The Getty Museum returns to Italy “Orpheus and the Sirens” – Culture and Shows

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles will return to Italy a group of life-size terracotta figures depicting a seated poet and two mermaids. The group, also known as “Orpheus and the Sirens,” will leave for Rome in September to be exhibited in a public collection designated by the Ministry of Culture.
Complying with its policy of returning stolen or illegally excavated pieces to their countries of origin, “Orpheus and the Sirens” have been removed from the galleries pending their repatriation. The extreme fragility of the group of the fourth century a. C. – originally the statues were polychrome with traces of colors from golden orange to pink, red, black and brown – will require special equipment and procedures for the transfer to Italy, an area where the Getty has extensive experience.
Since 2006, the statues, likely from the Taranto area, have appeared on a list of artifacts Italy claimed to possess. The restitution follows an investigation carried out by Matthew Bogdanos, of the Manhattan prosecutor’s office specializing in the fight against antiquities trafficking, which in recent days has led to the return to Italy of 142 archaeological finds, many of the which came from the collection of the New York financier Michael Steinhardt.
“Thanks to your work, we have determined that these objects should be returned,” Timothy Potts, director of the Getty, said in a statement released by the museum. Also to be returned will be a colossal head of a divinity from the 2nd century AD, a stone form for casting dangle earrings from the same period, an oil painting entitled “The Oracle of Delphi” from 1881 by the Neapolitan painter Camillo Miola (called Biacca) and an Etruscan bronze censer from the 4th century BC. The first three pieces had been purchased by the Getty in the 1970s, the fourth in 1996.
No one has been exhibited in recent years. “We appreciate our excellent relationship with the Ministry of Culture and with our colleagues from all over Italy with whom we share the mission of protecting cultural heritage,” said Potts. The Getty’s relations with Italy have not always been oriented towards beauty: the Californian museum in the early 2000s was at the center of controversy over purchases of illegally excavated works of art and its former curator Marion True ended up ‘prosecuted in Italy’. More recently, the Getty was at the center of a tug-of-war with the Italian judiciary over a bronze statue, the Victorious Athlete, attributed to Lysippus, rescued in 1964 by fishermen in the Adriatic and from which Italy, a fort of a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, has been calling for repatriation for years.

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