**Italy Celebrates Return of Looted Antiquities from the United States**
Italy is rejoicing as it welcomes back 266 antiquities that were looted and sold to American museums and private collectors. The collection includes valuable items such as Etruscan vases, ancient Roman coins, and mosaics, valued at millions of euros. These artifacts were recently seized in New York from the storage unit of British antiquities dealer Robin Symes. The return of the items also includes 65 objects from Houston’s Menil Collection.
**Houston Museum Collection Voluntarily Returns Items**
The Houston museum collection willingly returned the artifacts after investigators determined that they had been obtained through clandestine excavations of archaeological sites. The owner of the collection decided to give back the items to Italy. The Menil Collection has yet to comment on the matter.
**Italy’s Battle Against Tomb Raiders and Art Dealers**
For decades, Italy has been engaged in a campaign to recover looted antiquities that were stolen by tomb raiders, known as “tombaroli,” and sold to private collectors and museums in the United States and other countries. Many of these operations involved art dealers who directly sold the stolen items or auctioned them off.
**Seizure of Valuable Artifacts in New York**
Italian authorities recently received some of the looted items from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. One notable piece is an Apulian krater, or vase, dating back to 335 B.C., which was seized from a private collection in New York. This vase was part of the famous Polaroid “archive” of dealer Giacomo Medici, and it was subsequently passed on to Robin Symes through Sotheby’s London. The Manhattan district attorney’s office alleges that Symes “laundered the piece” before it ended up in the private collection.
**Recovery of Etruscan Tile Paintings**
Among the returned artifacts are two Etruscan tile paintings from Cerveteri, a frequently looted necropolis site near Rome, dating back to 440 B.C. These tiles were originally looted in the 1980s and ended up with Robin Symes, who sold them to New York collectors Shelby White and Leon Levy in 1992 for $1.6 million. However, after questions were raised about their illicit origins, the couple returned the tiles to Symes before 1999.
**Value and Display of the Recovered Pieces**
According to the Italian police art squad, the 266 pieces returned from the United States have a market value in the tens of millions of euros. These pieces, in addition to 750 others in the possession of Symes’ London company, Symes Ltd., which is currently being liquidated, were put on display in Italy on May 31. Symes’ lawyers have not yet responded to inquiries regarding the recent returns.
**Complex Negotiations and Legal Proceedings**
Prior to the return of the initial 750 objects, Symes’ lawyers stated that an agreement had been reached between him and the Italian Culture Ministry after years of negotiations and legal proceedings. The agreement allowed for the return of hundreds of archaeologically significant finds to Italy, where they will be utilized for public use. Additionally, Symes was permitted to use the proceeds from the sale of certain items to settle his debts.