Within the past five years, museums have returned to the Italian and Greek governments more than 100 artifacts worth nearly $1 billion. The Met gave back 21 pieces, including its celebrated Euphronios krater, a Greek vessel dating to about 515 B.C., which the museum had acquired in 1972 for a then-record $1 million. The Boston MFA returned 13 objects, including a statue of Sabina, wife of the second-century A.D. Roman emperor Hadrian. In no case did a museum acknowledge wrongdoing on its part, and, in a historic shift, the Italian government agreed to make long-term loans of other antiquities to take the place of those that had been repatriated.
The Getty gave back more objects than any other museum—47, nearly a dozen of them masterpieces—and the last piece to go was its iconic goddess. The story of the statue stands as a case study of how longstanding practices in the market for Greek and Roman antiquities were overtaken by changes in attitude, the law and law enforcement.