Italy's Culture Ministry officially has suspended art loans to the Minneapolis Institute of Art following disputes over the 1st century Roman sculpture "Doryphoros."

Italian authorities believe the statue, which originated in the south of Naples, was illegally excavated in the 1970s. Mia said it purchased it for $2.5 million in 1986 from art dealer Elie Borowski.

Italy first requested return of the statue in March 2022, after an Italian court ruled that Mia needed to give back the ancient sculpture that had long been displayed in the museum's second-floor rotunda near the Target Wing. The "Doryphoros" is one of a number of Roman copies based on original works by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos, and the one that Mia owns, made in the 1st century B.C., is one of the best preserved.

Mia said in 2022 that if it was contacted by Italian authorities, it would "review the matter and respond accordingly," but two years later the matter is unresolved. In turn, Italy has banned loans to the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

"An Italian court has established that the 'Doryphoros' statue was illegally excavated in Castellammare di Stabia, Italy, and exported in 1976 and belongs to the national heritage of this country," said Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii. "However, the MIA has decided to not respect the court decision, although it is proved that the people in charge at the time of the purchase (1980s) knew about the illegal provenance."

Minneapolis Institute of Art denies that is in the wrong, stating that the claims are unproven.

"In 1984, while the work was on display in a German museum, Italy initiated a legal proceeding to claim the work," Mia spokeswoman Lynn Farmer said. "In 1986, only after that proceeding was concluded — Italy's claim was denied by the German government, and the work was exported from Germany and imported into the United States — did Mia agree to purchase the sculpture."

Mia is also displeased with "recent press reports" and believes that "the media is not an appropriate forum to address unproven allegations."

Italy believes that its reasons for halting loans to Mia are legitimate, and Zuchtriegel confirmed Wednesday that the ban had begun.

"The Minister of Culture, Gennaro Sangiuliano, and the Director of the museum department at the Ministry, Massimo Osanna, decided to stop all collaboration and loans between Italian state museums and the Mia," he said.

The museum stated, "Where proof has not been provided, as well as where Mia has evidence reasonably demonstrating that a claim is not supported, Mia has declined to transfer the work."

In October 2022, Mia hosted the major exhibition "Botticelli and Renaissance Florence: Masterworks from the Uffizi." Works on view were rarely seen outside Italy, and Mia was the only U.S. stop for those works.

Mia said it has "a long and successful history of exchange and scholarship with Italian museums," and has decided to honor outgoing loan commitments to ensure that "its Italian colleagues do not suffer because of the Ministry's embargo decision."