Sunday, March 29, 2009

Greece returns looted frescoes - Medieval works stolen in 1982, recovered on Greek island

Last week Greece returned to Italy two medieval frescoes looted from a tomb near Naples in 1982.

The frescoes of two saints were recovered by Greek antiquities police in a raid on Greek art traffickers on the Aegean island of Schinoussa in 2006.

They originally adorned the walls of one of the famous tufa chambers called Fornelle at Calvi south of Monte Cassino, site of the Ancient Roman city of Calves.

The particularly ornate chamber - many of whose frescoes are still missing - is believed to have been the tomb of 11th-century Count Pandolfo and his wife Countess Gualferada.

Handing over the frescoes, Greek Culture Minister Antoni Samaras said the event marked ''another important stage in collaboration with our Italian friends and partners in the fight against art theft''.

Italy and Greece launched a joint battle some years ago to crack down on trafficking and reclaim smuggled works from museums around the world.

Italy recently signed landmark deals with New York's Metropolitan Museum and the John Paul Getty Museum in California, among others, hailed as possibly paving the way for a wider-scale return of looted antiquities.

By setting a precedent that could be used by other countries, notably Greece, the accords sent alarm bells around the art world.

The 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization convention bans the import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property.

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