Getty agrees to give back two artifacts

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has agreed to return two of four contested antiquities which Greece has been seeking for more than a decade, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said yesterday. The artifacts are a 4th century BC carved tombstone from near Thebes and a 6th century BC engraved sculpture from the island of Thassos. The funeral stele, which depicts a warrior figure with the inscription «Athanias,» is listed by the Los Angeles museum as one of its masterpieces. «The decision to return the two ancient artifacts to Greece was based on a thorough internal investigation carried out by the Getty Museum, which concluded that it would be right to return the works,» a joint statement issued by Voulgarakis and the Getty said. No time frame was given for the return of the two antiquities to Greece. Voulgarakis said the development was «extremely positive» and boded well for the return of other artifacts, both from the Getty and other international museums. «I believe that in the future we will see very good results regarding other antiquities whose return we are seeking,» he said. Voulgarakis also said he did not object to long-term loans of Greek antiquities to the Getty in principle, stressing that the government’s chief aim was to «succeed in securing the recognition of (the artifacts’) ownership.» Talks on the other two artifacts contested by Greece – a 4th century BC golden funeral crown and a 6th century BC marble torso of a young woman – are due to conclude by late August, the same statement said. During a visit to Athens in May, the Getty’s director, Michael Brand, agreed to recommend to his board of trustees the return of «some» of the four antiquities Greece has been seeking. The move came after Greek authorities threatened legal action, claiming that they could prove the artifacts had been looted. The Getty has declared that it did not knowingly purchase any stolen items. The museum’s former curator, Marion True, faces trial in Italy on charges of conspiring to traffic in stolen antiquities.