This is a 'formal' announcement now, I guess ... from Bloomberg:

The J. Paul Getty Museum agreed to send back to Italy a statue known as Aphrodite along with 39 ancient artworks, ending a dispute over stolen relics that threatened the reputation of the world's richest art institution.

The agreement was signed today in Rome by Getty Museum Director Michael Brand and Giuseppe Proietti, general secretary for Italy's Culture Ministry, according to a statement posted on the ministry Web site.

``A long and complex negotiation comes to a close, and a season of transparency in the acquisition of archeological materials begins,'' Francesco Rutelli, Italy's deputy prime minister and culture minister said in the statement.

Today's agreement follows years of negotiations with Italy and Greece over the Getty collection. After the U.S. and Italy signed a cultural treaty in 2001 that required the U.S. to return artifacts illegally exported after that year, the Italian government targeted antiquities in several U.S. collections, including the Getty, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

``Research conducted by our experts shows that their true home is Italy,'' Brand said in the statement.

The agreement has opened the way for ``broad collaboration'' between Italy and the Getty Museum on joint research, conservation and restoration projects, joint exhibits, and new loans of artworks, the Ministry said. The statue of the goddess Aphrodite, which the museum acquired in 1988 for $18 million, is made of limestone and marble.

The 40 pieces do not include the so-called Getty Bronze, or ``Statue of a Victorious Youth,'' which is the subject of a new legal hearing in the coastal city of Fano, Italy. ``Further discussions'' on the statue will be put off until the end of the hearing, according to the statement.

Getty Bronze

The Getty Bronze is a life-size Greek sculpture of a nude athlete made between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C. that the museum acquired in 1977 for $3.95 million. It's a highlight of the museum's collection, displayed in a special room of its own at the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Italy also charged two art dealers and former Getty antiquities curator Marion True with buying looted artifacts. One dealer has been convicted and the other remains on trial in Rome with True, who denies the charges. True resigned her position at the museum in 2005. The Getty continues to pay her legal bills for the Rome trial, which has not yet been resolved.

... and obviously this is connected to what follows ...