Cleveland Museum of Art statue seized as part of investigation
A headless statue worth $20 million at the Cleveland Museum of Art is the subject of an investigation.
In a search warrant issued August 14, a New York judge ordered the seizure of the ancient Roman bronze sculpture, thought to depict emperor Marcus Aurelius. The move is part of an active investigation involving antiquities illegally removed from Turkey and trafficked through Manhattan.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined an interview, but spokesman Doug Cohen released a statement that the seizure is “pursuant to our ongoing criminal investigation into a smuggling network involving antiquities looted from Bubon in Turkiye and trafficked through Manhattan.”
Museum spokesperson Todd Mesek said in a statement that the museum “takes provenance issues very seriously and reviews claims to objects in the collection carefully and responsibly. As a matter of policy, we do not discuss publicly whether a claim has been made. The CMA believes that public discussion before a resolution is reached detracts from the free and open dialogue between the relevant parties that leads to the best result for all concerned.”
The 76-inch statue came to Cleveland in 1986. Originally cast in many pieces in the period around 150 BCE-200 CE, the subject is unconfirmed since the head is missing. The statue was removed from the galleries, and its name changed to simply “draped male figure” in the online gallery.
A 2012 report in the Los Angeles Times alleged that 21 objects at the Cleveland museum had been looted from Bubon, in southwestern Turkey, in the 1960s. The Turkish government said at the time that the museum acquired the pieces from art dealer Charles Lipson.
Earlier this year, Smithsonian magazine reported that $33 million worth of looted antiquities had been returned to Turkey from U.S. museums. The 12 items included a different headless, bronze statue, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 2011, which experts said depicted Roman emperor Septimius Severus.