FBI Dallas
Public Affairs Officers Melinda Urbina and Katie Chaumont
(972) 559-5629 / (972) 559-5699
August 10, 2022

The U.S. Embassy and the FBI Return the Historic Sculpture of San Antonio de Padua to the People of Mexico

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO—The Embassy of the United States in Mexico and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced the return of a Saint Anthony of Padua statue from the 19th century that was located in the Museum of Fine Arts of San Angelo (SAMFA) in Texas. Through a formal request process initiated by Mexican authorities, FBI personnel contacted the museum who worked cooperatively and responsibly to reach a mutual resolution and effectuate the transfer of this important object to Mexico through the FBI.

Thanks to the collaboration between the FBI offices in Dallas and our Legat in Mexico City and the Department of Justice of the United States with the Ministry of Culture, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Exteriors, and SAMFA, the statue of San Antonio de Padua will be transferred to Jiutepec, State of Morelos, where it was stolen from a church in 2002.

“These collaborative efforts with Mexican authorities demonstrate the commitment of the United States to return items of historical and cultural patrimony to the people of Mexico, while protecting them for future generations through initiatives such as the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, through which we have allocated more than $1.4 million since 2015 to preserve and protect the historical heritage of Mexico in emblematic sites such as Palenque, Chiapas,” highlighted Ambassador Ken Salazar. As we approach the celebration of 200 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States, we reaffirm our commitment to continue working with the authorities of the Government of Mexico to preserve and protect historical heritage that reflects a part of the greatness of Mexico and its people. The restitution of this piece is the result of close collaboration between the United States and Mexico, as part of our ongoing efforts to recover and return cultural property. These efforts were made within the framework of the United States-Mexico Cooperation Treaty for the Recovery and Return of Stolen Archaeological, Historical and Cultural Property, signed on July 17, 1970. The world’s ancient and historical monuments, artifacts, and archaeological sites enrich and inform current societies, and help us connect with our cultural origins. The United States government is committed to combating theft and trafficking of cultural heritage, as well as preserving and protecting it wherever it is found. “Along with the FBI Art Crimes team, FBI Dallas appreciates the cooperation of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in assisting in the safe return of the Saint Anthony of Padua sculpture to the Government of Mexico. The FBI has developed significant relationships with our foreign partners who are committed to the protection of cultural property. We will continue to work with those partners to keep the public informed and up-to-date on arts and cultural property theft crimes to create greater awareness of stolen artifacts,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno.

On the sculpture of Saint Anthony of Padua

Carved in solid wood, then painted and gilded, the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua has brown glass eyes, wears a blue tunic with a heavy turn-down collar, decorated with a very fine soffit (a technique of covering the figure with gold leaf, painting on gold and then scratch the paint to create designs). He holds a black book with red pages in his left hand, and his right hand reaches out to the side. He wears black sandals as he stands on a square base with sloping corners. The piece measures approximately 110 x 60 x 50 cm.

This particular sculpture represents Saint Anthony of Padua, a Doctor of the Church from the 13th century, identified by his attributes: a book and Franciscan robes. This sculpture is likely missing the attributes of the figure of the Child Jesus, who would have likely balanced on his book, and a white lily representing his purity, which he would have held in his right hand.