MFA Boston Finds, Returns Roman Statuette Stolen From France 112 Years Ago

While performing a standard background check on an object in its collection — a bronze statuette of Antinoüs from the first or second century CE (pictured) — curators at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston realized that the small sculpture had in fact been stolen from the Musée de la Chartreuse in the northern French town of Douai on July 3, 1901, and entered the MFA’s collection three years later. The object has been returned to Douai, the Art Newspaper reports.

The statue was originally discovered around 1780 in Quesnoy, France, and belonged to well-known antiquities collector Augustin Carlier (1732-1818), whose collection was acquired by the community of Douai in 1833. The Antinoüs was first registered in the permanent collection of the the Musée de la Chartreuse in 1849, according to the museum’s website. On July 3, 1901, an art thief robbed the museum, and though he was apprehended 27 days later, the small bronze sculpture was never recovered.

Three years later, the MFA acquired the stolen object from Bostonian collector Edward Perry Warren, without any knowledge of its criminal provenance. The U.S. museum only became aware of the artwork’s troubled past last year, when a loan request for the object was filed. After sufficient proof was provided by comparing documents and photographs, the trustees of the MFA voted to return the object to Douai in October of last year.

“We don’t want to hold onto, nor do we have any business holding onto, stolen objects,” MFA provenance researcher Victoria Reed told TAN. “We review the provenance of all objects going out on loan, in particular anything going overseas, and with special attention to European works and antiquities.”

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image courtesy the Musée de la Chartreuse.)