Cleveland Museum sues to block seizure of its 'Marcus Aurelius' bronze

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Cleveland Museum sues to block seizure of its 'Marcus Aurelius' bronze
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the Manhattan district attorney’s office from taking the headless statue, which investigators say was looted from Turkey and depicts the Roman emperor.

by Graham Bowley and Tom Mashberg

NEW YORK, NY.- The Cleveland Museum of Art on Thursday filed a court challenge seeking to block a seizure order from New York investigators who assert that one of the museum’s premier statues, a headless bronze valued at $20 million, had been looted from Turkey in the 1960s.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio, the museum said that, actually, the evidence presented by the investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had not been compelling. The museum disputed that the larger-than-life statue, which investigators believe depicts the great Roman statesman Marcus Aurelius, was even from Turkey and suggested that it was really the torso of a philosopher, not an emperor.

Describing the investigators’ evidence as “conjecture,” the museum said in its filing: “In this case, the evidence presented by the Defendant has fallen short of persuasive proof that the Philosopher is in fact a piece of stolen property belonging to the Republic of Türkiye.”

The investigators had already persuaded a New York judge to authorize the seizure of the bronze that, with its flowing robes and stoic posture, has held pride of place in the Greek and Roman galleries at the museum in Cleveland since its acquisition in 1986. Turkish investigators have said they also have evidence the statue in Cleveland was looted but officials said the museum had fended off their claims, saying Turkey had provided no hard evidence of theft.

Until recently, the museum’s website had described the statue as “The Emperor as Philosopher, probably Marcus Aurelius (reigned AD 161-180),” adding that the item had originated from “Turkey, Bubon(?) (in Lycia), Roman, late 2nd Century.”

The museum had also written in an accompanying description that the statue “likely represents Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor known for his philhellenism and Stoic writings.” Aurelius wrote “Meditations,” a classic work on Stoic philosophy.

But earlier this year, the museum removed the website’s references to Turkey and Aurelius and changed the text to read: “Draped Male Figure, c. 150 BCE-200 CE,” adding, “Roman or possibly Greek Hellenistic.” It also altered the language of its accompanying description to read “without a head, inscription, or other attributes, the identity of the figure represented remains unknown.”

The filing represents a rare challenge by an art organization to a seizure order from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which in recent years has been responsible for the successful return of several thousand items to countries whose cultural heritage had been subject to looting.

The museum took note of that track record, acknowledging in its filing that the district attorney’s office had been extremely successful in such cases. But it said that in this case the evidence did not match up.

It cited a former Cleveland curator, Arielle P. Kozloff, who it said had questioned in the past whether the statue had come from an ancient site, Bubon, in Turkey. “Based on subsequent research, she now believes that the Philosopher did not come from Bubon and that any previously stated connection between Bubon and the Philosopher was mere conjecture,” the filing said.

It asked the court to declare the museum the rightful owner of the statue.

Investigators responded to the court challenge with a statement that said: “The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has successfully recovered more than 4,600 illegally trafficked antiquities from numerous individuals and institutions. We are reviewing the museum’s filing in this matter and will respond in court papers.”

The museum’s court challenge was first reported by

The statue was thought by New York and Turkish investigators to have been part of a shrine built during Roman rule around A.D. 50 to A.D. 250, in what is today southwestern Turkey, to honor a succession of Roman emperors.

Turkish officials have said they have been telling the Cleveland museum that the statue, which is 6 feet 4 inches tall without its head, was stolen in the 1960s during a looting spree at the archaeological site. They have already gotten back several other statues thought to have been from the same location.

In the past year, as part of its investigation into the Turkish looting claims, the district attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit has seized artifacts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art at Fordham University; and the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts.

Turkey’s claim on the statue has hinged in part on persuading investigators that the statue in fact depicts Marcus Aurelius because the stone plinth where they say it had stood is inscribed with that emperor’s name.

The statue had been seized in place at the Cleveland museum under a warrant from New York investigators that was signed by a New York State Supreme Court judge on Aug. 14.

In its filing on Thursday, the museum said that it had bought the statue in 1986 from the Edward H. Merrin Gallery for $1.85 million. The museum provided a bill of sale from the date of its purchase that said it was buying a “Figure of a Draped Emperor (Probably Marcus Aurelius), Roman, late 2nd Century A.D., bronze.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

October 21, 2023

An Indian artist who questions borders and the limits on free speech

Kandinsky is the star of Bonhams Impressionist and Modern Art sale in London

Cleveland Museum sues to block seizure of its 'Marcus Aurelius' bronze

New scholarship emerges on folk art masterpiece recently acquired by Independence Seaport Museum

Top-shelf selections await at Quinn's Rare Books auction, October 26

Photography's ancient history engaged with modern painting by Abelardo Morell in 'New Ground'

Lyman Allyn exhibition explores recent work by Elizabeth Enders

Morphy's returns to Las Vegas auction of antique coin-op and gambling machines + advertising and store antiques

Opening in Los Angeles! Cole Sternberg's 'a forest of thoughts in quick succession'

Carpenters Workshop Gallery opens first solo exhibition of Polish artist Marcin Rusak in Paris

Gold medal award from Trinity College Dublin sells for record price at Noonans

Two women's collections to be offered at Avignon Auction House

Magnificent world map stars in Bonhams Islamic & Indian Art sale

Vincent Patrick, chronicler of hustlers and mobsters, dies at 88

Young applied artists award goes to Lisa Juntunen Roos

'Walter Quirt: A Legacy of American Painting' exhibition of artist's work to connemorate 121st birthday

Famed folk-art castle near L.A. to be preserved, led by Page & Turnbull and historic society

Statewide Tarnanthi Festival returns with survey exhibition of Western Aranda artist Vincent Namatjira

World Heritage Site debuts an exclusive 'American Icons: Wright and O'Keeffe'

Third solo show with Abstract Expressionist painter Judith Godwin exhibited at Berry Campbell

New exhibition curated by Gibbes Museum of Art to explore queer influence on Charleston Renaissance

'Is it alive?' The TextielMuseum presents the dynamic future of textiles and technology

Buying Aluminum Patio Furniture: A Complete Guide

Why Adults Should Consider Investing in a Fat Tire Electric Bike

Creating Your Own Universe: A Deep Dive into Customizing Action and Vinyl Figures

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful