herakles hercules mfa boston archaeology sculpture repatriation museum
On its own, it seems unremarkable: the bottom half of an 1,800-year-old marble statue showing the legs and lower torso of a muscular figure.
But here, in one of Turkey’s most important museums, the “Weary Herakles’’ has served as a symbol of the many works stolen from the country, shuffled to shady dealers, and sold to American museums.
The top half of “Herakles,’’ which shows the bearded hero leaning on his club, has been at the Museum of Fine Arts since 1982, given by a New York couple whose collecting practices have long been called into question.
“It is part of our culture,’’ says Aykut Uzun, a tour guide standing in front of the lower half on a recent morning in this city on Turkey’s southern coast. “That’s why we want it back.’’
After years of denial and sputtering negotiations, Turkey will finally get its wish. The MFA has decided the piece should be reunited with its other half and sent back to Turkey. The museum aims to formalize an agreement with Turkish officials this year - an agreement that the MFA hopes will enable Bostonians to see the unified statue through a short-term loan as early as 2012.