.6 and 96.AE.335
15. Attic Red-Figured Mask Kantharos – 85.AE.263 (various)
16. Etruscan Red-Figured Plastic Duck Askos – 83.AE.203
17. Statue of Apollo – 85.AA.108
18. Group of Red Figure Calyx Fragments (Berlin Painter, Kleophrades Painter) – 77.AE.5
19. Pontic Amphora – 96.AE.139
20. Antefix in the Form of a Maenad and Silenos Dancing – 96.AD.33
21. Attic Red-Figured Bell Krater – 81.AE.149
22. Apulian Red-Figured Volute Krater – 77.AE.14
23. Statuette of Dionysos – 96.AA.211
24. Fragmentary Corinthian Olpe – 81.AE.197.2
25. Paestan Squat Lekythos – 96.AE.119
26. Apulian Red-Figured Volute Krater – 77.AE.13

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Ron Hartwig/Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications Department

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