Apollo Magazine

Roman bust seized from Worcester Art Museum

Plus: Polish museum director dismissed by local government, Manchester Museum returns 174 items to Indigenous Australians, and the rest of the week's art news

Bust thought to depict a daughter of Marcus Aurelius (c. 160–80). Photo: Daderot/Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Portrait_of_a_Lady_(Perhaps_a_Daughter_of_Marcus_Aurelius),_AD_160-180,_bronze_-_Worcester_Art_Museum_-_IMG_7704 Bust thought to depict a daughter of Marcus Aurelius (c. 160–80). Photo: Daderot/Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has seized a Roman bust from the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts. The seizure of the ancient artefact known as ‘Portrait of a Lady’ comes as part of a wider and ongoing investigation into antiquities thought to have been looted from Burbon in south-western Turkey and trafficked through Manhattan. The bust, dating to around AD 160–80, is believed to depict the daughter of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The museum has stated that it had ‘limited information’ about the sculpture’s history when it was acquired in 1966. ‘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,’ Matthias Waschek, the director of the museum, told NBC News. 

Joanna Wasilewska has been dismissed from her post as director of the Asia and Pacific Museum in Warsaw. The decision, which Wasilewska was notified of on 5 September, was made by the Masovian Voivodeship Sejmik – the governing legislature of the region that includes the Polish capital. The reasons given for her dismissal, including financial irregularities, were dismissed by Wasilewska as ‘mostly weak and some even ridiculous’. Museum professionals across Europe have spoken out against the move, which many believe to be the result of political manoeuvering ahead of Poland’s parliamentary elections on 15 October. Guido Gryseels, the honorary director general of the Africa Museum in Tervuren, Belgium, said: ‘You do not expect this sort of political interference and disrespect for labour laws to happen in an EU member state.’

Manchester Museum has returned 174 objects to representatives of the Indigenous Anindilyakwa community in Australia, in one of the largest restitution projects ever undertaken in the United Kingdom. The items returned include spear throwers, bark baskets and toys, which were purchased or traded from Anindilyakwa members in the 1950s by the late sociologist Peter Worsley. The restitution of these everyday items was determined in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Anindilyakwa Land Council. The motivation for their return is to ‘renew cultural practices and safeguard such practices and items for future generations’, said Stephen Smith, Australian high commissioner to the United Kingdom.

A cache of sixth-century jewellery has been discovered near Stavanger in Norway by a local man using a metal detector he had bought the previous month, following doctor’s advice to get more exercise. The find, which includes nine gold medallions and pearls that once adorned a necklace, has been hailed by Norwegian archaeologists as the ‘gold find of the century’. Erlend Bore, who dreamed of being an archaeologist as a child, will receive a reward for the discovery.

Day-tripping tourists to Venice will have to pay a €5 admission fee, starting from next spring. The scheme, which is due to be approved by the council on 12 September, is an effort to stem the tide of tourists flooding the city. Visitors staying one or more nights, children under 14, and residents of the surrounding areas will all be exempt from the charge.

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