U.S. Embassy and FBI Return Historic San Antonio de Padua Sculpture to the Mexican People


Mexico City, August 10, 2022 – The United States Embassy in Mexico and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have announced the return of a 19th-century statue of Saint Anthony of Padua that was in the Museum of Fine Arts of San Angelo (SAMFA) in Texas. Through a formal application process initiated by Mexican authorities, FBI personnel contacted the museum who worked cooperatively and responsibly to reach a mutual resolution and effect the transfer of this important object to Mexico through the FBI.

Amb. Salazar shakes hands with Alejandra Frausto, Culture Secretary.

Through collaboration between the FBI offices in Dallas and our Legal Attaché in Mexico City and the United States Department of Justice with the Department of Culture, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, the Attorney’s Office General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SAMFA, the statue of San Antonio de Padua will be moved to Jiutepec, State of Morelos, where it was stolen from a church in 2002.

“These collaborative efforts with Mexican authorities demonstrate the United States’ commitment to returning historical and cultural heritage to the Mexican people, while protecting them for future generations through initiatives such as the Ambassador’s Fund. for Cultural Preservation, through which we have allocated more than $1.4 million since 2015 to preserve and protect Mexico’s historical heritage in iconic sites such as Palenque, Chiapas,” Ambassador Ken Salazar emphasized.

As we approach the celebration of 200 years of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States, we reaffirm our commitment to continue working with the authorities of the Mexican government to preserve and protect the historical heritage that reflects part of the greatness of Mexico and its people.

The return of this piece is the result of close cooperation between the United States and Mexico, as part of our ongoing efforts to recover and return cultural property. These efforts were made under the Treaty of Cooperation between the United States and Mexico for the Recovery and Restitution of Stolen Archaeological, Historical, and Cultural Property, signed on July 17, 1970. Monuments, artifacts, and archaeological sites, ancient and histories of the world enrich and inform present-day societies, and help us to reconnect with our cultural origins. The United States government is committed to combating the theft and trafficking of cultural heritage, and to preserving and protecting it wherever it is found.

“Together with the FBI Art Crimes Team, the FBI Dallas appreciates the cooperation of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts in assisting in the safe return of the Saint Anthony of Padua sculpture to the government of Mexico. The FBI has developed important relationships with our overseas partners who are committed to protecting cultural property. We will continue to work with these partners to keep the public informed and up-to-date on crimes of theft of artistic and cultural property to raise awareness of stolen artifacts” , said Matthew J. DeSarno, special agent of the FBI in Dallas.

On the sculpture of Saint Anthony of Padua

Sculpted in solid wood, then painted and gilded, the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua has brown glass eyes, wears a blue tunic with a heavy turned-down collar, adorned with a very thin soffit (a technique consisting in covering the figure with leaves gold, paint on gold and then scrape off the paint to create patterns). He is holding a black book with red pages in his left hand, and his right hand is reaching to the side. She wears black sandals as she stands on a square base with slanted corners. The piece measures approximately 110 x 60 x 50 cm. This particular sculpture depicts Saint Anthony of Padua, a 13th-century Doctor of the Church, identified by his attributes: a book and Franciscan robes. This sculpture probably lacks the attributes of the figure of the Child Jesus, who would probably have swayed on his book, and a white lily representing his purity, which he would have held in his right hand.

Amb. Salazar addresses the group
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