[JURIST] The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art [official website] is set to sign an agreement with the Italian Culture Ministry [official website] in Rome Tuesday under which the museum will return several pieces of looted Hellenistic art in exchange for Italy loaning it other works of "equal beauty and importance." Under a 1939 Italian law, all archaeological property excavated in Italy belongs to the Italian state. Marion True, former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, is currently on trial [AP report; NPR audio report] on charges of knowingly smuggling Italian artifacts in violation of the 1939 law.
The agreement could prompt other museums to repatriate works from their collections that were looted from important archaeological sites and acquired through dubious means. Greece and Turkey have also been active in seeking to reclaim what they consider to be stolen archaeological treasures, the most famous of which are the Elgin Marbles currently dispalyed in London's British Museum. AP has more.