A twist in Getty Museum's Italian court saga





Was the J. Paul Getty Museum acting in good faith when it purchased one of the finest ancient bronze statues in existence?

That will be the central question before an Italian judge after Friday's closing arguments in a long-running legal battle in Pesaro, Italy.

At stake is a much-coveted work believed by some to have been created by Alexander the Great's personal sculptor and plundered by Roman soldiers around the time of Christ before being lost at sea. A regional public prosecutor alleges that the Italian fishermen who discovered the Greek statue in 1964 failed to declare it to Italian customs officials and sold it to middlemen, who smuggled it out of the country....

The case is probably the final chapter in the Getty's long dispute with Italy over looted antiquities, which largely ended in 2007 when the museum agreed to return 40 of its most prized antiquities after concluding they had been looted and illegally exported.

The criminal allegations in the case were filed amid those heated negotiations, and are largely moot: The fishermen are all dead, and the alleged smugglers have never been identified.

The judge is nevertheless weighing whether to order the seizure of the statue, which was bought by the Getty in 1977 and today is an icon of the museum's collection, displayed in its own climate-controlled room at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades....

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