The Goddess Goes Home

24 Oct 2011 8:22 AM | Anonymous

The Goddess Goes Home
Following years of haggling over its provenance, a celebrated statue once identified as Aphrodite, has returned to Italy
By Ralph Frammolino
Photographs by Francesco Lastrucci
Smithsonian magazine, November 2011,
From the look on Renzo Canavesi’s face, our first encounter was not going to end well. The strapping, barrel-chested octogenarian stared down at me from the second-floor landing of his home in the foothills of the Swiss Alps while a dog barked wildly from behind an iron gate. I had traveled more than 6,000 miles to ask Canavesi about one of the world’s most contested pieces of ancient art: a 2,400-year-old statue of a woman believed to be Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

The statue, which stands seven-and-a-half-feet tall and weighs more than half a ton, had reigned since 1988 as the centerpiece of the Greek and Roman antiquities collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum near Malibu, California, the world’s richest art institution. Italian officials insisted it had been looted from central Sicily, and they wanted it back. Canavesi had been identified as the statue’s previous owner. When I knocked on his door that day five years ago, I was a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and he was living quietly in the town of Sagno, just north of the border with Italy.


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