- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2006


Conservators trying to restore a 1,900-year-old statue of Venus have put their heads together with airline maintenance inspectors who usually scrutinize welds and repairs in jet engines for any cracks.

Officials at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University this summer bought the Roman marble statue and its head, which had broken off sometime in the past 170 years.

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Last week they enlisted the help of Delta Air Lines inspectors at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, who took X-rays of the statue and the head to try to determine where the statue has been broken before and how old repairs are holding up.

Conservators will look for rusting metal pins that may have been inserted to fix cracks. Once they establish the condition of those repairs, which could date from antiquity to as recently as 200 years ago, they will know how best to put the 4-foot-6-inch statue back together.

“I spend two-thirds of my time reversing other people’s good intentions,” museum conservator Renee Stein said jokingly of old repairs.

The statue, by an unknown artist, is a copy of a Greek bronze sculpture that many scholars say is the most widely reproduced female statue in antiquity. But few surviving today are as large and nearly intact as this one, missing only the right arm.

“When statue pieces go down different roads, and they’re recognized, bought and put back together, it’s extremely noteworthy,” said Francesco de Angelis, a professor of Roman art at Columbia University. “This type of statue was incredibly popular in antiquity.”

The museum bought the sculpture of the goddess of love for $968,000 at a Sotheby’s auction on June 6. A private collector in Houston agreed to sell the head to the buyer of the body, and the museum purchased it for about $50,000.

The statue portrays Venus — called Aphrodite by the Greeks — caught off guard as she, having removed all her clothes to take a bath, glimpses an unseen onlooker. She tries to cover herself with her hands, with a result that’s more provocative than protective. A small figure of Eros rides a dolphin at her feet, a reference to the goddess’ birth from the sea.

Venus is expected to strike her pose at the Carlos sometime in the spring.

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