Authorities are helping an ancient statue make its way back home after it was stolen over three decades ago.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and officials from the New York Field Office of the FBI announced last week that the United States is seeking to forfeit and return a Roman statue — called the Torlonia Peplophoros — which was stolen in 1983 from Rome and later sold at a Manhattan art gallery.
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“The Torlonia Peplophoros was stolen in a brazen theft more than 30 years ago, and we are proud to have recovered it so it can finally be returned to its rightful owners,” Bharara said . “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to recover and return stolen treasures no matter how long they have been missing.”
According to prosecutors, the Torlonia Peplophoros was one of 15 statues and other items that were taken from the Villa Torlonia in 1983 by an unknown number of thieves.
After it was abandoned in 1947, the Villa Torlonia — which from 1925 to 1943 was used as Benito Mussolini's personal residence — was opened to the public starting in 1978 after being restored by the Municipality of Rome.
The Villa Torlonia was home to various works of art and other significant cultural property, authorities said, including the Torlonia Peplophoros.
The statue — which depicts a woman wearing a body-length garment known as a peplos or peplum — was imported into the United States in the late 1990s by the owner of a New York City art gallery, authorities said.
The piece of art was then sold in 2001 for about $81,000 to a New York City resident, according to prosecutors.
Once the buyer found out that the statue was stolen, after attempting to sell it through a New York City auction house, the individual voluntarily turned it over to the FBI in 2015.
“Stolen artwork and culture items belong with their rightful owners no matter how much time has passed since the theft,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez. “The FBI is pleased to help with the return of the Torlonia Peplophoros to its rightful home in the Villa Torlonia museum in Rome.”