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September 5, 2023

Worcester Art Museum transfers ownership of bust for repatriation

Photo | Grant Welker The Worcester Art Museum

The Worcester Art Museum has transferred ownership of a bust it purchased that was likely stolen, beginning the repatriation process for the 1966 acquisition.

The bust, "Portrait of a Lady (A Daughter of Marcus Aurelius?,)” has been given to the New York County District Attorney’s Office, which earlier this year contacted the WAM with new information about the artwork’s history of ownership, according to a Sept. 1 press release from the museum.

The bust was purchased by the WAM in 1966, and at that time was informed by the vendor that it had been found in Anatolia, according to the press release. New information from the New York D.A. and a subsequent investigation led the WAM to believe the piece had been stolen at that time.

“We are very thankful for the new information provided to us. The ethical standards applicable to museums are much changed since the 1960s, and the museum is committed to managing its collection consistent with modern ethical standards," Matthias Waschek, the museum’s Jean and Myles McDonough director, said in the press release.

According to the press release, no previous inquiries had been made to prompt the museum to investigate what it believed to be the origin of the piece.

The announcement comes on the heels of a former curator suing the museum’s director and head of curatorial affairs for alleged discrimination.

The New York D.A. will continue the process of repatriating the item to its country of origin, though to be Turkey. The bronze work dates back to 160-180 CE, according to the press release.

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