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Priceless Roman Mosaic Spent 50 Years As A Coffee Table In New York Apartment

A valuable Roman mosaic that originally adorned a ship used by Emperor Caligula was repurposed as a coffee table in a New York City apartment for over 50 years.

Dario Del Bufalo, an Italian specialist on ancient stone and marble, recounted how he discovered the mosaic in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday.

Del Bufalo presented a talk and autographed copies of his book, Porphyry, on the reddish-purple rock popular with Roman emperors in New York in 2013.

The book featured a photograph of the long-lost mosaic, which was formerly part of a floor of one of two massive “party ships” commissioned by Caligula to float on a lake near Rome and sank after the emperor was assassinated.

In the 1930s, the mosaic and other artefacts were rescued from the lake and placed in a lakeside museum. As the Nazis withdrew from Italy in 1944, the ships and many other valuables were destroyed.

Del Bufalo overheard a man and a woman saying the lady had the mosaic they were looking at on the page over 70 years later, as he autographed copies of his book.

Del Bufalo located the young guy, who confirmed that “Helen” had the mosaic in her Manhattan apartment.

Helen Fioratti was an art trader and gallery owner. According to a 2017 New York Times interview, she and her husband, an Italian journalist, purchased the mosaic from an Italian prominent family in the 1960s.

When it arrived in New York, it was converted into a coffee table by the couple.

According to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, evidence shows that the mosaic was stolen, likely during WWII. When it was returned to Italy, it was shown in the Museum of Roman Ships in Nemi in March of this year.

Del Bufalo stated that he would want to construct a replica of the mosaic for Fioratti to keep in her apartment.

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