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U.S. Getty museum gets first art under Italy deal

This is an aerial view of the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California photographed May 9, 2007. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich

MALIBU, California (Reuters) - California’s Getty Museum, one of the world’s richest art institutions, has received the first two artworks from Italy under a deal that settled a 2006 dispute over looted antiquities.

Getty officials said on Wednesday that two life-size ancient bronze statues discovered in the volcano-destroyed Italian city of Pompeii and owned by the National Archeological Museum in Naples will undergo restoration by Getty conservation experts.

The priceless statues, known as Ephebe as a lampbearer and Apollo as an archer, also will be on display for two years at the Getty Villa, a reconstruction of a Pompeii villa that is dedicated to the study of Roman and Greek antiquities, in the beach city of Malibu.

They are two of only about 30 surviving bronze statues from the period. The Getty will use the expertise it has gained in quake-prone California to strengthen the statues before their return to Italy, which also has a history of devastating earthquakes.

“As part of the collaboration agreement between Italy and the Getty, we wanted to contribute to the conservation of these artifacts,” said Karol Wight, senior curator of antiquities at the Getty. “Our staff are very good in this area.”

The Italian government and the museum reached a loans and co-operation agreement in 2007.

Under the deal, Italy dropped a lawsuit against the Getty, and the museum agreed to return 40 items that Rome believed were stolen and smuggled out of the country over decades, often after being dug up by “tomb raiders.”

The dispute also involved dozens of artworks owned by New York’s Metropolitan Museum, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and other museums worldwide that have now been returned to Italy.

Later this year, the Getty Villa will present an exhibition centered around another Italian loan -- the Etruscan bronze sculpture “The Chiamera of Arezzo” -- from the National Archeological Museum of Florence.

Editing by Xavier Briand