A 5th century BC marble statue caught up in a dispute between Italy and the Paul Getty museum in the United States over stolen art was returned to Italians on Thursday, as they celebrated the country’s 150th anniversary.
The Venus of Morgantina was given back to Italy as part of an agreement made in 2007 with California museum, which promised to return 40 items Rome believed had been looted by art thieves.
“As luck would have it, Sicily can add joy over the return of the Venus of Morgantina to the celebration of the unification of Italy,” president of the region Raffaele Lombardo said in a statement.
Italy claims the marble statue was stolen by looters at the end of the 1970s and handed over to an art trafficker who forged documents to prove legitimate ownership and smuggled it to Switzerland.
It was eventually sold to the Getty museum through a London action house.
Dismantled into seven parts for the journey to Italy, the statue will now be reassembled with the help of experts from the Getty.
“The exhibition area dedicated to the statue will be worthy of its beauty… conveying to visitors the emotions that only a work of art such as the Venus can offer,” said Sebastiano Missineo, Sicily’s cultural heritage assessor.
The Venus, which stands over two metres (6.5-feet) tall, is set to be unveiled in April.