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MFA Reunites Ancient Turkish Torso With Its Bottom Half

The top half of an ancient, marble sculpture known as "Weary Herakles" will join its bottom at the Antalya Museum in southwestern Turkey, according to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

On Thursday night Museum Director Malcolm Rogers met with Murat Suslu at the MFA. Suslu, director general for Cultural Heritage and Museums for Turkey, and Rogers signed a "memorandum of understanding." The document transferred ownership of the long-disputed torso back to the Turkish government, without any hard feelings, by making it clear that the MFA acquired this second-century statue in good faith.

The top half of Weary Herakles, 2nd-century AD. (Courtesy of the MFA)
The top half of Weary Herakles, 2nd-century AD. (Courtesy of the MFA)

"The Weary Herakles is a great work of art and we believe that it should be back in Turkey where it can be made whole once again," Rogers said. "We are pleased with this significant resolution."

So, how did it all transpire?

In 1981 the MFA purchased an interest in the beautiful, broken sculpture from an art dealer in Germany. It's a marble copy of a famous, bronze Herculean sculpture cast by Greek master Lysippos of Sikyon around 330-320 B.C.

In 1991, while on loan for an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a scholar made a keen observation: The separated piece looked an awful lot like the bottom half of a Herakles statue that was unearthed in Turkey 10 years earlier.

After the Turkish government caught wind of the existence it claimed ownership. In 1991 the MFA and the Antalya Museum embarked on a quest to see if the two halves did indeed match.

In 1992, after swapping casts and rigorous scientific testing, it was determined they did.

Discussions between the two museums regarding the time and place for a reunion have been ongoing. In 2004 the MFA acquired full interest in its half of the sculpture. That led to a vote yesterday by the MFA's Board of Trustees and then to Thursday night’s resolution that they would send the top half to join its bottom at the Antalya Museum in Turkey.

This program aired on September 23, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Senior Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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