Italy took one more step towards recovering its heritage and its pride last week with the return from Boston's Museum of Fine Art of 13 masterpieces of looted ancient art.
The treasures include a sublime and immaculate 7ft-tall marble statue of the wife of the Emperor Hadrian, dating from AD136. Also returned are part of a candelabrum, ancient Greek water jugs and vessels with paintings of gods. Some date back as far as530BC.
Malcolm Rogers, director of the Boston museum, said: "When we acquired the objects, we did it in good faith." They were purchased in the 1970s, the heyday o Italian grave-robbers when enterprising peasants sold the products of their midnight rambles to unscrupulous dealers, who unloaded them for large sums of money on eager American institutions.
The most notorious case involves Malibu's Getty Museum, reputedly the wealthiest in the world. Encouraged by its swashbuckling oil billionaire founder, the Getty spent tens of millions of dollars buying extraordinary masterpieces of the ancient world from ealers who, it emerged, had obtained them illegally. Last year the museum's former curator of antiquities, Marion True, went on trial in Rome along with one of her dealers, for conspiracy and receivg smuggled art. She enies the charges.
Boston's Museum of Fine Art was never in the Getty league - the objects returned cost a total of $834,000 (pounds 445,000) - and has not suffered the indignity of seeing a curator …