An Italian court has upheld an order for the seizure of a masterpiece of the J. Paul Getty Museum's antiquities collection, finding that the bronze statue of a victorious athlete was illegally exported from Italy before the museum purchased it for $4 million in 1976.
The ruling Thursday by a regional magistrate in Pesaro will likely prolong the legal battle over the statue, a signature piece of the Getty's embattled antiquities collection whose return Italian authorities have sought for years.
"This was the news we were waiting for," said Gian Mario Spacca, president of the Marche region where the statue was hauled ashore in 1964, in an interview with Italian reporters. "Now we will resume contacts made with the Getty Museum to build a positive working relationship."
Spacca visited the Getty last year hoping to negotiate an agreement to share the statue. But the Getty has made clear it will fight in court to keep the piece and is expected to appeal the ruling to Italy's highest court.
"We've not yet seen the ruling and won't comment until we do so," said Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig.
he long battle over the bronze athlete — one of the few complete Greek bronzes to have survived and believed by some to have been made by Alexander the Great's personal sculptor Lysippus — is a lingering reminder of the controversy that has surrounded the Getty's collection of ancient art.