The Worcester Art Museum (WAM) in Massachusetts has handed over an Ancient Roman bust to the Manhattan District Attorney’s (DA) Office as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into a smuggling network involving looted antiquities from Turkey. The bust, titled “Portrait of a Lady (A Daughter of Marcus Aurelius?),” is believed to date between 160 and 180 CE and is valued at approximately $5 million. The museum purchased the sculpture in 1966.
The DA’s office had previously issued a warrant for a bronze sculpture from the same time period at the Cleveland Museum of Art. This warrant is also connected to the investigation into the smuggling network. The bronze, created between 150 BCE and 200 CE, is estimated to be worth $20 million. It depicts a figure dressed as a Greek orator, potentially a Roman politician, and is missing its head, making identification challenging.
The Worcester Art Museum stated that it had received limited information about the bronze but knew it had been recovered in Southwestern Turkey. The museum had not received any provenance claims until earlier this year when the DA’s office provided details about the sculpture’s history. Based on this information, the museum determined that the bust was likely stolen or improperly imported.
WAM spokesperson Madeline Feller mentioned that the museum cannot disclose relevant evidence due to the confidentiality requirements surrounding grand jury proceedings. The DA’s office has not yet responded to requests for comment.
In response to these developments, the Worcester Art Museum plans to hire a provenance research team and increase scrutiny of its collection. The museum acknowledges its responsibility as a steward of the objects in its possession.
The seizure of the Ancient Roman bust at the Worcester Art Museum follows the recent warrant issued for the allegedly looted bronze at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Both cases are part of an ongoing investigation into the smuggling network involving antiquities looted from Turkey and trafficked through Manhattan.