Worcester

Worcester Art Museum learns it likely acquired a stolen bronze bust

NBC10

A bronze bust housed at the Worcester Art Museum is headed to a new home after the museum discovered new details about the history of its ownership.

The museum has transferred the Portrait of a Lady to the New York County District Attorney’s Office so it can be repatriated to its country of origin after learning the bust may have been stolen.

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The Roman bronze bust dates to 160–180 CE and is thought to have come from a large family shrine in Turkey of an emperor, possibly Marcus Aurelius or Septimus Severus, likely a life-sized representation of one of their daughters, according to the museum.

Portrait of a Lady. (credit: Worcester Art Museum)

The Museum purchased Portrait of a Lady in October 1966 without knowing much about its history. At the time, the Museum was informed by the vendor that it had been found in southwestern Anatolia (the Roman Province of Lycia).

In 2023, the New York County District Attorney’s Office provided new evidence that suggests the bronze was likely stolen and improperly imported.

“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.” Claire C. Whitner, the Worcester Art Museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and the James A. Welu Curator of European Art said in a written statement. “We are honored to play a part in the return of this Roman bust, which has been enjoyed by visitors to the Museum for over five decades."

The museum is now working to have the bust transported back to its origin.

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