Tom Mashberg has a story about a life-size, 1,700-pound Roman sculpture - a sarcophagus lid of a Roman noblewoman - in a Queens (NY) warehouse which US authorities plan to confiscate today on behalf of Italy which says there is evidence the marble statue of a reclining, half-clad woman valued at $4 million was probably looted from Italy in the 1970s or early 1980s ('Authorities to Seize a Roman Statue in Queens That They Say Was Stolen ', New York Times 27th Feb 2014). US officials have had their eye on the statue since last year when it surfaced for sale in a Manhattan gallery. A complaint was filed on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn by the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York based on an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.
Officials said they did not know when the statue entered the United States or where precisely it came from in Italy. But they said they believe it to be one of the antiquities obtained illegally by Gianfranco Becchina, a longtime Italian art dealer who was convicted in 2011 of trafficking in thousands of plundered Roman artifacts. Photographs of the statue were among thousands of pictures of looted antiquities found in Mr. Becchina’s Swiss gallery in 2002, the officials said.The object had reportedly previously been exhibited on behalf of "a client” (which lawyers speaking for the gallery declined to identify “on grounds of confidentiality”) by the well known dealers Phoenix Ancient Art, who had not played a role in shipping, importing or storing the item. Records indicate that:
the sculpture, which represents the mythological figure Ariadne, was bought by Mr. Becchina in Italy and then shipped to his gallery in Switzerland in 1981. The item was exhibited for three months in late 1982 and early 1983 at a Swiss museum. Federal officials said they were not sure where the item was between 1983 and 2013. “We’re still investigating, and can’t confirm who currently owns or has an interest in the property,” said Karin Orenstein, the assistant United States attorney handling the case.