Kim Kardashian probably isn’t the first person you think of when you hear the phrase “international art heist.” However, Italian authorities have ordered the American reality TV star to return a statue she bought in 2016, alleging that the piece was smuggled out of the country illegally.
The statue, which Kardashian purchased from the Axel Vervoordt Gallery in 2016, is called Fragment of Myron’s Samian Athena and is only the bottom half of what was originally a larger piece. The top half has been lost to history. According to art historians, the statue is a first-century Roman recreation of a Greek statue that dates to the mid-5th Century, BC.
The Greek sculptor Myron of Eleutherae is thought to have created a series of marble statues that were replicated by Romans in around the start of the Christian Era. None of Myron’s original pieces are believed to have survived to modern day.
The statue fragment purchased by Kardashian was actually seized by US government agents in 2016, while it was being imported to Kardashian and then-husband Kanye West’s Calabasas home. The two were in the process of renovating at the time, and the statue was being imported in a shipping container with several other items of furniture and art.
Before being purchased by Kardashian, the statue was reportedly purchased by the Axel Vervoordt Gallery in Belgium from the Galerie Chenel in Paris. That purchase is said to have taken place in 2012, which has raised eyebrows for the authorities: the statue was photographed in the Vervoordt Gallery in 2011, a year before the alleged purchase date.
However, a director from the Galerie Chenel has stated that the statue had been on loan to the Vervoordt Gallery before the official sale was finalized, potentially explaining the discrepancy. Before this, the statue was purchased by the Galerie Chenel from a German auction house. That auction house is said to have acquired the statue through a British estate sale.
The lack of a “fortuitous find” notice and export license have both signaled to Italian art historians that the piece was likely illegally removed from Italy. As such, they’re calling for the statue’s return to its original country. However, Kardashian will be able to contest their findings in court, if she chooses to try to maintain ownership of the piece.
Whether or not she’ll engage in a legal battle over the ownership of the statue, however, remains unclear at the time of this writing.