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May 8, 2014

Italy’s Corte Suprema di Cassazione and the Getty Bronze: Case postponed again until June 4, 2014

By Lynda Albertson, CEO, ARCA

In a story that seems like it will never end, Italy’s Corte Suprema di Cassazione (Supreme Court of Cassation) was scheduled to hand down its final ruling today at the Palace of Justice in Rome on the fate of the l’Atleta di Fano, commonly known by as The Getty Bronze, the “Victorious Youth" or il Lisippo.  The bronze work of art, a representation of an athletic youth standing with all of his weight on his right leg, is depicted crowning himself with an olive wreath. It was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum under less than transparent circumstances in 1977 for $3.95 million.

I spoke with  Stefano Alessandrini, Consultant  to Il Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali today, who was at the court awaiting today's verdict.  He relayed that as many expected, the final decision has been postponed once again, citing that the case was "delicate". 

After years of discussions Italy's highest court still has not elected to issue its ruling upholding a lower court's judgment that the "Victorious Youth" was illicitly exported from Italy and as such, is subject to seizure.  Instead the Terzo sezione penale della Suprema Corte (Third Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court) has shifted the scheduled hearing to June 04, 2014 to establish whether or not the order of confiscation issued by the Court of Pesaro on May 3, 2012 should be affirmed.

The Getty Museum has been fighting a lower court's ruling by claiming that the statue was found in international waters in 1964 and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977 -- years after Italian courts concluded that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.  Throughout this elongated court process, the J. Paul Getty Museum has maintained that the statue's accidental discovery by Italian fishermen, who then brought the bronze to Fano and hid it from authorities, did not grant the statue the status of an Italian object.

Italy's second cultural property attorney following this case, Maurizio Fiorilli retired April 12, 2014 passing the torch to a third state prosecutor.  

As with the February postponement, Italy continues to wait.