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Boston museum returns Italian artifacts

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has returned 13 disputed ancient artifacts to Italy, including a statue and a bas relief believed to have decorated Hadrian's Villa near Rome, as part of a deal with the Italian government.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has returned 13 disputed ancient artifacts to Italy, including a statue and a bas relief believed to have decorated Hadrian's Villa near Rome, as part of a deal with the Italian government.

The pieces, including 11 vases in the ancient Greek style from central and southern Italy, were displayed Thursday for journalists at the Italian Culture Ministry before a signing ceremony in Rome.

In July, officials said the museum and Italy had reached a tentative deal for the return of the antiquities, which Italian authorities contend were stolen and later sold to the institution. Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli and museum director Malcolm Rogers were scheduled Thursday to sign the final agreement, which also deals with loans of other Italian treasures.

Italy has been aggressively trying to recover archaeological treasures through agreements such as this one, as well as through criminal prosecution.

In one case, Marion True, a former curator for the J. Paul Getty Museum is on trial in Rome, along with American art dealer Robert Hecht, for alleged trafficking in illegal artifacts. Both have denied wrongdoing.

Lawyers for the Italian government have been negotiating with Getty officials toward reaching a deal similar to the Boston museum accord.

Earlier this year, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art agreed to return 21 artifacts that were looted from Italy in exchange for loans of other treasures.

A law dating to the days of dictator Benito Mussolini's regime requires any antiquities found in Italy to be turned over to the state.