The Return Of The Roman Youth

The Return Of The Roman Youth

The marble bust of a Roman youth unearthed in the 1930s in the city of Fondi between Rome and Naples was returned to Italy this week for the first time since it was smuggled out of the country nearly 50 years ago.

The sculpture disappeared from Italy sometime between 1944 and the early 1960s and has been returned to the Italian Ministry of Culture in a ceremony at the German ambassador's residence early in June. With centuries of art and artifacts strewn all over Italy, various pieces have been lost over the years to thieves, traffickers and natural disasters.

The statue, which dates from the second century AD and depicts the head and part of the shoulders of a young man, has spent the past 55 years in the University of Munster's Archaeological Museum, whose then director received it from a private owner.

Germany offered to return it without being asked, according to Italy's culture minister Alberto Bonisoli who called the action “a highly symbolic act.”

However, owners of stolen artwork aren't always as willing to return them. Among the most notable disputes is Italy's dispute with the Getty Museum in the United States over the Statue of a Victorious Youth which the American gallery refuses to return despite a ruling by Italy's highest court that it was removed from Italy illegally.

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