A couple in New York has been using a priceless ancient Roman artifact as a coffee table for nearly 50 years.
The incredible story of the 2,000-year-old “coffee table,” which dates back to the time of the emperor Caligula, was revealed on a segment from CBS’ “60 Minutes” which aired on Sunday.
In it, Dario Del Bufalo, an expert in Italian marble, wrote a book called “Porphyry” in 2013, in which he described the beautiful mosaics used as the flooring on Caligula’s ships.
Caligula, the third Roman Emperor, ruled from 37 to 41 AD and was known for his cruelty and extravagance, which were equally legendary.
Ancient Roman mosaic used as flooring in Caligula’s ships
The flooring contained porphyry, a purple rock, as well as green and white marble, and was found in a ship that wrecked in Lake Nemi, Italy in antiquity but was recovered in 1930.
The stunning mosaics were then transferred to a museum, but were lost when the Nazis invaded Italy in 1944 and pillaged many of the country’s priceless artworks.
Shockingly, Del Bufalo overheard a woman say that she herself had the marble artwork in her home at a book signing in New York in 2013.
The woman, who turned out to be Helen Fioratti, a well-known gallery owner in the city, stated to the New York Times that she and her husband purchased the object from a family of Italian nobles in the 1960s. The couple later affixed the mosaic to a table and used it in their home for nearly fifty years.
Fioratti claimed that the purchase was “innocent” and that neither her nor her husband were aware of the object’s Nazi ties or its true age.
Ancient Roman artifact used as coffee table
Despite this, the object was seized from Fioratti’s home in 2017 due to the fact that it had been stolen from an Italian museum in the past.
It is now housed by the Museum of the Roman Ships in Nemi. It went on display this year after going through an extensive cleaning and restoration process.
Del Bufalo sympathizes with Fioratti, who claims that the mosaic was her favorite item in her home.
“I felt very sorry for her, but I couldn’t do anything different, knowing that my museum in Nemi is missing the best part that went through the centuries, through the war, through a fire, and then through an Italian art dealer, and finally could go back to the museum,” he stated.
“That’s the only thing I felt I should have done,” Del Bufalo continued.
The Italian marble expert stated that he is currently working on a replica of the incredible artifact to give to Fioratti, stating “I think my soul would feel a little better.”