The Victorious Youth, referred to in Italian sources as the Atleta di Fano, is a Greek bronze sculpture, made between 300 and 100 BCE, in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California. On its first rediscovery Bernard Ashmole and other scholars attributed it to Lysippos, a grand name in the history of Greek art; modern concerns are less with such traditional attributions than with the original social context: where the sculpture was made, for what context and who he might be.
The sculpture was found in the summer of 1964 in the sea off Fano on the Adriatic coast of Italy, snagged in the nets of an Italian fishing trawler, the Ferri Ferruccio. After some furtive offering on the antiquities gray market and vigorous competition with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was acquired by the Getty Museum in 1977.
The sculpture may have been part of the crowd of sculptures of victorious athletes at Panhellenic Greek sanctuaries like Delphi and Olympia. His right hand reaches to touch the winner's olive wreath on his head. The powerful head has led viewers to see it as a portrait; the head was cast separately from the lithe body. The athlete's eyes were once inlaid, probably with bone, and his nipples are in contrasting copper.
The precise location of the shipwreck, which preserved this object from being melted down like all but a tiny fraction of Greek bronzes, has not been established; it seems most likely that a Roman ship carrying looted objects was on its way to Italy when it foundered. The statue has been roughly broken off its former base, breaking away at the ankles.
The Italian government has made claims for the return of the sculpture, which the museum has rejected as unfounded.
Controversies with Italy
The Getty Museum is involved in a controversy regarding proper title to some of the artwork in its collection. The Museum's previous curator of antiquities, Marion True, was indicted in Italy in 2005 along with Robert E. Hecht on criminal charges relating to trafficking in stolen antiquities. The primary evidence in the case came from the 1995 raid of a Geneva, Switzerland warehouse which had contained a fortune in stolen artifacts. Italian art dealer Giacomo Medici was eventually arrested in 1997; his operation was thought to be "one of the largest and most sophisticated antiquities networks in the world, responsible for illegally digging up and spiriting away thousands of top-drawer pieces and passing them on to the most elite end of the international art market".
In a letter to the J. Paul Getty Trust on December 18, 2006, True stated that she is being made to "carry the burden" for practices which were known, approved, and condoned by the Getty's Board of Directors. True is currently under investigation by Greek authorities over the acquisition of a 2,500 year old funerary wreath.
In an interview to the Italian national newspaper Corrierre della Sera on December 20, 2006 the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage declared that Italy would place the museum under a cultural embargo if all the 52 disputed pieces would not return home overseas. On August 1, 2007 an agreement was announced providing that the museum would return 40 pieces to Italy out of the 52 requested, among which the Venus of Morgantina, which was returned in 2010, but not the Victorious Youth, whose outcome will depend upon the results of the criminal proceedings pending in Italy. On the very same day the public prosecutor of Pesaro formally requested that the statue be confiscated as it was unlawfully exported out of Italy.
- Italian authorities were actively pressing for the sculpture's return as recently as November 2006.
- The consensus is that the sculpture could date anywhere from the late fourth through the second century BCE. Carbon-14 dating does not further narrow the range.
- Other well-known underwater bronze finds have been retrieved, generally from shipwreck sites, in the Aegean and Mediterranean: the Antikythera mechanism, the Antikythera Ephebe and the portrait head of a Stoic discovered by sponge-divers at Antikythera in 1900, the Mahdia shipwreck off the coast of Tunisia, 1907; the Marathon Boy off the coast of Marathon, 1925; the standing Poseidon of Cape Artemision found off Cape Artemision in northern Euboea, 1926; the horse and Rider found off Cape Artemision, 1928 and 1937; the Riace bronzes, found in 1972; the Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo, near Brindisi, 1992; and the Apoxyomenos recovered from the sea off the Croatian island of Lošinj in 1999.
- "Archeologia in rete"
- Though the Greek sculpture is unlikely ever to have touched Italian soil before its modern recovery, Italian authorities have pressed for its return, as part of Italy's patrimony. In fact, the statue was found by an Italian fishing trawler in international water: the owner of the ship was Italian and the statue was under Italian legislation. But the Italian laws state that every archeological good in Italy belongs to the People and cannot be sold.
- Analysis of fibres from the core reveal that they are flax; Pausanias noted in the second century CE that the only flax being grown in Greece was to be found around Olympia.
- Saga of the ‘stolen’ gold wreath could loosen British hold on Elgin marbles - Times Online
- Men's Vogue, Nov/Dec 2006, Vol. 2, No. 3, pg. 46.
- LATimes.com ~ "Getty lets her take fall, ex-curator says"
- Frel, Jiri, 1978. The Getty Bronze (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum).
- Antonietta Viacava, L' atleta di Fano, edizioni L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1995, ISBN 88-7062-868-X.
- Mattusch, Carol C. 1997. The Victorious Youth (Getty Museum Studies on Art; Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum). Reviewed in Bryn Mawr Classical Review
- (Italian) www.lisippo.org - Website of the cultural organisation who want the statue back to Fano, Italy.
- (Italian) www.patrimoniosos.it
- (English) (Getty Museum) Victorious Youth
- (English) NPR, "Italy, Getty Museum at Odds over Disputed Art" 20 December 2006.
- (English) (Los Angeles Times), Jason Felch, "The Amazing Catch They Let Slip Away": 11 May 2006
- (English) (Trafficking Culture Project), Neil Brodie, "The Fano Bronze"
- (English) "The Getty’s mea culpa" by, managing editor of the magazine Archaeology at the UNESCO website
- (Italian) Il Getty non restituisce le opere. Rutelli: «Cultural embargoe», by Pierluigi Panza, Corriere della Sera, November 14, 2006
- (Italian) Il Getty Museum non rende le opere richieste, Corriere della Sera, November 23, 2006
- (Italian) Rutelli attacca il Getty. Dubbi su 250 opere, di Paolo Conti, Corriere della Sera, November 24, 2006
- (Italian) Rutelli-Getty, secondo round - “Non esponete opere rubate”, La Stampa, November 24, 2006
- (Italian) Il Getty pronto a restituire la «Venere» Ma non restituirà il Lisippo., Corriere della Sera, November 26, 2006
- (French) "L'Italie joue le bras de fer avec le Getty Museum", di Richard Heuzé, Le Figaro, December 26, 2006
- (Italian) "No Lisippo, no Bernini", La Stampa, July 11, 2007