The Italian Almanac

etrurian carriages

Italian News - January 31

A tiny Umbrian village is taking on the mighty Metropolitan Museum in New York, claiming that one of its most exalted exhibits, an Etruscan chariot, was illegally exported from Italy 100 years ago.

The sixth-century bronze and ivory chariot, the pride of the museum's Etruscan collection, was originally sold to two Frenchmen by a farmer who dug it up in a field at Monteleone di Spoleto, near Perugia, in 1902. According to family lore, the farmer received two cows in exchange. It was later dismantled and illegally exported from Italy, concealed in a grain shipment.

Dealers from Florence sold it to the Metropolitan in New York in 1903 - allegedly with the help of the financier JP Morgan, who would later become the museum's director.

Said to be the only Etruscan chariot ever found intact, the 14ft by 4ft vehicle, showing scenes from the life of Achilles in relief, was part of a burial treasure.