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Return of an Etruscan Statuette to Berlin Antikensammlung

Altes Museum

Lost since the Second World War, the statuette has returned to the Antikensammlung (Collection of Classical Antiquities) – thanks to an observant English art dealer.

Oliver Forge personally brought the precious object to Berlin and delivered it today to the director of the Antikensammlung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Andreas Scholl. The bronze statuette from the late archaic period (6th/5th century B.C.) depicts a man in a helmet throwing a spear. In the future it will be displayed in the permanent exhibition ‘Ancient Worlds. Greeks, Etruscans and Romans’ at the Altes Museum.

The statuette was acquired from the estate of the first ‘archaeologist at the museum’, Eduard Gerhard for the Antikensammlung in 1869. It was lost after the Second World War. In 2016 it appeared on the art market and was identified. The art dealers Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch Ltd. were engaged to sell the statuette for a client, who had purchased it a year earlier at the auction of an English private collection. With the support of scholars at the British Museum, the dealers examined the object and were able to trace it to the Antikensammlung. After the seller learned of the statuette’s history, he stated that he was prepared to return it to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, said: ‘This is an excellent example of how owners, the art trade and museums can work together successfully to restore works of art that have been lost through historical circumstance to the collections they once came from.’

The bronze statuette, which is 17cm tall, can be dated to the late archaic period (late 6th – early 5th century B.C.). It is a typical example of highly abstract small depictions of warriors from central Italy (Etruria and the surrounding regions), which were given as votive gifts to certain deities. The warrior wears a so-called Attic helmet with the panels that protect the cheeks folded upwards, and a cuirass with stylized decoration over a tunic. Originally he held weapons (a spear and a shield), but these were already missing when the statuette entered the Collection of Classical Antiquities in the 19th century, having been acquired from the estate of the first archaeologist at the Berlin museum, Eduard Gerhard.

The identification of the bronze with the inventory number Fr. 2202a was made possible due partly to older publications and partly to the entry in the online database “Ancient bronzes in Berlin”. The electronic catalogue lists almost all Greek, Etruscan and Roman bronzes of the Antikensammlung. It has been compiled with the use of catalogues and inventories. Every artwork still in the collection is illustrated by new photographs, while missing objects are illustrated by historic black-and- white photographs from the museum’s archives. A full bibliography provides references for further reading. The database also serves to document the museum’s losses, which were mostly sustained as a result of the war, thereby supplementing the printed volume published in 2005 detailing the museum’s losses of sculpture, vases, ivory and bone, and gold jewellery along with gems and cameos.