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Court Rules That Venus of Cyrene Should Be Returned to Libya

Venus of Cyrene, 2nd century BCE

Venus of Cyrene
Roman copy
of a Greek original
2nd c. BCE, marble,
National Roman Museum,
Rome, Italy 

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ROME - 04/24/2007 - An Italian tribunal court ruling on Monday determined that the famous Venus of Cyrene is not part of Italy's cultural heritage and should therefore be returned to Libya. The headless statue of the Venus of Cyrene was originally located in the town of Cyrene, part of an ancient Greek colony in Hellenistic times more than 2 millennia ago. The Venus of Cyrene is a Roman copy of a Greek original thought to be carved by Praxiteles. It was taken by Italian troops in 1912 for display in Rome.

A promise was made to Muammar Gaddafi in 2002 by Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to return the Venus of Cyrene to Libya. The move was blocked however by "Our Italy," a group who aims to retain ownership of Italy's cultural treasures.

There has been much talk about looted works of art in the news in recent years with the return of items of Nazi stolen art to the families of their rightful owners. It is felt by some that Italy is being systematically looted of its 'naturalized' artistic heritage, many of which works which were originally taken by the Roman Empire as they conquered and assimilated new territories.

Some concern has been expressed by Fabio Rampelli, Italy's National Alliance deputy, that the Venus not "suffer the same fate" as the renowned Axum Obelisk, an ancient relic from former Abyssinia, confiscated by Mussolini's troops in 1937. Rampelli states that the obelisk was returned to Ethiopia only to be 'abandoned on a rooftop.' The ancient Axumite kingdom was the home of the legendary Queen of Sheba during the time of the biblical King Solomon.

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

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