Dozens of antiquities valued at nearly $19 million dollars stolen from Italy have been returned to their rightful owners— some of them seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art here on the Upper East Side, prosecutors announced this week.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office says 21 of the 58 pieces of art returned to Italian officials during a repatriation ceremony on Tuesday came from The Met, while the others were looted, smuggled and sold to Upper East Side billionaire art collector and hedge fund founder Michael Steinhardt.
Steinhardt surrendered $70 million in stolen ancient art and received the first-ever lifetime ban on buying antiquities by Manhattan prosecutors last December after a four-year investigation into works of art pilfered from eleven countries and sold on the international market.
“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg said Tuesday.
“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership.”
“These extraordinary 58 masterpieces are an invaluable treasure of our history and heritage,” said Consul General of Italy Fabrizio Di Michele.
Among the stolen artifacts returned to Italy are the Marble Head of Athena, which dates back to 200 BC was looted from a temple in Central Italy, prosecutors say, as we’ll as a White-Ground Kylix, a decorated drinking cup made in 470 BC.
After being stolen and smuggled out of Italy, both antiquities eventually ended up on Museum Mile, prosecutors say, inside The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“The Met has a long and well documented history of responding to claims regarding works of art, restituting objects where appropriate, being transparent about the provenance of works in the collection,” a museum spokesperson told Upper East Site.
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigation and of the return of these objects to Italy, based on information recently made available to The Met,” they added.
On Wednesday, DA Bragg announced 16 additional stolen Egyptian artifacts, valued at $4 million were returned to their rightful owners.
Nine of those came from Mr. Steinhardt’s collection, while six were taken from The Met.