Italy to yield Parthenon piece?

Greece confirmed yesterday that it was negotiating with Italy the return of a small part of the Parthenon’s sculptural decoration, hinting that there is a good chance the fifth-century BC marble fragment currently displayed in Sicily will return to Athens. This followed an Athens News Agency report that quoted Italy’s La Repubblica daily as saying yesterday that Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi will bring the piece to Athens during a November 6 official visit. The Culture Ministry said it had been in touch with the Italian Culture Ministry «for a long time» on the possible return from the Palermo Archaeological Museum of what it called a piece of a Parthenon metope – of which there were originally 92. «The minister of culture will refer to this matter once there is an official announcement from the Italian president’s office or from the Italian Culture Ministry,» the ministry said. According to ANA, La Repubblica said the fragment measures 35×34 centimeters, is carved in relief with a female foot and was donated to the Sicilian museum 150 years ago by a British diplomat. It is apparently to be sent back as a goodwill gesture, and in return for an ancient Greek artifact from the Acropolis Museum. Although most of the missing Parthenon sculptures are in the British Museum in London, museums in Paris, Munich, the Vatican, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Wurzburg, Vienna and Strasbourg also boast small fragments. The Palermo piece is generally understood to be from the Parthenon frieze, sculpted between 438-432 BC. The ministry said the matter would be covered by the new law of antiquities, which allows Greek and foreign museums to swap exhibits, provided the Greek-owned pieces are of no special significance to the country’s cultural heritage while those from abroad are.