The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return two artworks at the center of a major dispute with Greece, officials said Monday.
The works to be returned by the private museum in Los Angeles are a sixth-century B.C. votive relief from the island of Thassos and a fourth-century B.C. carved tombstone from near Thebes, an antiquities-rich town some 56 miles northwest of Athens, Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said
In a joint statement, Voulgarakis and Getty Director Michael Brand said negotiations would continue on the return of two other ancient masterpieces that Greece claims were illegally excavated and smuggled out of the country.
“The decision to return the two ancient artifacts to Greece was based on a thorough internal investigation carried out by the Getty Museum, which concluded that it would be right to return the works,” the statement said.
Voulgarakis said he was “extremely satisfied” with the decision and voiced optimism that similar moves would follow from the Getty and other international museums.
“This is just the beginning,” he said. “I believe that in the future we will have very good results concerning other antiquities whose return we are seeking.”
Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said details were still being finalized about when the two pieces might return to Greece. The artifacts have been displayed at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., which houses the museum’s extensive antiquities collection.
Neither Voulgarakis or Hartwig had any information on the market value of the items to be returned.
The agreement came after intense pressure from Greek authorities, who said they were able to prove the works were looted.
Greek law declares that all antiquities found in the country are state property.
Authorities have stepped up their campaign for the return of looted antiquities, thousands of which are believed to be displayed in museums and private collections worldwide.
Greek police seized more than 300 unregistered artifacts this year during raids on two island villas whose owners are linked with the international art trade.
One villa belonged to the Getty’s former antiquities curator, Marion True, who is on trial in Rome for allegedly having knowingly purchased stolen artifacts for the museum from Italy. True, who was out of Greece during the raids, has denied any wrongdoing.
The Getty said it has no connection with the seizures.
Last month, the Getty said a tentative agreement had been reached in negotiations with Italian authorities over allegedly illegally obtained antiquities. Italy has been negotiating for the return of dozens of artifacts.