Officials from the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan district attorney’s office on September 1seizedan ancient Roman bust from the Worcester Art Museum (WAM) in Massachusetts. Thought to depict a daughter of either Marcus Aurelius or Septimius Severus, both Roman emperors, and dating to between 160 and 180 CE, the life-size bronze sculpture is estimated to be worth $5 million. WAM purchased the work in 1966 and at the time conducted research into its provenance, but admitted that they received little information other than that it had been found in southwest Anatolia (now Turkey) that same year. The Manhattan DA’s office earlier this year provided the museum with information regarding the work’s history, which led officials there to believe that it had been stolen and illegally imported. The bust had long been thought by WAM conservators to have been created by more than one sculptor, as the rendering of its features are far more refined than that of its bust and shoulders.RelatedHELEN FRANKENTHALER FOUNDATION SUED FOR “DESTROYING” PAINTER’S LEGACYBMA CREATES PAID INTERNSHIPS HONORING VALERIE MAYNARD “We are very thankful for the new information provided to us,” WAM director Matthias Waschek toldThe Guardian.
“The ethical standards applicable to museums are much changed since the 1960s, and the museum is committed to managing its collection consistent with modern ethical standards.” The seizure is part of what a spokesperson for the DA’s office told theNew York Timesis “an active criminal investigation into a smuggling network involving antiquities looted from Turkey and trafficked through Manhattan.” The Antiquities Trafficking Unit in Augustconfiscatedfrom the Cleveland Museum of Art a $20 million larger-than-life bronze sculpture believed to portray Marcus Aurelius and dated to between 150 BCE and 200 CE. WAM spokesperson Madeline Feller toldHyperallergicthat “with its limited resources, the museum has not been able to prioritize provenance research of its existing collection.” Feller further noted that “the Worcester Art Museum takes seriously its responsibility to be a steward of objects in its collection.” To that end, the museum has said it plans to hire a provenance research team and to intensify its efforts to determine the respective provenances of objects in its collection..