Ancient fresco among 60 treasures returned to Italy from US

Streaming HUBJanuary 23, 2023

ROME (AP) – A fresco depicting Hercules and Herculaneum, the city destroyed along with Pompeii by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius, was returned to Italy on Monday, along with 59 other ancient fragments illegally combined. Smuggled into the United States.

Last summer, US authorities announced that the fresco and dozens of other smuggled objects, which ended up in private collections in the United States, would be returned to Italy.

One of the more precious pieces displayed to reporters in Rome is a 2000 BC kylix, or shallow two-handled drinking vessel, that is some 2,600 years old. Also returned is a carved marble head, depicting the goddess Athena, from the 2nd century BC.

Italy said the returned works are worth more than $20 million (18 million euros) in total.

The fresco, done in the classic style of Pompeian art, depicts Hercules as a child strangling a snake.

The returned pieces had been sold by art dealers, ended up in private American collections and lacked documentation to prove they could be legally brought abroad from Italy.

Under Italian law from 1909, archaeological objects excavated in Italy could not leave the country without permission, unless they were taken abroad before the law became law.

At Monday’s presentation was Manhattan assistant district attorney Matthew Bogdanos, who heads the office’s unit combating illegal antiquities trafficking. On this investigation, his office worked jointly with a special arts squad branch of Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri.

“For Italian antiquities alone we have conducted 75 raids, recovering over 500 priceless treasures worth more than $55 million,” Bogdanos said.

Italy has been a leader in retrieving illegally exported antiquities from museums and private collections abroad.

The country has been so successful in recovering such ancient artefacts and artifacts that it created a museum for them. The Museum of Rescued Art was inaugurated in June in a cavernous structure that is part of the ancient Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

Italian cultural authorities are deciding whether to allocate the latest returned pieces to the museums where they were believed to have been excavated. Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano told reporters that another possibility was to hold a special exhibition of the returned pieces.

It is not only Italy that loses pieces of its own history when artifacts are discovered in clandestine excavations and smuggled to art dealers for profitable sale. Academic experts, deprived of valuable information about the context of the area where the objects were originally found, lose knowledge about past civilizations.


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