Christie’s has returned a group of eight works of art to Italy in collaboration with the Italian Embassy, London. Italy said those items, some more than 2,000 years old, were looted between the 1960s and 1980s and illegally trafficked.
According to Christie's, the works had been "acquired in the past in good faith" but "were more recently identified as not having the required, verifiable title, export or provenance details needed to proceed with a sale".
The group of restituted artwork includes a marble fragment from Rome’s catacombs of St Callixtus with a market value of £50,000. Other works include an Etruscan terracotta mask that dates to between the 6th and the 5th century BC, ancient Greek plates and vases, and an ancient Roman capitol.
Italian officials billed the move as the first case of such close co-operation between Italy and a private auction house. The restitution represents an important milestone in the protection of Italian cultural heritage and embodies the effectiveness of collaboration between the country and important institutions of the art market such as Christie's in the fight against illegal trafficking affecting cultural heritage.
Over the past decade, Italy has stepped up efforts to bring back its archaeological treasures and historical heritage, as well as to stop trafficking of its antiquities.
In December 2018, Italy’s supreme court has ruled that the Getty Museum must return a 2,000-year-old Greek bronze statue of Victorious Youth to the country. The Getty counters that the statue was discovered in international waters