From Bloomberg:

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is forming a scholarly group to study the origin of a disputed ancient statue known as ``Aphrodite'' that the Italian Ministry of Culture has claimed.

The Getty, the world's richest art institution, said in November that it was willing to transfer ownership of the ``Cult Statue of a Goddess'' to Italy after the sculpture is examined for as long as a year. The museum said today in a statement that it invited a group of scientists, archaeologists and art historians to a workshop on May 9 to begin a study of the statue's origin.

The group will analyze ``small amounts of pollen and soil that were removed from the statue during its cleaning at the time of acquisition, as well as additional stone analysis to supplement the research,'' the museum said.

The 7-foot-tall Greek statue was made about 425-400 B.C. in southern Italy or Sicily. The limestone and marble sculpture, with traces of pigment, depicts the Greek goddess of love in flowing robes with her right arm extended. The Getty bought the statue in 1988 for an undisclosed price, museum spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said.

Last November, the Getty offered to transfer 26 other disputed objects in its collection to Italy, though it refused to include another ancient work, the ``Statue of a Victorious Youth.'' The museum says the ownership of that work, known as the Getty Bronze, is not in doubt and had been confirmed by Italian courts.

The Italian government has refused to continue negotiations over any of the works unless they include the Getty Bronze. Talks between the Getty and the Ministry of Culture have stalled on this point since late last year.

Workshop Participants

Participants in the May 9 workshop will include art historians Clemente Marconi of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and Malcolm Bell III of the University of Virginia; geochemist Rosario Alaimo of the University of Palermo; archaeologist Pamela I. Chester of New Zealand, and art- conservation scientist John Twilley of New York.

The Getty said its director, Michael Brand, has invited representatives of Italy's Ministry of Culture and the Sicilian Regional Ministry of Culture and Environmental Heritage to participate in the workshop.