A dozen looted works of art, some greater than 2,000 years previous, had been returned to Italy by way of Christie’s public sale space.
The transfer used to be billed by way of Italian officers as “the primary case of such shut co-operation between Italy and a non-public public sale space”.
It is a part of Rome’s long-standing efforts to repatriate antiquities it says have been illegally bought and trafficked at the artwork marketplace.
The pieces function a marble fragment from a sarcophagus in Rome’s Catacombs of St Callixtus, a work with a marketplace price of £50,000.
Different works come with an Etruscan terracotta masks that dates to between the sixth and the fifth century BC, historic Greek plates and vases, and an historic Roman capitol.
Italy says the pieces have been looted between the 1960s and 1980s and illegally trafficked. Christie’s stated the works have been “obtained prior to now in excellent religion” however “have been extra lately recognized as now not having the desired, verifiable name, export or provenance main points had to continue with a sale”.
It stressed out that the pieces, placed on show all over a rite on the Italian Embassy in London that drew Rome’s tradition minister Alberto Bonisoli, have been returned voluntarily.
“Our number one function these days is to go back those items and to lift consciousness of the way necessary it’s to have get right of entry to to all knowledge to proceed to make sure handiest reliable works are presented to the marketplace,” stated Stephen Brooks, deputy leader govt officer at Christie’s.
“Our processes of due diligence make complete use of present, to be had analysis and we proceed to paintings intently with organisations, government and artwork loss databases to make sure now we have verifiable name and provenance.”
Italy’s huge cultural heritage, infrequently mendacity unguarded, has fallen prey to unlawful traffickers for many years. Rome’s artwork robbery police have a database that catalogues some 1.2m stolen items.
It’s the greatest such archive, Italian artwork officers say.
For greater than a decade now, Rome has stepped up efforts to procure artwork it says used to be excavated by way of grave diggers and smuggled in a foreign country, together with works saved in museums all over the world.
Through the years, it has struck offers with museums for the go back of antiquities, together with the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
In December, Italy’s best appeals courtroom dominated bronze statue from two millennia in the past, known as Victorious Early life, must be repatriated. Getty has disputed the ruling, announcing the statue have been present in global waters.