The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles announced on August 11 that it will return to Italy the sculptural group of a “Seated Poet and Sirens”, a group of life-size terracotta figures also known as Orpheus and the Sirens. The Museum is also working with Italy’s Ministry of Culture to arrange the return of four other objects at a date to be determined.
The Museum removed the objects from public view once it determined that they were stolen or illegally excavated from their country of origin, pursuant to their a strict policy on the subject. The Getty Museum is preparing them for transport to Rome in September, where they will join collections to be designated by the Ministry of Culture.
“Thanks to information provided by Matthew Bogdanos and the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office indicating the illegal excavation of Orpheus and the Sirens, we determined that these objects should be returned,” said Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the Getty Museum.
The extreme fragility of Orpheus and the Sirens requires specially tailored equipment and procedures—an area of expertise in which Getty has extensive experience.
This sculptural group is not the only artefact that will be returned. Recent research by Getty experts and independent scholars also identified others: a second-century AD colossal marble head of a divinity; a second-century AD stone mold for casting pendants; an oil painting entitled Oracle at Delphi, 1881, by Camillo Miola; and a fourth-century BC Etruscan bronze thymiaterion. The first three of these objects were acquired by J. Paul Getty and the Getty Museum in the 1970s; the fourth in 1996. None of these objects have been on public view in recent years. Getty is currently working with the Ministry of Culture to arrange their returns.
“We value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and with our many archaeological, conservation, curatorial, and other scholarly colleagues throughout Italy, with whom we share a mission to advance the preservation of ancient cultural heritage,” Potts said.