Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts announced Friday that it has given the government of Turkey the museum’s 2nd century Roman marble sculpture “Weary Herakles” (pictured above) so that it could be with its matching bottom half, which is owned by the Antalya Museum in southwestern Turkey. The MFA says its agreement with Turkey stipulates “that the MFA acquired the object in good faith and without knowledge of any ownership or title issues.”
The MFA reports:
“The MFA acquired a half-interest in the sculpture in 1981 from a dealer in Frankfurt, Germany; the other half-interest was owned by collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White. The work was accessioned into the MFA’s collection at the end of 1981 and first displayed in 1982. …
“In 1990, when the statue was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition ["Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection" in 1990–1991], a scholar noted its similarity to the bottom half of a Herakles sculpture that had been excavated in 1980 in Perge, Turkey (the bottom half held by the Antalya Museum). Shortly thereafter, the Turkish government claimed ownership of the sculpture. In 1992, the museum conducted scientific testing on ‘Weary Herakles,’ and casts were made of the MFA torso and the sculpture excavated from Perge. The two pieces fit together, and it was determined that they originally formed one sculpture, which was at some time broken apart. When the break occurred and when and where the torso was excavated have not been documented.
“The MFA and Turkey have been in discussions since the early 1990s regarding how the two pieces might be reunited. After the museum acquired full interest of the top half of the sculpture in 2004, it contacted Turkey regarding a resolution, and yesterday (September 22, 2011) the MFA’s Board of Trustees voted to deaccession the sculpture.”