Objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Yale University Art Gallery were surrendered to authorities after investigations revealed that they had been stolen from their countries of origin, according to the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
“These are more than just beautiful artifacts – they are windows into thousands of years of culture and deserve to be returned to their country of origin,” said Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg.
"As part of an ongoing criminal investigation concerning antiquities looted from the Middle East and North Africa, the Antiquities Trafficking Unit uncovered evidence that the two antiquities repatriated today had been looted from Cyrene, an archaeological site located near modern-day Shahat, Libya," a March 30 statement read in reference to works at the Met.
"Dating to roughly 350 B.C.E, the Veiled Head of a Lady is valued at nearly half a million dollars and was seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it was on view since 1998. Prior to its display at the Met, the piece had been looted from a tomb in Cyrene, smuggled into Egypt by an antiquities trafficker known to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and then shipped to New York. Dating to 100-300 C.E., the Bust of a Bearded Man is valued at $30,000 and was also looted from Cyrene, where it originated in a tomb rich with small niches. The piece was smuggled from Libya to Geneva, Switzerland, before arriving in Manhattan."
In January of this year, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office returned another marble antiquity looted from Cyrene valued at $1.2 million, the Veiled Head of a Female, according to the statement.
Another 13 objects from the Yale University Art Gallery have also been seized by authorities. Many of the pieces are tied to Subhash Kapoor, the Manhattan dealer accused of trafficking in looted antiquities valued at around $145 million. He has been serving time in India since 2011 on charges of theft, smuggling and trafficking artifacts.
The seized Yale artifacts are valued at around $1.29 million, according to officials. Twelve items were from India, and one object originated in Burma.
Nine of the objects had been donated to Yale by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, notes the New York Times. The university released a statement, saying that, "having been presented with information indicating that works of art in its collections were stolen from their countries of origin, delivered the works on March 30, 2022 to the New York District Attorney’s Office, which will coordinate the objects’ repatriation later this year. Yale was glad to work cooperatively with the DA’s Office in this important matter."