Italian cultural authorities have said publicly for several years that the Cleveland Museum of Art owns looted antiquities that should be returned to Italy. But so far, the Italians haven't communicated directly with the museum.
An article in Friday's edition of The New York Times quotes Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of culture, as saying that negotiations with the Cleveland museum over allegedly looted artworks would "accelerate."
But Timothy Rub, director of the Cleveland museum, said: "to date, no official of the Italian government has contacted the Cleveland Museum of Art about this issue or specifically identified any works in our collection in which they might be interested."
Rub added that should such a contact occur, "we would of course be perfectly willing to enter into conversations with Italy."
Rutelli's statement was part of an article about the decision of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston to return 13 archaeological treasures Italians say were looted from Italian soil.
Some of the objects were purchased by the Boston museum through American art dealer Robert Hecht, who is on trial in Rome along with former Getty Museum curator Marion True on charges of dealing in illegally excavated art.
Last year, Paolo Ferri, the prosecutor in the case against True and Hecht, said that court documents mention the Cleveland Museum of Art in connection with the charges against the dealer. But Ferri said he knew of no plans by the Italian government to bring formal charges against the museum.
The Cleveland museum bought eight works from Hecht between 1951 and 1990 including a lekythos, or olive oil jar, purchased in 1985, which falls within the period under investigation by Italian authorities.
In 1995, Italian police uncovered evidence in a raid on a warehouse in Switzerland that they say proves the links between tomb raiders, known as tombarolli, and Hecht and True. Their trial began last November.