The legal battle over one of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s most prized possessions -- the “Victorious Youth” bronze sculpture dating from around 300-100 B.C. -- has taken another detour, with a court in Italy ordering that the case be sent back to a lower court.
A spokesman for the Getty in Los Angeles said that a high court in Italy ruled that the museum was “deprived of its constitutional right to a public hearing” when the case was considered in 2012 in the city of Pesaro.
As a result, Italy’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appeals court, has “remanded the case to the court in Pesaro,” read a Getty statement sent to The Times.
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that the decision, which came down earlier this month, invoked guidelines from the European Court of Human Rights, which provide for a public hearing.
Officials in Italy have tried for decades to claim the bronze, which is believed to depict a young male athlete and is widely attributed to the Greek artist Lysippos. The Getty has maintained that it acquired the piece legally.
In 2010, a court in Pesaro ordered that the Getty hand over the sculpture, which is frequently referred to as the “Getty Bronze.” Two years later, a judge in Pesaro upheld the court’s ruling.
The ancient bronze was pulled from international waters in 1964 by a fishing vessel. The fisherman hid it and sold it to a dealer who sent it out of the country.
The Getty Trust purchased the bronze in 1977 for close to $4 million. It has been a key attraction at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades for years.
In 2007 the Getty agreed to transfer 40 objects to Italy to help bring to a close a protracted legal battle over works of art that may have been looted. But the “Victorious Youth” bronze wasn’t among those pieces returned.
The Getty said the bronze is currently at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., as part of the exhibition “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World.”
The show was seen earlier this year at the Getty Museum in Brentwood and previously in Florence, Italy.
News of the court’s decision this month was reported earlier by the Art Newspaper.