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Getty Museum refuses to surrender prized Greek bronze to Italy

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled The Getty Museum must surrender a Greek bronze to Italy
The statue was bought by the Getty Museum in 1977 for US$4 million
The bronze has been the subject of a number of court cases
The Getty Museum has said it will fight the ruling
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The European Court of Human Rights has recognised Italy’s claim to a prized Greek antiquity.

The statue of the Victorious Youth, also known as Atleta Di Fano and nicknamed the “Getty Bronze”, was acquired by the Getty Museum in California for US$4m in 1977 and has been in dispute since 1989.

Found by Italian fishermen in 1964 off the coast of Fano, Italy, the statue is believed to have sunk with a ship carrying it to Italy after the Romans conquered Greece.

One of few remaining life-size Greek bronzes, the statue – dated between 300-100BC – stands approximately five feet (1.52m tall) and depicts a young Olympian.

The Victorious Youth is the highest-profile object in Italy’s ongoing heritage feud – a bid to win back thousands of artifacts it believes were stolen or looted.

An Italian court ordered the statue to be returned in 2010, Getty also appealed an Italian high court confiscation order in 2018, claiming its rights to the statue had been violated.

The most recent ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights was a chamber judgment and both sides have three months to ask that the case be heard by the court’s Grand Chamber for a final ruling.

The Getty Museum has revealed it's considering an appeal against the ruling, saying: “We believe that Getty’s nearly fifty-year public possession of an artwork that was neither created by an Italian artist nor found within Italian territory is appropriate, ethical and consistent with American and international law.”

Italy’s culture minister, Gennaro Sangiuliano, posted a photo of the statue on X, stating: “Happy for the ruling of the Strasbourg court which recognises our motives regarding the athlete from Fano.”

Italy has recently opened a museum to display the many artefacts it has won back from museums, collections and private owners around the world. All artifacts, are believed to have been illegally looted and will be housed at the museum until they can be returned to the regions from where they were taken.

Disputes over museum artefacts is becoming more prevalent. Read more about it in Attractions Management here.

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