MFA Boston uncovers and returns stolen work to France

31 Jan 2013 9:48 AM | Anonymous

MFA Boston uncovers and returns stolen work to France

A routine loan request reveals a Roman statuette was taken from a museum in Douai in 1901

The statuette of Antinoüs was returned to the Musée de La Chartreuse in Douai. Photo: Johan Ben Azzouz

A routine check into an antiquity’s history has uncovered its stolen past, prompting a swift return to a French museum by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). The MFA delivered the bronze statuette, which had been in its collection since 1904, to the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai, northern France in January, after legal documents were completed to finalise the exchange. “We don’t want to hold onto, nor do we have any business holding onto, stolen objects,” says the MFA’s full-time provenance researcher, Victoria Reed.

In 2011, the Forum Antique of Bavay, an archaeological museum in northern France, contacted the Boston museum asking to borrow the item, which was identified in the MFA collection as a statute of Mercury or Hermes, for an upcoming exhibition. When Reed checked the work’s ownership history, as is done for each work that is sought for a loan, she discovered that in 1901, the Gallo-Roman statuette had disappeared in an unsolved theft from the Douai museum. The object had a rich publication history; in 1861, a French tourist guide to Douai proclaimed it “a charming work of art of the most delicate workmanship”.
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