J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return to Greece a Byzantine New Testament manuscript illegally taken from a monastery on Mount Athos over 50 years ago. The manuscript was acquired in 1983 as part of a "large, well-documented
collection," but recent research indicated that it had been stolen from the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou, said the Los Angeles-based museum.
Investigators found a monastery record dating from 1960 indicating that the book had been illegally removed, said the Getty Museum's director Timothy Potts.
"Over the past six weeks, the Getty Museum has worked cooperatively with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports to understand the recent history of this manuscript, and to resolve the matter of its rightful ownership in a timely fashion," he said.
"Based on new information that came to light through this process, the Museum decided that the right course of action was to return the manuscript to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou from which it disappeared over 50 years ago.
"The Monastery's report from 1960, which only recently became available to us, was crucial in reaching this decision," he added in a statement.
Greece's culture minister, Panos Panagiotopoulos, said: "This New Testament, which was copied in 1133 by the scribe Theoktistos and can be stylistically associated with court art produced in Constantinople, is a masterpiece of Middle Byzantine art.
"We applaud the Getty for their responsiveness to this matter," he added.
The manuscript will remain on display at the Getty until June 22 as part of a collection including several documents loaned by Greece, and will be returned when the exhibition is closed.
Founded by the billionaire John Paul Getty, the Getty Museum is supported by the world's wealthiest artistic foundation, the Getty Trust, whose assets were valued at $7.9 billion in 2011.