Last Wednesday, February 23, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office returned 55 antiquities collectively valued at over $20 million to Greece. Some 48 of the returned items were seized in a probe of billionaire Michael Steinhardt’s art collection late last year.
At the end of a yearslong international investigation, Steinhardt surrendered $70 million of looted art and was banned for life from the antiquity trade. In December of 2021, then-district attorney Cy Vance Jr. denounced Steinhardt for his “rapacious appetite for plundered artifacts” and his “decades-long indifference to the rights of peoples to their own sacred treasures.”
The 55 objects were ceremonially returned at an event at the DA’s office with the presence of US Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Ricky Patel and Greece’s Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni.
“The illegal trafficking of our country’s cultural treasures is a serious trauma that hurts all Greeks all over the world,” Mendoni said at the ceremony. “We work systematically to stop this crime.”
Among those artifacts was “The Kouros,” the single most highly valued item confiscated from Steinhardt at $14 million. A kouros is an ancient Greek sculpture that portrays the nude figure of a male youth, and this particular one, shown with 14 rows of braids, is estimated to have been sculpted around 560 BCE. Only the torso survives intact, and a piece of the kouros’ right hand and forearm dangle by his thigh. Other objects repatriated alongside the kouros include a gold broach, larnax (small Greek ash chest), and sprouted bowl.
“The stories attached to many of these irreplaceable artifacts date back to ancient Greece, circa 6000-4000 B.C., and tell the story of the history and culture of an older world,” Patel added. “Thankfully, they will now be returned home, so that their stories can be told to future generations.”