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89 Moche Artifacts – Peru v. Johnson
After the discovery of the Moche site of Sipán (Peru) in the mid-eighties, many objects were looted and smuggled out of the country. In 1987, a smuggler who had been involved in the exportation of these objects to the United States contacted United States Customs agents and led to the eventual seizure of 89 Moche artifacts from Benjamin Johnson, a private collector. The government of Peru sued to retrieve the artifacts from Johnson. Peru’s claim was unsuccessful and the 89 artifacts remained in Johnson’s possession.
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Great Zimbabwe Bird – Zimbabwe and Prussia Cultural Heritage Foundation, Germany
The lower half of a stone bird discovered in Zimbabwe under dubious circumstances was bought by the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin around 1907. During the Second World War, the stone was removed by the Russian Army. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was returned to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Berlin. In 2000, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation – which managed the collection of this museum – under the pressure of the German federal government finally returned the fragment of the stone bird to Zimbabwe under the terms of a permanent loan.
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Sarcophage romain – I. SA c. Ordonnance de restitution et Turquie
Fin 2010, lors d’un contrôle d’inventaire aux Ports francs de Genève, l’Administration fédérale des douanes découvre un exceptionnel sarcophage romain représentant les douze travaux d’Hercule. Suspicieuse, l’Administration séquestre le bien. La Turquie se constitue comme partie plaignante dans la procédure pénale ouverte à Genève, se déclarant légitime propriétaire du sarcophage. En 2015, le Ministère public genevois ordonne la restitution de l’objet à la Turquie. Le détenteur du sarcophage recourt en vain devant la Cour de Justice puis au Tribunal fédéral, avant de se rétracter. L’objet doit donc être restitué à la Turquie, mais personne n’a été condamné
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Tête égyptienne fragmentaire – Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel et Service des antiquités de l’Egypte
En 1926, l’archéologue Gustave Jéquier, collaborateur du Musée ethnographique de Neuchâtel, obtient en négociant avec le Service des antiquités d’Egypte, divers objets égyptiens précieux en échange d’une tête monumentale fragmentaire découverte et ramenée d’Egypte la même année. Cette tête est alors retournée au Musée égyptien du Caire.
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14 Antiquities – Italy and Cleveland Museum of Art
On 19 November 2008, the Italian Ministry for Cultural Assets and Activities and the Cleveland Museum of Art signed an agreement concerning 14 antiquities in the museum’s collection. This agreement provides for the return to Italy of the artworks in exchange for loans of “a similar number of works of equal aesthetic and historical significance”.
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Bélier Malien – France, Jacques Chirac et Mali
En novembre 1996, le Président de la République Française Jacques Chirac reçoit en cadeau un quadrupède en terre cuite aux formes massives et stylisées. L’objet, qui provenait d’un site pillé au Mali, sera restitué sous forme de don après négociations en janvier 1998.
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3000 Archeological Objects – China and Two British Dealers
On 10 February 1998, the Chinese government and two British dealers signed an out-of-court agreement that resolved the question of ownership of over 3000 archaeological objects. Most probably these were transferred to the United Kingdom through illegal excavation and trafficking.
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Morgantina Goddess Statue – Italy and J. Paul Getty Museum
An ancient statue of a goddess, which was likely illegally excavated in the late 1970s in Italy, was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1988 for a record-setting US$18 million. That same year, Italian authorities began an investigation at the conclusion of which the Getty Museum agreed to consider returning the statue to Italy.
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Murals of Teotihuacán – Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and National Institute of Anthropology and History
In 1978, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco became the owner of a number of murals from the world-famous Aztec site of Teotihuacán (Mexico). The Mexican Government failed in its attempts to obtain the return of these wall paintings through a court action in the United States.
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Orpheus Mosaic – Turkey and Dallas Museum of Art
In December 2012, the Dallas Museum of Art returned to Turkey a fragment of a Roman mosaic. In addition, the parties concluded a comprehensive art exchange program.
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