Two Italian policemen were on a casual walk in a ritzy neighborhood of Brussels when they accidentally stumbled upon a surprising find: a looted ancient Roman sculpture, posed innocently among the offerings at an antiques shop.
On Monday, the Carabineri, Italy’s police force, said it had officially recovered the sculpture, which dates back to the 1st century C.E. and is believed to have been stolen around 2011 from an archaeological site near Rome. The sculpture, known as Togatus, is worth €100,000 ($119,100), and had been taken from the Villa Marini Dettina, the Associated Press reports.
The Carabineri said that the sculpture had been found by two off-duty members of Italy’s art-theft squad who were taking a stroll in Brussels’s Sablon neighborhood. They had been on assignment in the Belgian capital when they saw the marble statue, which seemed possibly out of place. Thinking it may have been from Italy, they consulted a database of stolen art and found the Togatus in it.
According to the AP report, the Italian police are also looking into an Italian businessman who may have been involved in exporting the statue out of Italy.
The Carabinieri’s art squad has regularly helped locate stolen art objects of all kinds. Most recently, it aided in finding a Nicolas Poussin painting that was looted by the Nazis during World War II; that work was subsequently returned to the owners’ heirs. The vaunted art squad is at the center of a new book by art historian Fiona Greenland focused on the role it plays in Italian politics.