December 14, 2010

Stolen statue spotted in Manhattan gallery by Italian policeman

Posted at 1:45 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of the statue located by chance in a New York gallery thirty years after being stolen from a museum in Rome.

New York Post

Roamin’ cop nabs hot art
Italian sleuth spots statue in NYC gallery
Last Updated: 7:36 AM, November 20, 2010

An eagle-eyed Italian cop was hailed as a hero yesterday for spotting a precious stolen statue in a Manhattan art gallery — leading to the miraculous homecoming of that artifact and another filched sculpture.

The items, stolen in Italy in the 1980s and worth about $680,000 apiece, were unveiled in a small museum outside Rome, thanks to the police art-squad expert who was on vacation when he saw one of them during a stroll up Madison Avenue.

The bronze statue of the Greek god Zeus and a marble female torso — both dating from the 1st century — somehow ended up in the hands of an unidentified dealer in the city, officials said.

Michele Speranza, a member of the Italian Carabinieri art squad, said he immediately spotted the torso in a window.

“I stopped to look at the gallery window, and I recognized the statue,” said Speranza, 38. “I thought I had seen it among the photos in our databank” of missing art, said the officer, who took a photo of the work with his cellphone and did some research when he returned to Rome.

“The statue had been given up for lost” after being stolen in 1988, said Gen. Pasquale Muggeo, head of the Carabinieri art division renowned for tracking down art treasures and artifacts stolen or illegally excavated from Italian soil.

Stefano De Caro, the director of antiquities for Italy’s Ministry of Culture, said: “These are two beautiful pieces of art that we never thought we’d ever see again.”

“This really is an important find, and we have to thank the good work of the Carabinieri for making this possible. It is important that every piece we find in archeological digs are documented so that we know if they have been stolen.”

The Zeus was stolen from the National Museum in Rome, near the capital’s main train station, in 1980 and was tracked to a New York collector after a photo of it appeared in a Sotheby’s auction catalog in 2006. The art squad methodically studies catalogues of major auction houses.

No arrests have been made in either theft. Authorities said the owners of the statues were unaware of their illegal provenance. US customs and immigration officials, who aided in the investigation, did not return calls for comment.

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