Ten of 11 artifacts seized from the University Art Museum (PUAM) are set to be returned to Italy. A March search warrant by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office authorized the seizure of the objects. Six of the items were loaned to PUAM by Edoardo Almagià ’73, a Rome-based art dealer who has been investigated for smuggling activity over the past two decades.
The ten artifacts are all of Greek or Etruscan origin, collectively valued at over $150,000. The 11th artifact seized from the University is a large Qur’anic wall tile from 16th–18th century Pakistan, valued at $45,000. It has not been said what will happen to this artifact yet.
“The Americans are so happy confiscating [artifacts], not even knowing what they are. Do you think they will go on exhibit in the museum? No. They will end up in a box in the storeroom, and nobody will ever see them,” Almagià told The Daily Princetonian in April.
“The Museum is grateful for the Manhattan District Attorney’s diligence in providing new insights into the history of these objects, ultimately resulting in their transfer and repatriation,” Art Museum Associate Communications Director Stephen Kim wrote in a statement this week to the ‘Prince.’
The March 22 search warrant for the items alleges they were stolen before the University acquired them.
This is not the first time artifacts from the art museum have been repatriated to Italy. In 2007, the University reached an agreement with the Italian government to return eight PUAM objects that had been allegedly looted, including those of Attic, Etruscan, and South Italian origin. Almagià is not linked to the University’s initial acquisition of the items.
At the University, Almagià majored in history and was a member of Dial Lodge and then Ivy Club. His entry in the Freshman Herald hints at an interest in rare antiquities as early as high school.
“However, more than studying he dedicated himself with great alacrity to making a lot of noise and much trouble,” the entry reads. “Later, he decided to go into Archaeology and started to dig with such zeal as to merit the nickname of ‘mole.’”
Sandeep Mangat is a head News editor at the ‘Prince.’
Miriam Waldvogel is an assistant News editor at the ‘Prince.’
Please direct any corrections requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Correction: A previous version of the piece incorrectly referred to the Freshman Herald as the Nassau Herald.