Getty to Return Roman Fresco to Italy

 The J. Paul Getty Museum will be returning a 1st Century B.C. fresco wall fragment to Italy. The fresco, which depicts a scene of stylized classical buildings within window frames and columns, was originally received as a gift from Barbara and Lawrence Fleishman in 1996.

Under Italian law, all antiquities found on Italian soil are the property of the state and may not be privately owned. The Getty’s decision to return the fresco fragment was apparently made about a year ago. At that time the Italian Ministry of Culture had published an image of the Getty fresco in catalogue which suggested that the piece was part of a larger work, fragments of which had previously been returned to Italy.  Getty Director Michael Brand said that “Seeing these fragments together made it clear that the two were part of the same wall design and belonged together.”   One of the other fresco fragments cited in the catalogue had also been owned by the Fleishmans at one time. Another was owned by collector Shelby White.  The Getty fresco will return to Italy in May.

The original context of the fresco group remains unknown, perhaps underlining the type of historic and cultural information that is lost when such objects are removed without documentation or some type of official oversight, regardless of the legality or illegality of the act at the time. The Getty fresco has been described as a fantasy landscape and may have once been a part of an elaborately decorated room within a Roman villa such as those found within sites in Pompeii or Herculaneum. (Above, example of frescoed walls in context, Villa della Fontana Picola, Pompeii).

Getty to Return Fresco Fragment to Italy, LA Times 

The Getty Museum’s Statement

Related:

Rescued Frescoes (Domus Valeriorum, Rome), Archeology

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