Getty Museum Rejects Court Decision on Ancient Statue

Victorious Youth at the Getty (File Photo)

The life-size Greek bronze statue called “Victorious Youth” is at the center of what seems like a never-ending legal battle that has been underway for several decades.

The statue is currently being shown in a special pavilion at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the institution claims that it is there legally. The nation of Italy thinks otherwise.

In June of this year, an Italian court ruled that the statue had been exported from Italy illegally, and it must be returned. The Getty Museum issued a statement in response to the ruling, saying that an  “accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statute an Italian object.”

The museum and claims it has full legal rights to the Victorious Youth, for which it paid a sum of $3.5 million.

“The statue is not part of Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage,” said Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig in the statement made earlier this year. “Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object.

“Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the Bronze has only a fleeting and incidental connection with Italy.” the statement concluded.

The Getty filed an appeal to the lower Italian court’s June ruling, only to have it rejected earlier this week by Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation. The jury is still out on whether the museum will file an appeal to a European Union court.

The museum responded to the latest rejected appeal in a statement earlier this week, saying it plans to “continue to defend our legal right to the statue.”

An Italian fisherman first discovered it in 1964 in international waters off Italy. He sold the statue, and the J. Paul Getty Museum eventually bought it from a German dealer in 1977. The Italian Ministry of Culture has been attempting to have the “Victorious Youth” returned to Italy since 1989.

It is unclear as to how Italy plans to go about physically reclaiming the statue.

The statue is believed to have been created by Lysippus, the sculptor of the most well-known bust of Alexander the Great. It is dated between 300 — 100 B.C. It is one of the few life-sized Greek bronzes that have survived to modern times.