Looted artifacts are on their way back to Italy, as New York investigators hand over 142 objects they’ve seized in the past year.
A third of the stolen assortment came from the collection of Mr. Steinhardt, a billionaire antiquities collector who was made to surrender 180 looted objects last December. A joint investigation by Manhattan and Italian investigators implicated him while digging into his art dealer, the late Robert Hecht. Hecht was on trial for looted art and antiquities from 2005 until his death in 2012. For his part in the matter, Steinhardt agreed to a lifetime ban on acquiring any antiquities in exchange for non-prosecution.
The collection of artifacts being repatriated are worth a collective $14 million, approximately. Star of the show, also from Steinhardt’s illicit collection, is a fresco taken from the archaeological site at Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. The Ercolano Fresco, depicting the infant Hercules, is worth approximately $1 million.
60 other looted artifacts were recovered from Royal-Athena Galleries in Manhattan, a dealer in Greco-Roman artifacts. They surrendered their share voluntarily, and no charges were made.
The returned artifacts were handed over in a repatriation ceremony on Wednesday, with Italy being represented by Italy’s consul general in New York, Fabrizio Di Michele.
They will be taken to Rome, to be displayed at the Museo dell’Arte Salvata, or the Museum of Rescued Art, which specifically houses repatriated or formerly stolen works. After a period of display there, each artifact and artwork will be sent to a museum closer to what it was looted from.
“I think of this as a museum of wounded art, because the works exhibited here have been deprived of their contexts of discovery and belonging,” said Stéphane Verger, who oversees the Museo dell’Arte Salvata as the director of the National Roman Museum. She emphasizes the importance of returning art to its own place, or as close as can be done.