Latest in the Riace Bronzes Saga

Okey dokey … this past week Gazzetta del Sud was telling us:

One of Italy’s best-loved cultural icons, a pair of ancient Greek statues called the Riace Bronzes, is back home in a Calabrian museum after four years lying on their backs in the seat of the regional government. “We are keeping a promise to give all the citizens of the world back one of its greatest treasures,” said Culture Minister Massimo Bray. He said the statues would be back on display in two weeks and that, given their “delicate” condition, the government would probably not try to have them moved to Milan in 2015 for the Expo world’s fair in the northern Italian city that year. Bray vowed to give the Bronzes “all the loving attention they need” to restore them to their full glory after the toll of undignified neglect in a store-room of the government offices in Reggio Calabria, on the other side of the southern Italian city. “Thanks to Bray, the bronzes will soon be back gloriously on display,” said Calabria Archaeological Superintendent Simonetta Bonomi. She hailed the news that the public can start flocking back to admire two of the most stunning works ever recovered from the cultural hotbed created by the ancient Greek civilisation in southern Italy called Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). A bigger, renovated showcase for the glorious warrior figures in Reggio Calabria’s Museum of Magna Graecia is expected to be unveiled early next year. Calabria’s culture chief, Mario Caligiuri, said the opening of the revamped site “could represent our Expo,” referring to the world’s fair in Milan which is expected to give the Italian business capital a significant economic and cultural boost. The statues were moved from the museum at the end of 2009 because the cultural institute badly needed restoration. But the work at the museum became a victim of budget cuts and red tape, leaving the statues out in the cold and spurring a national and international outcry. Leading Italian arts figures got a petition together and United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO branded the affair “a disgrace” in July. This prompted a renewed pledge from local officials this summer. “The situation is finally unblocked and will be remedied” said the managing director of Calabria’s department of cultural heritage, Francesco Prosperetti. “The Region of Calabria has given its fundamental contribution of five million euros, which will be used for building museum displays and completing installation work in the building, which should once more host the Riace Bronzes,” Prosperetti said. “If, as we hope, there aren’t snags or legal hold-ups… inauguration and opening to the public is conceivable…in the first months of next year”, Prosperetti said. Politicians had pressed Bray, since his appointment in April, to take fast action to protect the historically significant and priceless statues. He responded by saying moves would be hastened to get them back in their rightful place “by the first quarter of 2014″. On Friday he said “it turned out that this forecast was actually pessimistic and I am proud to say that these two old friends of ours are now back where they belong even sooner than we hoped”. Calabria takes the Bronzes so seriously that it has repeatedly refused permission for copies of the statues to be made and rejected pleas for Italian promotional events worldwide and for the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa. In a citywide vote in 2003, the people of Reggio Calabria came out overwhelmingly against the “cloning” of the statues, which have been the Calabrian capital’s biggest tourist draw since they were discovered. The bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holiday-maker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years. Their’ trip across town to the council site was supposed to be a brief one. When they left the archaeological museum on December 22, 2009, superintendent Bonomi said it was “just for a six-month restoration”. The move was the first time in 28 years that the priceless 2,500-year-old bronzes had left the Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria. The only previous occasion they were let out was in 1981, for a triumphant round-Italy tour, which sold out venues in Rome, Florence and Milan The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life. The ‘older’ man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the ‘younger’ Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair. Both are naked. Although the statues are cast in bronze, they feature silver lashes and teeth, copper red lips and nipples, and eyes made of ivory, limestone and a glass and amber paste. Italy has the world’s biggest trove of archeological treasures but the Riace Bronzes attracted particular attention. This was partly due to their exceptionally realistic rendering and partly to the general rarity of ancient bronze statues, which tended to be melted down and recycled. Stefano Mariottini, the scuba diver who first spotted one of the statues some 300 meters off the coast and eight metres underwater, said the bronze was so realistic that he initially thought he’d found the remains of a corpse. A million people came to see them at various venues around Italy in 1981 and the pair were featured on a commemorative postage stamp that year. The statues pulled in an average 130,000 visitors a year during their time at the Reggio Calabria museum.

Please forgive my skepto-cynicism on this one, but we’ve been hearing about the impending ‘reappearance’ of this pair for years. You can catch up on the saga from our post from this past July: The Riace Bronzes Saga Continues … I’m also curious whether this work done a couple of years ago will be put into effect: Protecting the Riace Bronzes from Earthquakes

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The Riace Bronzes Saga Continues

This is getting incredibly silly … about a year ago, we were told that the Riace Bronzes would be back on display by Christmas 2012 (Riace Bronzes Back from Vacation Soon) … then, in October, we heard that problems at the Reggio Calabria Museo Archeologico Nazionale was having renovation disputes of some sort (Whither the Riace Bronzes?) … most recently, in April, we learned the pair were in temporary quarters, lying on display in a horizontal position (Riace Bronzes Update). Now this, from ANSA:

Italy’s culture minister must take fast action on moving world-famous ancient Greek warrior statues, the Riace Bronzes, into a safe home, two Democratic Party politicians said Friday.

The bronzes, some of Italy’s most-loved cultural icons, have been lying on their backs for more than two years in the home of the Calabrian regional government after being moved from a museum undergoing restoration work.

However, the work at Reggio Calabria’s National Archaeological Museum has become a victim of budget cuts and red tape, which means the statues remain homeless.

”We call on the government to outline what steps it intends to take to safeguard the Riace Bronzes and complete the museum restoration,” said Rosy Bindi and Demetrio Battaglia, politicians with the Democratic Party (PD).

Culture Minister Massimo Bray is also a PD member in Italy’s coalition government cobbled together with members of the PD and the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Museum renovations began in November 2009 and since then the valuable bronzes have been in storage, away from paying visitors and students.

The bronzes’ trip across town to the council offices was supposed to be a brief one.

When they left storage at the Archaeological Museum on December 22, 2012, officials said it was ”just for a six-month restoration”.

The move was the first time in 28 years that the priceless 2,500-year-old bronzes had left the Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria.

The only previous occasion they were let out was in 1981, for a triumphant round-Italy tour.

Calabria has repeatedly refused permission for copies of the statues to be made and rejected pleas for Italian promotional events worldwide and for the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.

In a citywide vote in 2003, the people of Reggio Calabria came out overwhelmingly against the ”cloning” of the statues, which have been the Calabrian capital’s biggest tourist draw since they were discovered.

The Bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years.

The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.

The ‘older’ man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the ‘younger’ Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair.

Both are naked.

Although the statues are cast in bronze, they feature silver lashes and teeth, copper red lips and nipples, and eyes made of ivory, limestone and a glass and amber paste.

Seriously??? Ye gods, just send the pair on tour for a while and they’ll pay their own way. Someone’s (or Manyone’s) isn’t thinking over there …

Riace Bronzes Update

Brief item from ANSA:

In spite of being a major tourist draw, the so-called Riace Bronzes are still being housed in temporary quarters, three years after they were moved for museum renovations. An estimated 100,000 people have visited the two famous full-size Greek nude bearded warriors from 460-450 BC since they were moved to regional council headquarters.

Placed in reclining positions, the warriors await renovations of the city’s National Archeological Museum, where they used to live. The contract has gone out to bid, and the job should be done by the end of the year of the beginning of the next, officials said.

”I know it’s not nice seeing them horizontal, but we can’t stand them up again until they’re in their final placement in the museum”, Calabria archeology superintendent Simonetta Bonomi told ANSA. ”Restoration of the statues ended in 2011.

They are now being kept in optimal conditions, in a micro-climatized hall”.

In case you’ve forgotten, back in October we were told the museum would be reopening in December, although not many folks believed that (Whither the Riace Bronzes?). I guess we’ll just continue shaking our heads …

Whither the Riace Bronzes?

Last August we read that the Riace Bronzes would (finally) be back on display “in time for Christmas” (Riace Bronzes Back from Vacation Soon) but the Art Newspaper gives a somewhat different impression today … some excerpts:

[…]

Reggio Calabria’s Museo Archeologico Nazionale has been mired in controversy since renovation work began in 2008. This include external structural renovations and interior remodelling and decoration. With an initial budget of around €11m, work ground to a halt just over a year ago after €23m in total had been spent on the project. The region has managed to find an extra €6m from central government, and says an additional €5m could come from European funds.

The biggest problem appears to be the refurbishment of the museum’s interiors, which has been the subject of disagreements between the Soprintendenza, the regional arm of the ministry of culture that runs the museum, and the project consultants.

Felice Costabile, a celebrated academic from Reggio Calabria who was appointed by the ministry of culture as the chief consultant on the project, says visitors will be frustrated by the proposed exhibition route, which will force them to start from the third floor and work their way down to the main exhibition halls on the ground floor. He adds that there are only two lifts available to take visitors to the third floor, each of which can only hold nine people.

His plan to use the internal courtyard to display monumental pieces of Greek and Roman architecture has also been thwarted by the officials’ decision to use the space as a bookshop.

But Simonetta Bonomi, the superintendent of Calabria’s cultural heritage, is adamant that the new visitor route is the best option. Meanwhile, Giuseppe Scopelliti, the president of the region of Calabria, says he believes the museum will reopen in December, but with an estimated shortfall of at least €5m. The likelihood of this happening has been met with widespread scepticism.

Meanwhile I’m sitting here thinking they probably could have paid for the renovations if they had sent the boys on tour (especially outside of Italy … apparently there was a big backlash when they suggested putting them on display in Florence again) back when renovations began … someone over there didn’t think this through …

Potentially MAJOR Find Off Calabria

This just in from ANSA:

Archaeologists are investigating the discovery of a gilded bronze lion found off the coast of Calabria not far from where the famed Riace Bronzes were discovered 40 years ago.

Armour in bronze and copper was also found by a diver and two tourists in the area that is now closed to the public as investigators probe the details of the find.

One of the divers who made the discovery said there may be a ship and other important artifacts there as well.

“When I went into the water, I saw a statue that was stuck between the rocks and a piece of the ship,” explained Bruno Bruzzaniti.

“The tides, however, cover everything and then you must be really fortunate to be able to see other items that are still at the bottom of the sea.” The discovery sounds similar to that of the iconic Riace Bronzes, 2,500-year-old statues representing ancient warriors which were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast.

That find turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological discoveries in the last 100 years.

Those statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.

The newly discovered bronze lion is said to be about 50 centimetres high and weighs 15 kilograms. Also found in the area of the lion were remains of vases and other statues.

An early hypothesis suggests that all these newly found items were aboard a ship that sank just off the Calabrian coast.

However, it’s up to experts in the Cultural Heritage department to determine the precise age of the artifacts and piece together what happened that left the objects strewn around the sea bed.

“We think these are pieces of value and the important thing is that they be safeguarded and protected,” said Bruzzaniti. “It’s a great discovery for the whole of Calabria.” It’s believed the discovery was made last week, but authorities say they weren’t informed until Monday.

If so, that’s contrary to regulations that oblige explorers to report historic finds within 24 hours, said Simonetta Bonomi, superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria,.

“There are a number of elements that must be…clarified,” she said Tuesday.

Most of the print coverage (English and Italian) seems to derive from the same ANSA coverage and includes a too-small photo. However, I did come across some TG coverage worth looking at:

Riace Bronzes Back from Vacation Soon

Apparently that video of the Riace Bronzes going on vacation last year (The Riace Bronzes Go On Vacation) was in anticipation of them getting some restoration work (perhaps the earthquake stuff mentioned here). Whatever the case, they’re going to be back on display “later this year’, according to ANSA … an excerpt:

Italy’s iconic Riace Bronzes will return to their home at the Reggio Calabria National Museum later this year after lengthy restoration work.

For almost three years the 2,500-year-old ancient Greek statues representing warriors have been in the Calabrian regional government’s headquarters, undergoing a long-awaited restoration. A host of chemical, laser and electromagnetic tests designed to help experts better understand where the statues came from, and who created them, were also carried out.

So now, it’s almost time for them to return to their permanent home.

According to the superintendent for archaeological and cultural heritage of Calabria, Simonetta Bonomi, restoration work should be completed near the end of the year and the two warriors “will be back home again” in time for Christmas.

The celebrated bronzes were found in August 1972 off the coast of Calabria and quickly captured worldwide attention. They were so highly prized that they are rarely allowed to travel from their home, despite repeated requests.

Even former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi was turned down twice after seeking to borrow the statues for Group of Eight summits.

During the current restoration work, the Riace Bronzes, last let out in 1981 for a triumphant round-Italy tour, have been kept inside a purpose-built area with a glass front allowing visitors to watch the delicate restoration work.

Meanwhile, the Reggio Calabria museum has been undergoing restorations itself while the bronzes have been away. Approximately six million euros have been earmarked for that project, and regional authorities have released the final funds need to complete the work before year end.

The Bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy’s most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years.

The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.

The ‘older’ man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the ‘younger’ Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair. […]