Herodotus Returns

Italy orders return of Getty’s “Victorious Youth”
February 15, 2010, 11:02 am
Filed under: Repatriation | Tags: , , ,

According to a report from Bloomberg, Italy has issued a court order that the “Victorious Youth” which was found off the coast of Italy and allegedly sold illegally, be confiscated from the Getty Museum in Malibu, California. Of all the various repatriation plots – Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone, Nefertiti etc. – this is my favorite. I’ll give a quick summary, but I recommend you read this LA Times piece from a few years ago, which relays the story – complete with a colorful cast of drunk fisherman, corrupt priests, jailbirds, an oil baron and a whole town of impassioned Italians – in full. In 1964, Italian fisherman just off the coast of a town called Fano found a bronze statue of a young Greek boy. Its heavy encrustations told them that it might be very old and potentially valuable. Instead of turning it over to antiquities officials, they decided to sell it. In a hushed deal, a local antiquarian bought it for $5,600. That was the first of dozens of transactions that eventually brought the statue to the Getty Museum. Since these three bumbling fisherman sold the piece, it has been recognized as priceless, potentially the work of Lysippos, Alexander the Great’s personal sculptor. In the interim, the small town of Fano, located on the coast about 90 miles east of Florence, has united in a – somewhat quixotic, I’ll say – struggle to bring the sculpture back to what they believe is its rightful home. Most agree that they don’t have a case, given that the statue was found in international waters (nevermind sold illegally from the get-go), but the town’s fervor has to be admired.

The Fano Archeological Club gathered 8,000 signatures for a petition saying it should be returned. The Fig Tree Fraternity, a group of retired fishermen who gather under a fig tree by the port, still debate what they would have done had they been the ones to find it. A theater company recently retold the Lysippos’ tragicomic tale in the local dialect, filling a 600-seat theater for a week. The statue’s name adorns a local travel agency and the town’s monthly magazine.

Check in for more. Every few months, Fano (whose cause has apparently been adopted by the rest of Italy) finds a new way to try to bring the statue home.


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