Italy is seeking the return of an ancient sculpture the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) has had prominently displayed since the 1980s.
An Italian court near Naples in late February formally requested the Doryphoros statue be returned to Italy, saying it was illegally excavated in the 1970s prior to the Minneapolis museum buying it for $2.5 million in 1986, Art Net reports.
"Mia has seen press reports that a court in Naples, Italy, has called for the return of a work of art in the museum's permanent collection. We have not been contacted by the Italian authorities in connection with the court's decision," Mia spokesperson Michaela Baltasar-Feyen told Bring Me The News on Monday. "If the museum is contacted, we will review the matter and respond accordingly."
The Doryphoros sculpture was made in the 1st Century and is a Roman copy of a classical Greek sculpture by Polykleitos from about 440 BC, Mia's website says. The original Greek sculpture no longer exists, but several Roman copies made out of marble have been discovered — the one at Mia, made in Pentelic marble, is considered one of the best-preserved.
The mayor of Castellammare di Stabia, where the statue is believed to have originated, asked the Italian Minister of Culture to bring the Doryphoros home. When that happens, the mayor plans to put it on displace in its archaeological museum, Italian news reports state.
Art Net notes the origin of the Mia sculpture is a bit "murky," with the museum claiming it was found in Italian waters in the 1930s and was kept in private collections before resurfacing in the art market in the 1980s.
However, Italy claims looters illegally excavated the sculpture in Stabia in 1976 and sold it for about $1.2 million to an antiques dealer known for trafficking stolen art. The sculpture went on display in Munich, where Italian authorities learned of it, but then it was sold to Mia before Italy could get it back, Archaeology News Network states.
Italian museum officials confirmed the sculpture at Mia is the same that was stolen in 1976 after determining via emails with Mia the works were missing the right foot and a finger on the right hand, Positano News said.