Statue stolen from Mussolini’s Roman villa to be returned

The work’s current owner voluntarily turned it over to authorities

The United States will repatriate a marble statue stolen from a Roman villa in 1983, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and United States Attorney’s Office announced Thursday, 25 February.

The sculpture of a woman wearing an ancient Greek garment known as a peplos was stolen from Villa Torlonia, a neo-Classical manse purchased by Vatican banker Giovanni Torlonia in 1797. Benito Mussolini used it as his personal residence from 1925 to 1943. A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office said the age of the statute is not known, but most of the works from the collection of the Villa Torlonia, which is now a museum, seem to date to the early 18th century.

The piece was stolen the night of 11 November 1983, when thieves took 15 statues and “other items” from the villa, according to the government. It ended up in a New York City art gallery in the late 1990s, and was purchased by its current owner in 2001 for around $75,000. This owner recently tried to sell it through an auction house in New York, was informed that it had been stolen, and turned it over to the authorities. It will soon be returned to Italy.

“The Torlonia Peplophoros was stolen in a brazen theft more than 30 years ago, and we are proud to have recovered it so it can finally be returned to its rightful owners,” says the US Attorney Preet Bharara, in a statement. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to recover and return stolen treasures no matter how long they have been missing.”