Getty to hand back 'looted art'
By David Willey
BBC News, Rome
Disputed statue of Aphrodite
The 5th Century BC Aphrodite was allegedly smuggled out of Sicily
One of the world's wealthiest museums, the Getty in Los Angeles, has signed an agreement in Rome to return priceless artefacts allegedly stolen from Italy.
Under the deal with the Italian culture ministry, 40 major works of ancient art will be returned from next week.
The items include a prized limestone and marble statue of the goddess Aphrodite, to be handed over in 2010.
It follows two years of often hostile negotiations, with Rome threatening to sever ties with Getty.
It is a victory for the Italian government, which has been battling in the courts for the past decade to defeat the enormously profitable international trade in smuggled ancient art works.
The former curator of antiquities at the Getty, Dr Marion True, is currently on trial in Italy on charges of conspiracy in the looting of ancient works of art which ended up in the museum.
The Getty Museum will not acquire anything that does not have an appropriate provenance
Directory, Getty Museum
Some serious charges against Ms True are being dropped by Italian justice authorities although she still risks being found guilty on lesser counts.
The deal marks a milestone in relations between the Getty and Italy.
The museum has established new guidelines for future purchases of ancient art, director Michael Brand said.
"The Getty Museum will not acquire anything that does not have an appropriate provenance, same as the British museums, and that is the biggest contribution to the future," he said.
The most prized work the Getty Museum is giving back to Italy, a 5th Century BC Athenian marble statue of the Goddess Aphrodite - dug up in Sicily and secretly exported - is to be allowed to remain in the US for three years.
But 40 other important objects including fresco paintings stolen from an unknown villa in Pompeii, marble and bronze sculptures and Greek vases, will arrive back in Rome sooner and be put on show.