Sunday, July 08, 2012

Cleveland's Bubonic Antonine?

Steven Litt's text on another US museum's dispute with Turkey over dugup items in its collection begins by discussing a bronze statue: 

A large, headless, Roman-era bronze statue believed to represent Marcus Aurelius has reigned for 26 years as the resident philosopher-king of the Cleveland Museum of Art. With its lifelike presence, fluid drapery folds and dark, luscious patina, the sculpture is one of the museum's signature treasures. Yet a mystery has always hovered over this exceedingly rare object. Where, exactly, did it come out of the ground, and who unearthed it? Just as important, how many hands did it pass through before it found its way into the collection in 1986? The museum has long stated that the work might have been found in the 1960s in an obscure village in southwestern Turkey called Bubon, but it isn't sure. The government of Turkey, on the other hand, is sure. It says that the bronze and nearly two dozen other works in Cleveland were looted from its soil, although the country has produced no evidence. […] former curators familiar with the Marcus Aurelius statue […] say they don't know where [it was] excavated before the museum bought [it]. Arielle Kozloff of Shaker Heights, the now-retired curator who led the purchase of the Marcus Aurelius bronze in 1986, traveled to Bubon later that year to investigate its origins. According to local gossip, villagers dug up the sculpture in the 1960s, along with many other bronzes, which appeared on the art market over the following two decades. But Kozloff concluded in a 1987 article in the museum's bulletin that any connection between Bubon and the Marcus Aurelius was conjectural.