Italy has reached a deal with US collector Shelby White to reclaim ten Greek and Etruscan objects robbed by tomb raiders, Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli told the New York Times Friday.
In negotiations that began 18 months ago, Italy had asked White for nine masterpieces, two of which were displayed until recently at the Metropolitan Museum.
In the end White upped her offer to a round ten including two remarkable drinking cups, one painted by the 5th-century BC Greek master Euphronios and the other by the Painter of Eucharides.
The latter is already in a packing case and will soon be winging its way to Italy along with eight other antiquities.
The smaller, even more precious Euphronios vessel will follow in 2010, Rutelli told the NYT in a long, front-page article.
He called the deal ''extraordinarily positive''.
Italian police say the pieces were sold to White by a British colleague of Rome-based dealer and trafficker Giacomo Medici.
The deal with White, one of the Met's greatest benefactors, caps a string of accords with major US galleries that has brought an array of looted art home. The vases, amphorae and statues, once signature pieces in the Met, the John Paul Getty Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Princeton University Museum of Art, are now starring in an acclaimed show of returned art at Rome's Quirinale Place.
The jewel in the exhibition's crown, the Met's famous Euphronios krater, has just joined them.
Other attractions include a marble statue of Roman empress Vibia Sabina, from Boston, and, from the Getty, a striking painted marble sculpture of griffons attacking a doe.
The exhibit is many Italians' first chance to see objects that have been disputed for decades.
The row over the Euphronios krater, for example, began soon after the Met paid $1 million for it in 1972.
Under the accords hammered out by Rutelli, Italy agreed to compensate the US museums by loaning out works of equivalent value and boosting cooperation on shows and digs.
Italy's art police spent years gathering evidence that the objects were looted from tombs and ruins, smuggled out of the country and trafficked by dealers.
All the US museums have said they were unaware of their illicit origins.
Some of the objects are part of an ongoing trial in Rome of former Getty curator Marion True and prominent American antiquities dealer Robert Hecht.
Both have denied charges of conspiring to traffic in looted art.
... see also David Gill's post on this ... Lee Rosenbaum's worth a look too ...