Never before seen ancient artifacts which were trafficked from Italy have been brought back to The Museum of Rescued Art, which is a new museum created solely for the purpose of exhibiting stolen artifacts.
Italy has established a museum dedicated to the recovery of ancient artworks and artifacts that were illegally exported from the country.
The Museum of Rescued Art opened its doors on Wednesday in a cavernous structure that was formerly part of Diocletian’s Baths in Rome. The Octagonal Hall exhibition area was created to highlight Italy’s efforts to have rich antiquities repatriated, often after decades in other museums or private collections, through painstaking diplomacy and court fights.
Exhibits at the new museum will change every few months as the artefacts on show are returned to what experts consider their native locations, many of which were part of the ancient Etruscan or Magna Grecia civilizations in central or southern Italy.
The first exhibition features 100 of the 260 artifacts recovered from the United States by Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri art unit and returned to Italy in December 2021.
Exquisitely carved Etruscan figurines and magnificent painted jars from several centuries B.C. are among the objects on show, which were discovered during clandestine digs and illegally exported. Museums, auction houses, and private collectors previously possessed the artifacts.
According to Massimo Osanna, director general of Italy’s state museums, the new Rome museum would feature artefacts “never before seen in Italy.” In his former position, Osanna was in charge of bringing Pompeii, the old Roman city near Naples, back to life. Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites, and it was heavily looted by antiques thieves in previous generations.
The antiques discovered recently date from before the Roman era, from the 8th to 4th century B.C. Many of them came from the area around modern-day Cerveteri, which is riddled with relics of the once-thriving Etruscan civilisation in western Italy.
Dario Franceschini, the Italian Culture Minister, explained why the new museum will include a series of changing exhibits rather than a permanent collection of rescued art.
“We thought it’s right to have the pieces return to the places where they were stolen from,” Franceschini said.
In some cases, experts are unsure of the antiquities’ exact origins, highlighting the irreversible damage caused when archaeological treasures are illegally stolen. Unknown-originated items will be returned to their original location.
The National Roman Museum houses the exhibition space. The museum’s current exhibit will run through Oct. 15, after which a new set of recovered antiques will be displayed.
While Italy is proud of the 3 million antiques and artworks it has recovered since establishing a special Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage unit of the Carabinieri in 1969, it is also attempting to inspire other countries to return ancient relics associated with other cultures.
Italy returned to Athens a Parthenon frieze fragment that had been in a Sicilian archaeological museum earlier this month. Italy’s culture minister, Franceschini, said that the so-called “Fagan fragment” was legally in the country, but added that his country wished to “affirm the principle of the restitution of cultural wealth to reconnect artistic historical patrimony with the places and peoples of origin.”
Some treasures have eluded Italy’s efforts to acquire them thus far.
At the opening of the new museum, Carabinieri Commanding General Teo Luzi expressed his wish for Italy to reclaim “Victorious Youth,” a bronze statue discovered by an Italian fishing boat in the Adriatic Sea in 1964. The J. Paul Getty Museum in California later bought it.
The statue was ordered to be returned to Italy by Italy’s highest court in 2018. The museum, on the other hand, has disputed the order, claiming that the statue was fished out of international waters.