Through The Roof, MFA Welcomes New Statue

A marble statue of the goddess Juno descended from on high Tuesday. The 13,000-pound sculpture was raised 80 feet in the air by a crane and then eased in to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through a skylight.

Greek and Roman art curator Christine Kondoleon says the statue, which may have been made as early as the first century B.C., isn’t as fragile as one might expect. But to keep it from getting damaged, the statue was fitted into a steel cage and surrounded by plastic.

The monumental move marked the first time that a piece of artwork has entered the MFA through the building’s roof. But the statue of Juno – which the MFA is calling the largest classical sculpture in the United States – is not new to the neighborhood.

"When I first saw her in this garden about four or five miles from the museum I realized that she was a major work of classical sculpture," Kondoleon said.

She says stumbling upon such a treasure in her own backyard is "a once in a lifetime opportunity."

The Juno sculpture arrived to the Brandegee Estate in Brookline in 1904 after Edward Deshon Brandegee and his wife, Mary Pratt Sprague, fell in love with it on their honeymoon in Rome a few years earlier. The statue remained there until 2011 when the MFA acquired it from the estate.

The museum was eager to bring the statue in from the cold.

"It shows the signs of a marble statue that had been outside for a century in the Boston environment," said Conservation and Collections Management Chair Matthew Siegal.

He says the was probably kept outside originally, but it likely would have had a cover to protect it from the elements. And, he says, over a century of harsh New England winters have taken their toll.

The statue has cracks from freezing and thawing, and started to sprout lichens. Siegal says it has also been chipped in places.

Visitors to the MFA will be able to monitor the restoration process as it happens once the statue is opened to the public after April 9.

This article was originally published on March 21, 2012.

This program aired on March 21, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.


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