N.Y. Metropolitan Museum to Return Antiquities to Italy

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian Culture Ministry agreed Monday on a deal to return six disputed antiquities in the Met collection that Italy says were illegally taken out of the country, the ministry said.

In exchange, Italy is expected to provide long-term loans of equivalent works of art.

A signing ceremony between Met chief Philippe de Montebello and Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione was scheduled for Tuesday.

The Met had already announced Feb. 2 it would transfer legal title of six important antiquities that Italy says were looted, including the Euphronios Krater, a 6th century B.C. painted vase widely regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind.

De Montebello was in Rome to iron out details of the agreement with ministry officials. As a result, the announcement of the deal was not a surprise.

"An agreement has been reached for the return of some antiquities in the possession of the Metropolitan Museum that belong to Italy, including the famous Euphronios vase, the Morgantina treasure and other pieces on display in the Metropolitan," a ministry statement said.

The 3rd century Morgantina silver collection was smuggled out of Sicily. The other objects involved in the deal include Greek earthenware treasures dating from 320 B.C. to 520 B.C.

Met spokesman Harold Holzer said a few details remained to be worked out but suggested they would not affect Tuesday's signing ceremony.

"I can confirm that all that is left are the details," he said by phone from New York. "The Metropolitan is looking forward to formally consecrating the agreement tomorrow."

The Met proposed transferring legal title to the six disputed antiquities after it received evidence from the Italians about the items' origins, a breakthrough in a decades-long dispute.

The case returned to the spotlight in a crackdown by Italian authorities on tracking down antiquities it says were illegally taken from the country.

A former curator from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Marion True, is on trial in Rome, accused of having knowingly purchased stolen artifacts for the museum from Italy. True denies any wrongdoing.