Manhattan Deputy U.S. Attorney and FBI Assistant Director Announce Return to Italy of a Painting Attributed to Giambattista Tiepolo and Ancient Etruscan Bronze Sculpture of Herakles
Richard Zabel, the Deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director in Charge New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the return to the Italian Government of two pieces of Italian cultural heritage—“The Holy Trinity Appearing to Saint Clement,” attributed to the 18th Century painter Giambattista Tiepolo (the “Tiepolo”), and an ancient Etruscan bronze statuette of Herakles dating from the 6th or 5th Century B.C.E. (the “Statuette”). Each artwork was returned to Warrant Officer Angelo Ragusa of the Rome Office of the Archaeological Section of the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, today at a repatriation ceremony at the United States Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.
Manhattan Deputy U.S. Attorney Richard Zabel stated: “These two works of art were stolen from their owners many decades ago and through shadowy channels arrived in the United States. Both the Tiepolo painting and the Etruscan sculpture represent Italy’s rich cultural history and today will be returned to their homeland. We will continue to work with the FBI to return stolen items to their rightful owners.” FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez stated: “For decades, two significant pieces of Italian heritage have been on the run. Elusive. And out of reach, until today. We are proud to be able to return these key pieces of work back to the Italians—and to the Oliveriano Archaeological Museum.”
The Tiepolo was previously reported stolen from a private home in Turin, Italy, in or about August 1982. Following the theft, the painting’s whereabouts were unknown until it appeared for auction in New York in January 2014. After being provided with evidence that the painting was the same piece previously reported stolen in 1982, the Tiepolo’s consignor agreed to its seizure by the FBI and its return to Italy. The United States Attorney’s Office submitted a proposed stipulation and order providing for the Tiepolo’s seizure and return, and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered that order on January 23, 2015. Italian authorities continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the theft of the painting, including the circumstances of its importation into the United States.
The Statuette was reported stolen from the Oliveriano Archeological Museum in Pesaro, Italy, in January 1964 along with several other items, including ivory tablets of the 9th and 13th centuries, early Christian glass artifacts from the Catacombs of Rome, and Italic and Roman statuettes. After its theft from the museum, the Statuette passed through several hands, and was eventually discovered by Italian and U.S. authorities when it was offered for sale by an auction house in Manhattan. After being provided with evidence that the Statuette was the same piece stolen from the museum, the consignor agreed to the FBI’s seizure of the Statuette for repatriation to Italy. The United States Attorney’s Office submitted a proposed stipulation and order providing for the Statuette’s seizure and return, and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered that order on October 2, 2014.
Mr. Zabel thanked the Washington Bureau of INTERPOL, which originally brought the painting to the attention of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office following the painting’s importation into the United States. Mr. Zabel further praised the investigative work of the FBI in this matter, and its ongoing efforts to find and repatriate stolen and looted art and cultural property.
Each case is being handled by the Office’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew C. Adams is in charge of the case involving the Tiepolo painting, and Assistant United States Attorney Christine I. Magdo is in charge of the case involving the Etruscan statuette.