The Louvre to Return Ancient Artifacts to Italy

The Louvre Museum Needs to Return Seven Ancient Artifacts of Questionable Provenance, Italy Representaitves Call.

Jul 16, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
the Musée du Louvre
the Musée du Louvre. Via Wikipedia


The Louvre Museum could possess looted ancient artifacts in its collection. As stated, the French museum acquired seven Italian valuables between 1982 and 1998. The circulating  information suggests the museum acquired works of art illegally, i.e. through smuggling. Italian experts confirm these allegations, and that is why Italy wants them to return to their country of origin.


Negotiations Between Two Countries Are Ongoing

The Louvre Museum, archive.


Negotiations about the works of art of European countries are ongoing. Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano met with Louvre president Laurence des Cars in Paris, February. A black amphora from the fifth century with links to the renowned “Berlin Painter” is one of them. Also, there are a few more Greek vases from the fourth to sixth centuries B.C.E.


During the conversation, the Italian Minister of Culture sent a formal document with a request for the return of the artifacts. It is thought that The Louvre acquired all seven works of art through art smugglers. “I consider that works of doubtful provenance are a stain on the collections of The Louvre. We should acknowledge and examine that with rigor and lucidity”, Des Cars said.


A 5th century BC amphora attributed to the “Berlin Painter.” Courtesy of the Museum


An investigation is currently underway into the aforementioned claims and also the origin of the objects. There is a chance that, if the Italian experts’ claims are proven correct, the objects will be returned to Italy. However, such processes in France are not simple. Public French objects and works of art have the status of immovable property.

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France’s New Law on Restitution

The Louvre welcomed 7.8 million visitors in 2022, leading to bottlenecks and sometime interminable waits.


This means that the formal procedure for moving them is long and complex. Sometimes it doesn’t end with the expected results. That’s why now France and the French Minister of Culture are working on set of bills which refers to enabling the restitution of works of art forcibly taken during the Second World War. The law also applies to any objects that were not acquired in a legal way.


This reform enables the transfer of stolen works of art owned by the state, bypassing the parliament. This means the permission of the representatives will not be necessary for the activities. The old tradition of French laws indicates the inalienability of state-owned objects. Moving them often requires a long and complex process. It usually takes years, and restitution often gets prevented.


JR’s project at the Louvre Museum, 2016, via JR-ART.NET


Last year, former Louvre director Jean-Luc Martinez was charged with “facilitating” the acquisition of illegally trafficked antiquities by The Louvre Abu Dhabi between 2014 and 2017. Representatives from The Louvre did not immediately return a request for comment on Italy’s repatriation application.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.