Art historian Dario Del Bufalo told the American TV program 60 Minutes about this last weekend, foreign media write.
Decoration on a ship
It is a mosaic that was used centuries ago by Emperor Caligula to decorate one of his ships. The mosaic had disappeared without a trace for years, but was found in 2017.
Del Bufalo told how he gave a book launch in New York in 2013. The book contained a photo of the mosaic, which by then had disappeared without a trace for almost seventy years. During the book launch, he heard a man tell a woman that the mosaic resembled the coffee table she had in her New York apartment.
The mosaic was part of a ship floating on a lake near the Italian city of Rome. When Emperor Caligula was assassinated in AD 41, the ship sank.
In the 1930s, the mosaic and other coastal objects were fished from the lake and housed in a museum. In 1944, when the Nazis left Italy, precious treasures were set on fire.
The mosaic appeared not to have been lost, but has been in the apartment of Helen Fioratti, the owner of an art gallery for decades. She bought the mosaic from an Italian family in the 1960s and turned it into a coffee table.
Del Bufalo passed on the find to US authorities. They assume that the mosaic was stolen in World War II and decided to confiscate the coffee table. The mosaic has been in a museum in Nemi, Italy, not far from Rome for several years now.
“I felt sorry for her,” Del Bufalo said on the TV show this weekend about Fioratti, who had to give up the coffee table. “But I had no choice. This work of art withstood several centuries, a war, a fire and was finally able to come back to the museum through an Italian family and American art dealer.”