Italian police announced that it has recovered an ebony desk dating back to the 18th Century that was illegally exported from Italy shortly after World War II ended in 1945.
The desk is made from ebony with ivory and mother of pearl inlays by Pietro Piffetti, a master ebony carpenter. It is worth around €2 million (£1.7m).
The desk was moved from Italy to France and then to Switzerland before it arrived in the United States in 1996, when it was housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Italian police do not accuse the museum of doing anything illegal. The owner of the desk had taken it out of Italy without the permission that is required to export historical and artistically important antiques.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art said that the desk was on temporary loan and was returned to its owner over ten years ago.
The police traced the current owner who they only identified as “living somewhere in Europe”. The owner agreed to return the desk to Italy.
The desk was housed at the Palazzo Chiablese in Turin which used to be the residence of the Savoy royal family which ruled Italy until World War II.
When you buy an antique desk from a Ribble Valley antique shop, if it is worth over £65,000 it may need an export licence to take it to a European Union country or £39,219 to export it to non-EU countries.
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