Two Italian carabinieri – the equivalent of Belgium’s disbanded gendarmerie – solved a ten-year-old crime this week when they spotted a stolen Roman statue for sale in an antique shop on the Sablon in Brussels.
The pair were in Brussels on a mission from the archaeology division of the carabinieri. Once the job was done, they went on a stroll from the Justice Palace to the nearby Sablon, home of chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.
On the square, which is home to a number of antiquaries and art dealers, they happened to spot a statue of a man, now headless but dressed in a Roman toga, which aroused their professional suspicions.
They took some photos, and sent them back to Rome for comparison with the Leonardo database of stolen artworks.
And it turned out that the work corresponds with a Togatus statue (meaning simply a man in a toga) stolen from the archaeological site at Villa Marina Dettina on the outskirts of Rome in November 2011.
The statue has been valued at €100,000, but has now been repossessed and returned to Rome. The investigation into how it came to be on sale in an antique shop continues. Suspicion falls on an Italian businessman who allegedly used a Spanish name to receive the stolen statue from the original thieves and put it on sale elsewhere.
Italy has made it a policy in recent years to work to retrieve stolen artworks from the many antique sites in the country, whether they are now in the hands of museums, private collectors or, as in this case, commercial dealers.