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Brussels – Stolen marble head of Augustus returns to Italy

A marble head of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, stolen in Nepi in the 1970s, which ended up being exhibited in good faith at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels, is on its way back to Italy. As soon as its illicit origin was ascertained, the museum immediately decided to return it to Italy. The marble head, originating from a private Swiss collection, was purchased by an antique dealer in Zurich from the Royal Museum of Art and History in 1975 and placed in the Portraits Gallery.

Recently, when the items owned by the new Archaeological Museum of Nepi were being catalogued, an old photograph taken by the German Archaeological Institute revealed that a head had been stolen at the beginning of the 1970s. A quick search lead to the Museum in Brussels, which had bought the marble head in good faith, because the item had not been recorded as missing. The Belgian and Italian authorities immediately took action to have the work of art returned to its rightful place in Nepi and, with the cooperation of the embassy, the head left for Italy with a diplomatic courier, following the handover ceremony at the museum, in the presence of Italian ambassador Vicenzo Grassi.

The head is thought to have been originally part of a statue wearing a toga and was exposed to the elements for a long time. The hairstyle shows that it is one of the first representations of Octavian, the future emperor Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD), at the time he was fighting to recover the inheritance of Caesar, his adoptive father, prior to the decisive victory at the Battle of Actium.

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