Thursday, October 11, 2012

Italy's Riace Bronzes languish in limbo

The Greek statues have not been seen in public since 2008 while museum renovation is mired in controversy [Credit: The Art Newspaper]

When two large bronze sculptures dating back to the fifth century BC were hauled out of the sea just off the coast of Calabria almost 40 years ago, the Italian authorities and international academics were quick to recognise it as one of the most important archeological discoveries of the century. Yet today these extraordinary finds are languishing on stretchers in a regional government office in Reggio Calabria and it is unclear when they will be put back on display.

The sculptures, known as the Riace Bronzes after the nearest town on the coast to their findspot, are one of the few surviving examples of bronzes made by the master sculptors of ancient Greece (most sculptures of this age were melted down and the bronze re-used). After they were found by divers, they were taken to Florence’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure to be restored. They were exhibited in 1980 at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence, where they were seen by 1.3 million people. They then travelled through Italy, via Rome, back to Calabria for display in Reggio Calabria’s archaeology museum, which claimed the works as its own. They remained there until 2009, when the museum was closed for renovation, and were transferred to the council offices. 

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