Sicily is returning a fragment of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece in a cultural agreement of huge international importance. The fragment known as the Fagan fragment” depicts the foot of a goddess, Peitho or Artemis, peeking out from a beautifully crafted tunic. The return is in the context of a Greek-Italian exchange agreement with the option that the fragment permanently returns to its country of origin.
The piece is part of a collection once owned by Robert Fagan, the former British consul for Sicily and Malta, and its current home is Palermo’s Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum.
According to an exclusive story by Italian news agency ansa, Sicilian Culture Chief Alberto Samonà worked hard for the agreement, which has an enormous symbolic value for Greek culture and was welcomed by Greek Culture and Sports Minister Lina Mendoni.
It makes Sicily a trailblazer with regards to the return to Greece of pieces of the Parthenon and it is a contribution to the long-running international debate about this issue, with the UK long turning down Greek calls for the return of the marbles held in the British Museum.
The agreement, which was signed by the A. Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum following fruitful dialogue between the administration of Sicilian Governor Nello Musumeci and Minister Mendoni, foresees the multi-year transfer and exchange of artifacts between the two museums, whose respective directors are Caterina Greco and Nicholaos Stampolidis.
Under the agreement, which runs for four years and can be renewed only once, the Salinas Museum will transfer the Parthenon fragment, which Palermo University bought from Fagan’s widow in 1820, to the Acropolis Museum.
In exchange two important pieces will be transferred from the Acropolis Museum for four years – a headless statue of Athena from the end of the 5th century BC and an amphora from the first half of the 8th century BC.
There is also an agreement for a partnership between the museums to organize joint cultural initiatives of international importance.
Sicily actually wants to return the piece definitively to Greece and the regional government has asked the Culture Ministry of the Italian Republic to take a path that leads to this outcome.
The question is being examined by the ministry’s ‘committee for the recovery and return of cultural items.’
The fragment’s return confirms the fraternal sentiments between Sicily and Greece based on their common Mediterranean roots and the ancient and profound bonds between these two lands.
The agreement comes at the end of the year of the celebrations for the anniversary of the start of Greece’s fight for independence and just over three months after UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Commission for the Return of Cultural Property to Countries of Origin (ICPRCP) called on the United Kingdom to “reconsider its position and to negotiate with Greece,” which, since 1984, has been requesting the return of the Parthenon Sculptures kept at the British Museum in London, the ansa report concludes.
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