On Tuesday, the Museo Archeologico di Morgantina, a small archeological museum in Aidone (Enna), Sicily, held an inauguration for the repatriation of an ancient sculpture of Aphrodite. The stone deity, known in Italian as the Dea Morgantina, had been a prized possession of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles until L.A. Times journalists Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino uncovered that the Getty had illicitly acquired the Aphrodite and several dozen other ancient works of art that had been stolen from Italy and sold on the arts black market. This fascinating tale of the underbelly of the antiquities trade and the Getty’s role in the acquisition of looted art is the subject of Felch and Frammolino’s new book, “Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum.”
The Getty and many other top American museums are part of a long history of illicit art trade. Looted art has been trafficked for as long as art has been in existence, and Frammolino says this is due to the overpowering effects of antiquity.
“People who come in contact with antiquities — the history of it, the beauty of these antiquities, the thought that maybe somebody great had once possessed this — they lose reason”[Listen to the full audio of the journalists’ interview with NPR’s Renee Montagne]
While Los Angeles and the Getty Museum may still be reeling over the loss of such an iconic statue, Aidone has been readying for the repatriation of the Morgantina for decades. The Morgantina museum has devoted a new room for the display of the Aphrodite, which will complement Demeter and Kore, two other looted-and-since-returned statues, and other artifacts unearthed from this area of Sicily which was once part of Magna Grecia (Greater Greece). Following is a short video (in Italian) which provides a comprehensive look at the Dea Morgantina and its new home.
Photo © AP/via NPR