Art as Plunder:
Cultural Rape
The old idea of cultural plunder as "rape" is more useful here than we might imagine. Just as few sexual rapes are violent attacks in dark alleys by unknown assailants, so in practice relatively few arguments about cultural property start from an invading army removing art treasures at the point of a gun. In any case, those are the easy ones to solve.
Most rapes are some version of date-rape, where the issues turn on intention, (mis)understanding, competing memories and the fuzzy boundary between coercion, acquiescence and agreement. It is very hard to establish guilt or innocence; hence, in part, the very low rate of conviction.
From [the Roman Governor] Verres to Lord Elgin and beyond, disputes about cultural plunder normally follow the date-rape model. (Who gave permission? Did the owner really agree? And so on.) That is why they have proved so intractable to resolve.

--- "Sale or Return"
Mary Beard
In a review of
Art as Plunder and
The Borghese Collections and
the Display of Art in
the Age of the Grand Tour
2 October 2009
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