Italy is demanding the return of antiquities it believes were looted before being sold to the Louvre in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s.
A spokesperson for the Louvre says that the museum heard about this for the first time when the Italian Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, made it known in a letter that he handed over during a visit to France in February.
All seven antiquities, which include an ancient Greek jar, called an amphora, as well as ancient Greek vases dating from the 4th to 6th century BC, were apparently sold by Italian traders who are suspected of the illegal trade in ancient works of art.
“I think that antiquities of dubious provenance are a blot on the collection of the Louvre,” Laurence des Cars, president of the museum, told the French newspaper Le Monde said.
“We must make work of it and investigate the matter carefully and transparently.”
An investigation has already been launched into the disputed antiquities, and should everything go well, the items could return to Italy by the end of the year.
Run by the French government, the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world and is home to some of Western civilization’s most celebrated cultural heritage.
A former director of the museum was charged last year with conspiring to conceal the origin of archaeological treasures that investigators suspect were smuggled out of Egypt in the chaos of the Arab Spring.
Jean-Luc Martinez, who ran the Louvre from 2013 to 2021, is accused of failing to notice that the certificates confirming the origin of items had been forged. This fraud presumably involves several other art experts.