Ancient Roman artefact used as coffee table in apartment for 50 years

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A 2,000-year-old Roman artifact has been recovered after being used as a coffee table in a Manhattan apartment for nearly 50 years.

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The priceless Roman mosaic dates back to the time of Emperor Caligula, who ruled the empire from AD 37 until he was assassinated in AD 41.

Artwork CBS. The theme of Sunday’s episode was Display 60 minutes, Where Italian marble expert Dario del Bufalo told how he accidentally found a rare artifact.


During the book signing of Mr. Del Buffalo in 2013, porphyry, which details the igneous purple-red rock that Roman emperors used for their art and architecture, del Bufalo recalls meeting a couple who recognized the mosaic pattern printed on the publication’s cover.

“There was a lady with a young boy with a strange hat who came to the table,” said Mr. Del Bufalo. “And he said to her, ‘What a beautiful book. Oh, Helen, look, that’s your mosaic.’ And she said, ‘Yeah, that’s my mosaic.'”

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Mr. Del Buffalo wraps up the signing book to question the pair, who revealed that the artwork constitutes the top of a coffee table in their Park Avenue apartment.

Before that, the mosaic was considered missing. It was originally used as floor tiling on ships sunk in Lake Nemi, Italy during antiquity before being recovered in the 1930s. The remaining mosaics were housed in a lakeside museum, but in 1944, the Nazis infiltrated Italy and used the museum as a bomb shelter and burned it—and its contents—as the Italians claim.

Was in the Mosaic Park Avenue apartment for almost 50 years

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Was in the Mosaic Park Avenue apartment for almost 50 years

The artifact-turned-coffee table was owned by Helen Fioratti, an art dealer who owns a gallery for European antiques and lives in Manhattan. He told me new York Times In 2017 that she and her husband – journalist Nerio Fioratti – had purchased the piece in good faith from an Italian aristocratic family in the 1960s and had no reason to suspect that they were not the original owners of the mosaic.

Once Fioratis brought the mosaic home to his Park Avenue apartment, he glued it to a base to convert it into a coffee table.

“It was an innocent purchase,” told Ms Fioratti Times in 2017. “It was our favorite thing and we’ve had for 45 years.”

However, prosecutors at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office say evidence suggests the mosaic was stolen from the Nemi Museum, new York Times informed of. It was later confiscated in September 2017 and returned to the Italian government.

Mr. Del Bufalo told 60 Minutes that he sympathized with Ms. Fioratti. “I felt very sorry for him, but I couldn’t do anything differently, knowing that my museum in Nemi is missing the best part that has gone through the centuries, through war, through fire and then an Italian art dealer. Went through, and can finally go back to the museum,” he said. “That was the only thing I felt I should have done.”

After being cleaned up, the mosaic was unveiled at the Roman Ships Museum in Nemea in March this year.

Meanwhile, Mr. Del Buffalo had prepared a replica of the mosaic. They told 60 minutes He wants to make a copy for Ms. Fioratti to return to her apartment on Park Avenue, because, as he explained, “I think my spirit will feel a little better.”

Credit: / Roman

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