The most recent catalogue published by the Cleveland Museum of Art makes a huge claim: that the bronze statue of Apollo taking center stage in recent exhibition “Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo” is, in fact, an ancient Greek original. The statement comes in the show’s catalogue, which was released Friday, written by Michael Bennett, curator of Greek and Roman Art at the museum. Bennest uses art-historical analysis and scientific evidence to draw the conclusion that the work is not only an original Greek bronze, but believed to be the handiwork of the iconic sculptor Praxiteles.
On top of shedding new light on the otherwise mysterious ancient work, Bennett’s book calls into question the current international laws that prevent the trade of illegal and looted antiquities. While many disagree with Bennett’s stance, and maintain that museums only encourage such behavior by collecting artwork with questionable origin, the curator boldly proposes that the laws place objects like the Apollo in limbo for future research due to the lack of documentation.
The questionable origin of the museum’s Apollo precedes its purchase by Cleveland in 2004, when it was acquired for $5 million from Phoenix Ancient Art, an antiquities dealership based in New York and Geneva. The museum received a statement from German lawyer Ernst-Ulrich Walter prior to the purchase claiming he had found the damaged piece on a family estate after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Additionally, Agence France-Presse unearthed some dirt on Apollo in 2007, when it reported that Greek officials had found it in the sea between Greece and Italy, despite no substantial evidence.
— Alanna Martinez
(Image courtesy the Cleveland Museum of Art)