Italy wants to squash dispute with Getty over cherished statue

The 'Getty Bronze,' also known as the 'Victorious Youth.'
The 'Getty Bronze,' also known as the 'Victorious Youth.'
Ancient Art/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

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An Italian diplomat who’s visiting the Southland may fly home disappointed. His attempts to broker a deal with the Getty Museum over a cherished statue have apparently fallen through. Italian officials say the artifact belongs to their country. The Getty’s not budging.

So much for this foreign exchange program.

The Getty says it does not want to participate in a deal to share a prized, nearly 5-foot bronze statue Italian leaders contend the museum mysteriously acquired decades ago.

Senior diplomat Gian Mario Spacca said he traveled to LA with the hope of striking a collaboration deal with the museum. At most, he received a friendly tour.

“Our goal is for the Getty museum to be a winner and to be able to show a cultural heritage,"Spacca said to reporters through an interpreter. "As I said before is of great cultural value.”

Some might think the “The Victorious Youth,” also known as “The Getty Bronze," resembles Michelangelo’s statue of David. It’s 2,000 years-old. The Getty reportedly bought it for several million dollars in the mid-1970s.

Scholars say fishermen discovered the statue underwater and buried it in a cabbage field. Later, they apparently hid it in a priest’s bathtub. Exactly how it got to the Getty Villa in Malibu is subject to dispute.

Italian dignitaries say they hope the museum reconsiders an arrangement to share custody of the sculpture. A higher court in Italy is also deliberating on the dispute. It could rule in a few weeks.

This is not the first squabble between Italy and the Getty. Museum administrators recently shipped a 7-foot marble statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite under a settlement agreement. A court ruled that the artifact was illegally excavated in Italy.