Transnational Forfeiture of the Getty Bronze

Derek Fincham

South Texas College of Law

August 22, 2013

Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 32, 2014

Italy has been engaged in an ongoing fifty-year struggle to recover an ancient Greek bronze. The “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth” has a remarkable story. It was lost at sea in the Adriatic in antiquity; found by chance in international waters; smuggled into the Italian seaside village of Fano; hidden first in a bathtub, then a cabbage field; smuggled and hidden in Brazil; later conserved in Germany and London; and ultimately purchased by the Getty Museum only months after the death of the Trust’s namesake, J. Paul Getty. Getty refused to allow his museum to purchase the statue during his lifetime without a thorough and diligent inquiry into the title history of the Bronze, a step the trustees of the Getty did not take prior to acquisition of the Bronze.

The question is not whether the Bronze was illicit when the Getty trustees made the decision to acquire it. It most certainly was, and still is. The question now is whether the Getty will be able to continue to retain possession. In the press and in cultural property circles, the Bronze is considered nearly un-repatriatable given this convoluted history. But an Italian forfeiture action in Pesaro has quietly set in motion a means by which Italy might repatriate the Bronze through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. This transnational forfeiture marks the creation of a useful new tool in the struggle to repatriate looted and stolen cultural objects. And perhaps more importantly, the dispute signals a continuing trend reflecting the importance of domestic law in source nations in cultural heritage law.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 29

Keywords: Italy, The Getty, Getty Bronze, Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth, Fano Athelete, forfeiture, foreign judgments

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Date posted: March 24, 2013 ; Last revised: October 1, 2015

Suggested Citation

Fincham, Derek, Transnational Forfeiture of the Getty Bronze (August 22, 2013). Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 32, 2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2238204 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2238204

Contact Information

Derek Fincham (Contact Author)
South Texas College of Law ( email )
1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
9546678328 (Phone)
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