Source: International Herald Tribune
ATHENS, Greece: Greece and the J. Paul Getty Museum have signed an agreement for the return of two ancient treasures that Athens claims were illegally excavated and smuggled out of the country, officials said on Wednesday.
The artifacts are among the most important ever reclaimed by antiquities-rich Greece: a fourth century B.C. gold wreath and a sixth century B.C. marble statue of a young woman. They are the last of four antiquities successfully reclaimed by Greece from the Getty.
They will be handed over to Greek officials by the end of next month. The deal was signed in Athens late Monday by Greek Culture Ministry Secretary-General Christos Zachopoulos and Michael Brand, director of the private Los Angeles museum.
"This signing confirms the climate of trust and mutual understanding (between Greece and the Getty), and creates new prospects in their relations," the Culture Ministry and the museum said in a joint statement.
The antiquities will be returned to Greece by the end of March, the statement said.
Culture Minister George Voulgarakis read the statement at a news conference attended by Brand. Neither made any further comment on the agreement.
Voulgarakis has said there will be no trade-off with the Getty in exchange for the works, which Athens has claimed for more than a decade. But he did not rule out the possibility of Greece lending artifacts to the museum or organizing exhibitions there in the future.
Wednesday's signing came after an informal agreement in December for the works' return.
In September, the museum returned two stone sculptures dating to the sixth and the fourth centuries B.C. following pressure from Athens, which has launched an aggressive campaign for the return of looted Greek antiquities held in museums and private collections abroad.
These are on display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The two works to be returned next month are among thousands of ancient artifacts lost to smugglers in recent decades.
The fourth century B.C. wreath is decorated with sprays of gold leaves and flowers inlaid with colored glass paste and — according to Greek authorities — was illegally excavated in the province of Macedonia. Designed as a burial gift, it was probably made shortly after the death of the Macedonian warrior-king Alexander the Great.
The marble statue, which lacks its head, lower arms and legs, is of a young woman and is a type widespread in southern Greece and the Aegean Sea islands from the mid-seventh to the late sixth centuries B.C.
Under Greek law all antiquities found in the country are state property.
A Greek prosecutor has brought criminal charges against a former Getty curator, Marion True, over the sale of the gold wreath, which the museum bought for US$1.15 million (€900,000) in 1993.
Another four people were charged with illegally excavating, exporting and selling the artifact.
True, who denies any wrongdoing, was the Getty antiquities curator from 1986 to 2005, when she was asked to retire. She was responsible for recommending what objects the museum should buy from private dealers and at public auctions.
Last year, police raided a Greek island villa belonging to True and seized several unregistered antiquities.
True is on trial in Rome for allegedly having knowingly purchased stolen artifacts for the museum from Italy.