Italian Antique Desk Displayed in New York’s Met Recovered


Italian police said Tuesday they had recovered an 18th-century ebony desk that was illegally taken abroad after World War II and ended up for a time in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The desk, made with ivory and mother of pearl inlays, is considered a masterpiece of Pietro Piffetti, one of the most important ebony carpenters of his time. Italy’s carabinieri art squad police unit said the desk was believed to be worth more than 2 million euros ($2.3 million).

According to a carabinieri statement, the desk left Italy sometime after the war and traveled to France and Switzerland before arriving in the United States, where it was exhibited at the Met in the 1990s. Carabinieri police said after they learned of its absence from a recent Turin art exhibit, they launched an investigation and found the current owner, who agreed to return it.

Police didn’t identify the owner. The desk returned to Italy in early July.

The Turin-based local representative of Italy’s culture ministry, Luisa Papotti, said the antique desk had been missing for decades from its home, the Palazzo Chiablese in Turin. The palazzo, now a museum, was a residence of the Savoy royal family which reigned in Italy after its unification until World War II.

Piffetti worked for many years at the court of the Savoy king.

Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli called the recovery operation “exceptional.”