0284 The Role of Antiquities between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany

Diplomatic Gifting, Legal and Illegal Trades

  • Daria Brasca (Author)
    Università degli Studi di Udine

    Italian art historian and archivist Daria Brasca is a researcher at the Center of Excellence of the University of Udine, Department of Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and is currently working on the project “Exhibitions of Italian Old Masters and Allied Propaganda between 1943 and 1948”. Before, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the project “Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century” (TransCultAA), funded by the HERA network (Humanities in the European Research Area). Within this framework, she investigated the misappropriation of Jewish-owned cultural heritage in the Italian Northeast between 1938 and 1945. She curated the first International Workshop of the TransCultAA project, “The Transfer of Jewish-Owned Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region”, at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca (18–19 September 2017) and was a coeditor of the publication on this subject. She obtained her PhD in 2016 with a research thesis on the fate of Jewish-owned cultural heritage in Italy during World War II. From 2016 to 2017, she was an assistant curator in charge of archival research for the exhibition “Voglia d’Italia. Il collezionismo internazionale nella Roma del Vittoriano”, which was held in Rome, Palazzo Venezia-Vittoriano (2017–2018), by Polo Museale Lazio.

Identifiers (Article)


This article analyzes the antiquities trade between Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the construction of the two regimes’ diplomatic relationship before and during World War II. Both regimes made antiquities a medium of their political and ideological propaganda. During the delicate stages of their alliance in and after 1936, the Fascist regime, which considered itself the legitimate heir of the ancient Roman Empire, intensified the promotion of its role as a leading arbiter of cultural matters. A sense of Italian cultural superiority underlay the antiquities gifted or authorized for export to fulfill the Nazi leaders’ requests. Alongside this ‘legitimate’ trade, many other antiquities were illegally exported, sold, or stolen by art dealers, troops, and common citizens. Drawing on intense archival research conducted in Italian archives, the article presents different cases that shed light on the ways in which antiquities were manipulated for ideological and political purposes by the Fascist and Nazi regimes.


Italian antiquities, Fascist regime, Nazi era, looted art, illegal export, art market, provenance research