Monday, 18 July 2011

Weary Herakles to return to Turkey

One of the long running cultural property disputes has at last been resolved. It has been announced that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will be returning the upper part of the so-called Weary Herakles to Turkey (Geoff Edgers, "Making ‘Herakles’ whole after all these years", July 17, 2011). I have discussed the collection history before. Essentially the Boston fragment will be reunited with the lower part of the statue that was discovered at Perge.

The statue had been acquired by the museum in 1981 (details). The public history is as follows:
By 1981: with Mohammad Yeganeh, Bundenweg 7, 6000 Frankfurt/Main (said to be from his mother’s collection and before that from a dealer in Germany about 1950); half interest purchased by MFA (with funds provided by the Jerome Levy Foundation) from Mohammad Yeganeh, December 30, 1981; remaining half interest owned by Leon Levy and Shelby White; remaining half interest gift from Shelby White to MFA, January 21, 2004
Edgers rehearses the full details of acquisition history and the link with the lower part now in Antalya. He also discusses the role of Cornelius Vermeule.

Objects from the Leon Levy and Shelby White collection have already been returned to Greece and Italy. Shelby White still retains the Icklingham Bronzes that are due to be returned to the UK.

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1 comment:

Lingua said...


The article by Geoff Edgers about Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts’ acceding to Turkish demands, titled “MFA sends ‘Weary Herakles’ statue back to Turkey,” appeared in the Sept. 24, 2011 edition of the Boston Globe. Mr. Berge Tatian and Mr. David Boyajian of Massachusetts each sent a letter (please see below) to the Globe in response. The paper published neither letter. Mr. Tatian and Mr. Boyajian have granted permission to publish their letters on,- Editor

The statement by former Turkish cultural minister, Engin Ozgen, on the return of the missing part of the Weary Herakles, that “This will show the world that the Turks are not ignorant anymore, that they will fight for their past and their heritage”, assumes that the rest of the world is ignorant of the true provenance of that statue. It's as if I find a work of art on my property and then go around claiming it as part of my patrimony. The Turk's complaint over looting is pathetic if not laughable when they themselves are guilty of the most egregious crime of looting, that of the properties of the Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians of Asia Minor, after destroying their heritage.

Berge Tatian
Stoneham, MA

So the Museum of Fine Arts is returning an ancient statue of “Weary Herakles” to Turkey (“MFA sends ‘Weary Herakles’ statue back to Turkey,” Sept. 24). Herakles was a Greek god, and the statue is based upon an ancient Greek original. Does anyone believe that Turkey is a credible custodian or legitimate inheritor of ancient – particularly Greek - culture?

Turkey has exterminated the indigenous peoples of Asia Minor – Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians – and tried to erase all traces of their existence, while harassing the few who are left.

Turkey has destroyed, deliberately misidentified, or grossly neglected most of the churches, cultural landmarks, and villages of these ancient peoples, whom Turks conquered after arriving from Central Asia.

Hundreds of such villages have also been assigned Turkish names to erase the fact that these were the lands and homes of people whom Turkey annihilated.

Turkey says that the statue's return is morally right and concerns "culture." But it’s really about tourist money and laying illegitimate claim to heritages that it has, in fact, tried to destroy.

Rather than returning the Herakles statue, the MFA should be shedding light on Turkey’s acts of cultural destruction and genocide.

David Boyajian
Belmont, MA

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