Stolen Italian treasures regain their glory in salvaged art museum
Italian treasures smuggled out of the country have found a new home at Rome’s Museum of Rescued Art.
The first rotating exhibition, which will last until October 15, opened this month in the planetarium hall of the Baths of Diocletian of the National Roman Museum.
Around 100 valuable artifacts are on display after being looted by grave robbers.
The stolen art was recovered by the Italian police brigade responsible for safeguarding the country’s artistic and cultural heritage.
Many ancient items on display have never been seen before in Italy.
Through multiple investigations by the Rome Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Carabineri art team examined photographic documentation regarding antiquities collections in museums, private collectors, auction houses and antiquities galleries in the USA.
They found a series of objects from illegal excavations, fences and illicit exports, stolen by people usually involved in the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage.
In December 2021, the Italian Carabinieri Artistic Squad announced the recovery of approximately 260 priceless artifacts dating from the 7th to 3rd centuries BC, thanks to their lengthy investigations, diplomacy and collaboration with US authorities.
It took Italian authorities more than two decades of negotiations and litigation to secure the return of the looted art.
The Carabinieri Unit for the Protection of Cultural Heritage was established in 1969 and has so far recovered over 3 million cultural assets.
She also seized more than 1.3 million fake works of art.
Roberto Riccardi, who commands the unit, said some of the artifacts they have decided to display in the museum are valuable both financially and historically.
“They were caught with illegal excavations in different regions of Italy. We are talking about Etruscan finds or finds from Puglia or goods from Campania or Roman civilization,” he said.
“We don’t know room by room the exact places they were taken from, but we know the areas. They will return to their places of origin,” he added.
Museum director Stephane Verger said the collection would be expanded to include art and archeology that have been rescued from disasters such as earthquakes or wars.
A museum is born
Riccardi said the idea for a museum emerged when the finds were presented to Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister.
It was agreed that exhibiting the works in a dedicated temporary space was better than letting them languish in repositories where they would be kept out of public view before being returned to their original place.
Franceschini lamented the departure from Italian territory of artistic and archaeological pieces as a significant loss for the country’s cultural heritage.
“Protecting and promoting these treasures is both an institutional duty and a moral commitment,” he said.
“They are a responsibility that must be assumed for future generations.”