Court: Italy should return Venus of Cyrene to Libya

From Archaeonews:

An Italian tribunal Monday ruled that Italy should return to Libya the Venus of Cyrene, a headless marble statue found by Italian archaeologists in the north African country in 1913.

In 2002, Rome signed an agreement authorizing the transfer of the second-century statue to Libya, which was an Italian colony from 1911 to 1942.

But conservation group Italia Nostra objected and appealed to the administrative tribunal in Latium, near Rome, to keep it in Italy.

See also here.

I do not know Italia Nostra.

If they are really, as the article says, a “conservation group” then in principle one expects them to do good work.

However, trying to hold on to a fruit of robbery in colonial times, and the name reminiscing of the “Mare Nostro” (the Mediterranean as the inner sea of dictator Mussolini’s supposed revival of the Roman empire, justifying subjection of Libya etc.) might point in another direction.


5 thoughts on “Court: Italy should return Venus of Cyrene to Libya

  1. 2007-04-23 18:38
    Court orders return of Libya Venus
    Famous piece of colonial booty expected to head home
    ROME (ANSA) – An Italian court on Monday ordered the government to return an ancient statue of Venus to Libya.

    Rejecting a plea from the Italia Nostra conservation group, the Lazio regional court said international accords “obliged” Italy to return the lovely Greek statue, found by an Italian expedition in 1913 at the ancient city Cyrene.

    A lawyer acting for the Libyan government, Edmondo Zappacosta, hailed the ruling.

    “This is a granite-like sentence, with solid arguments,” he said.

    “On the basis of historical and juridical considerations, it was virtually a foregone conclusion that the Italia Nostra appeal would be rejected”.

    Italia Nostra said it would appeal the verdict to the Council of State, Italy’s top administrative tribunal.

    The legal battle over the statue has been running for more than four years.

    In October 2002 then premier Silvio Berlusconi pledged a swift return of the statue in talks with Libyan leader Muammar Ghedaffi.

    He said the armless, headless statue – a Roman copy of a Hellenistic original in the style of famous Greek sculptor Praxiteles – would return within a matter of weeks.

    But Italia Nostra started its fight to keep the statue in Italy, appealing against an August 2002 decree that turned it into state rather than public property – in view of the scheduled restitution.

    Legal experts say the TAR sentence means the statue, currently housed in the Ancient Roman museum of Palazzo Massimo near Termini Station, should soon be winging its way back home.

    ITALY HAS RECORD OF RETURNING LOOTED ART. In recent years Italy has acted on long-announced promises to return colonial booty – notably in the case of the famous Axum obelisk sent back to Ethiopia two years ago.

    Libya has already received another Venus from Italy – the so-called Leptis Magna Venus sent back in 1999.

    Italy’s policy of returning notable artefacts has gone hand in hand with a renewed drive to secure pillaged booty from international museums – notably from the United States.

    The Metropolitan Museum in New York is returning a trove of priceless treasures in return for loans of equivalent value, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has agreed to follow suit.

    A similar deal with the Getty Museum in California has become bogged down by a squabble over two properties. The Cyrene Venus has long been part of Ghedaffi’s demands for reparations for suffering and pillaging during Italy’s occupation of Libya. Italy invaded Libya in 1911, seizing Tripoli. Until 1922, Italian occupation was confined to certain coastal areas but by 1932, it had been extended to all the interior.

    In 1939, Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini declared Libya a part of the national territory of Italy. The Italians retained control of Libya until they were expelled by Allied forces during World War Two.


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