FBI returns 2,000-year-old Medusa monster painting to Italy

The FBI handed over to the Italian government an ancient mosaic estimated to be about 2,000 years old, considered an important part of Rome’s history.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) art crime unit received a 2020 antiquity tip from a lawyer. The lawyer’s unnamed client said at the time that he was in possession of a large “Medusa mystical creature mosaic”. According to Roman mythology, Medusa possessed hair made of snakes, able to turn all living things into stone with her gaze.

The painting is estimated to be about 2,000 years old, cut into 16 pieces, each weighing 34-90 kg and stored in separate wooden crates. All the antiques have been kept at a warehouse in Los Angeles, California since the 1980s.

“This attorney’s client does not have paperwork to verify the artwork, so he or she cannot legally sell it,” the FBI’s September 2 report said. The collector did not disclose how the artifact arrived in his hands.

FBI agents returned the mosaic of mystical creatures Medusa to Italy in April. Photo: FBI.

FBI agents returned the mosaic to Italy in April. Photo: FBI.

US officials are also unable to determine when the artifact was brought into the US, but estimate the Medusa mosaic has been missing for “at least 100 years”. Italian police confirmed the mosaic belonged to the country, which was included in the National Archives of Cultural Property in 1909.

“The most recent data on the existence of the mosaic was in 1959, in a newspaper advertisement for sale of antiquities in Los Angeles,” the FBI said.

According to Agent Allen Grove, the mosaic, which is hand-crafted, helps to understand more about the life of the people of Rome 2,000 years ago, and shows the creativity and uniqueness of the era in which it was crafted. He emphasized that this artifact belongs to the people of Rome.

Italian authorities went to Los Angeles to examine the artifact and coordinate its return to the capital. The previous owner of the Medusa mosaic agrees to cover all diplomatic shipping costs. Artifacts “go home” safely in April.

Experts in Italy are continuing to restore the mosaic. Some wooden crates have been eaten by termites, but the artifacts inside are “mostly intact thanks to well-controlled storage with good atmospheric conditions”.

In July, the United States returned to Italy many stolen antiquities with an estimated total value of $14 million, including dozens of artifacts confiscated from the personal collection of billionaire Michael Steinhardt.

Name (Theo CNN)

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