The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today that it has given back to the Italian government a Roman mosaic that dates back 2,000 years and had been hidden for decades. The FBI called the mosaic “an important part of Rome’s history.”
In the year 2020, a client representative who possessed a big “mosaic representing the mythological figure Medusa” contacted the FBI’s Artwork Crimes Team and provided them with information about the artwork.
According to the FBI, the mosaic was divided into sixteen pieces, each of which weighed between 30 and 90 kilos. These pieces were then packed on pallets and kept in a private facility in Los Angeles since the year 1990.
Because the customer did not have any documentation, which is referred to as evidence of provenance in the art market, they were unable to sell the piece. It is unknown how the unnamed buyer acquired the mosaic, nor how long it had been in existence in the United States at that point. According to the information provided by the FBI, he might have been missing for as long as a century.
Before the mosaic was given back to its rightful owners, the origins of the mosaic were investigated by FBI Special Agents Elizabeth Rivas and Allen Grove, who were commissioned by the FBI. The Italian police department verified its nationality and stated that it had been “registered in cultural property registers since 1909.”
An advertisement placed in a newspaper in 1959 for the sale of the mosaic in the greater Los Angeles area is the only trace of its existence from the modern era.
Italian officials made the trip to Los Angeles in order to examine the mosaic and provide assistance in its repatriation.
The purchaser who wished to remain anonymous arranged for special shipping in crates so that the mosaic could be sent back to Rome in April without any damage.