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US museum to restore Venus statue

For the first time in possibly 170 years, a Roman marble statue of Venus will be reunited with its head.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 23:57 IST

For the first time in possibly 170 years, a Roman marble statue of Venus will be reunited with its head. Both pieces are going to the Michael C Carlos Museum at Emory University, where conservators will piece them back together.

The museum bought the charmingly prudish portrait of the goddess of love -- called Aphrodite by the Greeks and Venus by the Romans _ for $968,000 at a Sotheby's auction in New York on June 6. A private collector in Houston, Texas, agreed to sell the head at auction to the buyer of the body. The head, which sold for about $50,000, was last documented attached to the body in 1836. The 4-foot-6-inch (1.37-meter) statue is a marble copy from the late first century of an earlier Greek bronze sculpture, which many scholars argue is the most widely reproduced female statue in antiquity.

One of the copies, on view at Rome's Capitoline Museums since the 18th century, counted American writer Mark Twain among its admirers, and was one of a handful of artworks that inspired neoclassical artists. Today, it's one of the most visited attractions at the Capitoline Museums.

"Sculptures like the one on its way to Atlanta are very important because they were widely influential," said Cornelius Vermeule, former curator of classical art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

While there are thousands of similar images of Venus in all sorts of sizes and materials, very few statues are as large and nearly intact as this one, missing only the right arm.