Over the centuries, archaeologists and looters unearthed ancient sculptures and other works of art on the Italian peninsula, taking their finds home with them. Now, with "Nostoi," Greek for "return home," Rome celebrates the return of many of these masterpieces to the land of their creation.
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Now, an unusual odyssey and an ongoing controversy over looted art. Jeffrey Brown was in Rome recently and has our report.
Her name was Vibia Sabina, wife of the Roman emperor Hadrian. She stands now a marble statue from the 2nd century A.D. as part of an exhibition in Italy.
But the key word on the placard here is the very small one at the bottom left, “Gia,” which means in Italian “formerly.” This Roman lady spent more 25 years at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Now she’s back.
The exhibition is called “Nostoi,” from a Greek word meaning “a return home.” Here atop one of Rome’s famous hills in one of its grandest palaces, Italians are celebrating a unique return home of objects that once came out of the ground here and then spent decades in museums in the United States.
FRANCESCO RUTELLI, Minister of Culture, Italy:
It’s a complicated story, but it has a sort of happy end.
Francesco Rutelli is Italy’s culture minister.
We’ve been fighting the battle for legality, for transparency, and for a big change, living art, archeology, and the people, the public, letting them to be very clear that what they see in a museum is clean.
Rutelli’s ministry organized the exhibition at the Quirinale Palace, home to Italy’s president. Inside, Italians have been flocking to get a glimpse of the 68 objects on display.
All according to Italian authorities were illegally dug up from archeological sites within the last several decades and sold into an international black market.
They then passed into the hands of private dealers and commercial galleries and eventually into the collections of public museums. The museums involved have said they were unaware of the illicit origins of the objects.
The oldest work on display, a wine jug dating from around 700 B.C., came from the Princeton University Art Museum. Several objects came from New York’s Metropolitan Museum, which agreed to their return in 2006.
Museum Director Philippe De Montebello.
PHILIPPE DE MONTEBELLO, Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art:
The good faith in which both sides have entered into this agreement, an agreement that, from our point of view, corrects a number of improprieties and errors committed in the past will pave the road to new legal and ethical norms for the future.