25 Looted Artifacts Return to Italy

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
ITALY
 The artifacts are to be returned to the areas from which they were taken. Credit Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

By ELISABETTA POVOLEDO ; MAY 26, 2015

ROME — At first glance the 25 artifacts displayed in the courtyard of a former convent just off the Tiber River here on Tuesday seemed to have little in common: three first-century B.C. fresco fragments from Pompeii were exhibited alongside fifth- and sixth-century B.C. Etruscan and Attic vases, a 17th-century Venetian cannon, a 12th-century mural fragment depicting Christ and three rare 17th-century books.
 

What they shared was a nefarious past. Each had been looted from Italy and smuggled into the United States in recent decades, only to be recovered from American museums, auction houses, private collections and even a university.

“Italy is blessed with a rich cultural legacy and therefore cursed to suffer the pillaging of important cultural artifacts,” the American ambassador to Italy, John R. Phillips, said at a news conference where the objects were exhibited. He said that a collaboration between American agents and Italian investigators had “borne fruit in returning some important artifacts to their rightful home in Italy.”

The effort was carried out by the Italian art theft squad — the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, or T.C.P. — working with officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the United States Homeland Security Department.

Inquiries were begun in the last decade or so in nine Homeland Security field offices, including New York City, Buffalo, Baltimore, Boston, Miami and San Diego, leading to the returns.

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[Image caption:  The artifacts are to be returned to the areas from which they were taken. Credit Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press]