NEW YORK — An ancient plaster wall painting and banquet vase that were stolen from Italy and turned up in New York are headed back to their home country.
The items were turned over to a representative of the Italian government in a ceremony at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices on Wednesday.
The artifacts are a Pompeii wall panel fresco and a Corinthian column krater — a large vase for mixing water and wine at banquets. They were recovered by Immigration and Customs officials in June. Both had been scheduled to be auctioned in New York before they were discovered to have been looted.
Christie's auction house, which had planned to sell the elaborately painted krater dating to 580 to 570 B.C., cooperated in the investigation, said ICE, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
The krater may have been illegally introduced into the art market by art dealer Giacomo Medici in 1985, the agency said. Medici was convicted in Rome in 2004 of conspiracy to traffic in antiquities. He was sentenced to a 10-year prison term, and in July the appeals court in Rome upheld his conviction and reduced his sentence to eight years. His case led Italy to launch a global search for looted ancient artifacts.
Italian authorities maintain thousands of Roman, Etruscan and Greek treasures were stolen or clandestinely dug up across Italy during the last decades, then smuggled out of the country and sold by dealers such as Medici.
Medici has denied any wrongdoing and remains free pending the appeal.
ICE did not identify the Manhattan auction house that was to have sold the rectangular panel fresco showing a female minister. It was reported stolen in Italy in 1997 and was among six fresco panels discovered on an archaeological site in the province of Naples in the early 1900s. The Italian government bought them in 1957.
The international police organization Interpol was searching for the stolen fresco, and it was located by the Art Loss Register of New York, which brought it to the attention of ICE and Italian authorities.