ICE & CBP Return Cultural Artifacts to Italy (See Cultural Treasures – Video)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated a page from a 14th century manuscript and a 19th century Carelli painting to the government of Italy at a ceremony Friday at the Italian Embassy in Washington.

“The return of stolen artwork and other cultural artifacts is a great example of the work ICE, along with our colleagues from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and foreign counterparts such as the Italian Carabinieri, does around the world to combat transnational organized crime,” said ICE Director Saldaña.

“I commend the special agents of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) who worked hand-in-hand with our sister agency to ensure these cultural treasures are returned to their rightful owners.”

The illuminated manuscript, known as Codex D, was created between 1335 and 1345. On an unknown date, a page with the initial L depicting Saint Lucy was removed.  In 1952, the page was purchased in good faith by the Cleveland Museum of Art after it was incorrectly labelled.

(See the Cultural Treasures, courtesy of ICE, Motion Vault and YouTube. Video by Michael Johnson)

Many years later, the missing page was discovered by art historians in an online catalogue. That page will now be returned to its home country in time for St. Lucy’s feast day on December 13.

“Today’s ceremony marks another important stepping stone in the long standing cooperation between the Governments of the United States and Italy in the field of cultural promotion and protection of cultural heritage,” said Italian Ambassador to the United States Armando Varricchio.

The Carelli painting was stolen in 2001, from a private residence in Naples
The Carelli painting was stolen in 2001, from a private residence in Naples

“It also underscores Italy’s unwavering commitment to repatriate national treasures unlawfully scattered throughout the world.”  

“The repatriation that we celebrate today of the “Pagina Miniata” from the 14th century and of the “Corelli Painting” falls within the framework of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and the US recently renewed for the third time and was supported by the cooperation of the US Authorities and of the Museums of Cleveland and Sacramento,” Ambassador Varricchio added.

The Carelli painting, stolen from a private residence in Naples in 2001, later surfaced at a Pennsylvania auction house in 2014 and was sold to an art dealer in California. The Italian Carabinieri contacted Homeland Security Investigations, who along with their counterparts at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, were able to assist in returning the work to its rightful owner.

CBP Commissioner R.Gil Kerlikowske
CBP Commissioner R.Gil Kerlikowske

“CBP is honored to have played a role in returning these two magnificent pieces of art to Italy,” said CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske.

“Being able to return these national treasures shows how important our collaboration and information sharing with our partners at ICE is.”

“Together, we have been able to successfully return thousands of stolen artifacts and antiquities to their rightful owners.”

ICE has returned more than 7,800 artifacts to over 30 countries, since 2007, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria, 15th-18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru, cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia, and two Baatar dinosaur fossils to Mongolia, antiquities and Saddam Hussein-era objects returned to Iraq, and most recently ancient artifacts, including a mummy’s hand, to Egypt.

“I’m convinced that the spirit of this event, testifies the great partnership we have consolidated over the years and that the future will allow us to recover other important works of art,” said Carabinieri Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli.

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Learn more about ICE’s cultural property, art and antiquities investigations. Members of the public who have information about suspected stolen cultural property are urged to call the toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or to complete the online tip form.