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Ancient terracotta sculptures are greeted like a hero


Rome: Italy celebrated the return of three stolen ancient terracotta figures depicting “Orpheus and the Sirens” in a ceremony Saturday at the newly opened Museum of Salvaged Art in Rome.

Until this year, the figures – which date back to around 300 B.C. – were at the exhibition in the museum of J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. But Italian carabinieri officers in the country’s art theft unit last year found indisputable evidence that the sculptures were illegally taken from a site in southern Italy, and the museum agreed to return them.

Музей Дж. Пола Геці абвясціў у жніўні, што верне групу статуй амаль у натуральную велічыню, вядомую як <i>Orpheus and Sirens</i>.” src=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$width_584/t_resize_width/q_86%2Cf_auto/94968d96fb90fa4b3013a9b16e2f0c4c952a130e” srcset=”https://static.ffx.io/images/$width_584/t_resize_width/q_86%2Cf_auto/94968d96fb90fa4b3013a9b16e2f0c4c952a130e 2Cf_auto/94968d96fb90fa4b3013a9b16e2f0c4c952a130e, https://static.ffx.io/images/$width_1168/t_resize_width/q_62%2Cf_auto/94968d96fb90fa4b3013a9b16e2f0c4c952a130e 2x”/></picture></div><figcaption class=

Museum of J. Paul Getty announced in August that he would be bringing back a group of near-life-size statues known as Orpheus and Sirens.credit:AP

General Roberto Riccardi, head of the Carabinieri’s art theft unit, said at a ceremony on Saturday that there were two points in the investigation. The first was in March 2021, when two lieutenants from his squad walked into his office to tell him that a suspect in an ongoing investigation had come forward. The statues, the suspect told officers, were unearthed by grave robbers in the early 1970s in a town near Taranto, in Puglia.

The second important moment, Riccardi said, was exactly a week ago in Los Angeles, “at the Getty Museum, where the work ended up.” “To see this work packaged was truly one of the greatest things of my life,” Riccardi said.

“Orpheus and the Sirens” will be on temporary display at the Roman Museum, designed as a showcase for repatriated art, before becoming part of the permanent collection of the Archaeological Museum of Taranto.

“I can’t help but think that in 10, 100, 1,000 years someone will go to a museum in Taranto and see the statues in their rightful place,” Riccardi said. Art can and should be seen everywhere, he said, “but it has to be done legally.”


In the 53 years since the Carabinieri Art Squad was founded, it has recovered thousands of artefacts stolen from churches, museums, private homes and libraries, as well as unearthing countless forgeries. Over the past two decades, many archaeological artifacts have been recovered from museums and private collections around the world, including some in the United States, often acquired at a time when due diligence was not rigorously applied to determine the legitimacy of their provenance.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office this month seized 27 ancient artifacts worth more than $US13 million ($19 million) from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, alleging that the objects had all been looted.


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