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London: Italy celebrates the restitution of eight lots of ancient artworks

Today, the Italian Embassy in London hosted the restitution ceremony of eight lots of ancient artworks and a page of an illuminated code, that were given back to Italy by Christie’s auction house. The event was attended by the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Alberto Bonisoli, the Italian Ambassador in London, Raffaele Trombetta, Carabinieri Commander for the Protection of Cultural Heritage Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, , the Chief Executive Officer of Christie’s Guillaume Cerutti and the auction house’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Brooks.

The restitution of the works was made possible thanks to the preparatory work carried out by the Embassy and to the trusting and cooperative relationship that it built with Christie’s over time, now put into practice for the first time through a very close cooperation between the Italian State and a private auction house.  The objects returned to Italy include: an Etruscan terracotta antefix from the 6th-5th century BC and a Falisco red-figure stamnos from the 4th century BC; five Egnazia-style plates from the 4th century BC; a red-figure hydra apula from 350-330 BC; a Roman capital dated to the 2nd century AD from illegal excavations; a fragment of marble from a Roman sarcophagus taken from the San Callisto catacombs; a Roman marble relief with Satyr and Maenad stolen from the Villa Borghese gardens in 1985;  a Greek glass oinochoe and the page of an illuminated code. 

This restitution represents an important achievement in the protection of Italy’s cultural heritage and testifies to the effective cooperation established between our Country and important actors in the art market like Christie’s in combating the illegal smuggling of artworks. At the ceremony, it was pointed out that it is necessary to enhance the code of ethics of this market, on the one hand by verifying the origin of every artefact before putting it up for sale, and by upgrading legislation in this area in order to assure that the people responsible for the illegal trafficking of artworks are adequately punished.