A 2,000-year-old Italian mosaic depicting Medusa has been returned to the Italian government by U.S. authorities. The artifact, which had been held in a storage facility in Los Angeles since the 1980s, was recovered by the the FBI, which first announced the repatriation on Wednesday.
The bureau’s unit overseeing crimes related to artworks began working on the case in late 2020 after receiving a tip from an attorney with knowledge of the mosaic’s owner, who was a client. Authorities have not disclosed the identities of either individuals.
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According to officials involved the case, the mosaic appeared in “cultural property records” in 1909. Then, in 1959, the mosaic resurfaced in a newspaper advertisement for sale in the Los Angeles area. No details surrounding the former owner’s acquisition of the piece have been released.
According to the FBI, the owner offered to repatriate the work after learning it was unsellable due to lack of sufficient provenance information. Italy’s police force, the Carabinieri, authenticated the mosaic and worked with the owner to facilitate its return to Rome, which occurred in April.
The mosaic had at an earlier unknown point been divided into 16 pieces and stored at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles. Some of the pieces sustained damage due to their storage conditions, the FBI said, but they were “largely intact.”