The Culture Ministry said Monday that the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles will hand over three ancient artworks that are part of a group of artifacts allegedly stolen from Italy, as authorities here vowed to continue a legal battle for the return of all the works.
Italian officials traveling to Los Angeles will receive the artifacts "within the next few days" in the form of a donation from the Getty, ministry spokesman Walter Guarracino said.
He said the donation formula allows the museum to avoid admitting any wrongdoing in the acquisition of the objects and doesn't alter Italy's position in its trial against Getty antiquities curator Marion True.
Italian prosecutors say True was involved in the trade of about 40 archaeological treasures that were dug up in Italy and bought by the museum between 1986 and the late 1990s.
She has denied the charges of criminal association and receiving stolen goods, while Getty officials say they have not found any evidence of wrongdoing.
The trial, which opened in July, is set to resume Nov. 16. In the meantime, True has resigned from her post over a separate controversy on a home loan she secured with help from one of the Getty's main suppliers.
Guarracino said the Getty donation would consist of a large drinking cup from the Greek and Roman settlement of Paestum, south of Naples; a funerary inscription from the Greek colony of Selinunte, on the southern coast of Sicily; and an Etruscan bronze candelabrum from central Italy.
Italian Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione said the three pieces were "important" and that Italy would continue to call for the return of other looted artifacts allegedly sold to the Getty and other U.S. and European museums.
"We request without any doubt the return of all the material that proves to have come from the illegal market," he told daily Corriere della Sera in a statement that was later confirmed by the ministry. "When the evidence is certain we will demand it: but even now our pressure is very strong. And not only on the Getty."
Among the more important pieces involved are a large fourth century B.C. stone sculpture representing Aphrodite that investigators say was stolen from Sicily before being bought by the Getty at the end of the 1980s; and a marble statue from the second century B.C. of Tyche, the goddess of fortune, purchased by the museum in 1994.
Three of the artifacts were returned by the museum to Italy in 1999.