Roman Antiquity Missing Since World War II Found in Russia

The sculpture had been wrongly classified and was languishing in storage.

Victoria of Calvatone ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antiquity collection, archival image.
Victoria of Calvatone ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antiquity collection, archival image.

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) announced today that an antique sculpture from its collection, believed lost since World War II, has been found in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Roman antiquity known as Victoria of Calvatone was displayed in Berlin’s Altes Museum until 1939, when it was removed to a nearby storage to protect it from war damage. The sculpture was considered lost after the war, and appears as such in the 2005 lost art catalogue of the Berlin State Museums. According to the SPK, the only available documentation of the sculpture’s whereabouts read “transported by Soviet Trophy Brigades.”

The gilded bronze sculpture, dated to 161–169 AD, has now resurfaced during scholarly research at the Hermitage Museum. There, it had been languishing in storage since 1946, wrongly cataloged as a 17th century French sculpture.

As part of a conservation work and analysis of the museum’s collection, Russian specialists were able to correctly identify the Roman antiquity and catalogue it as a war-displaced cultural artifact from the Berlin State Museums.

The sculpture, which shows Nike, the goddess of victory, standing on a globe, is a Roman masterpiece first discovered in fragments in 1836 near Calvatone, Italy, a region known as Bedriacum in Roman times. It was acquired for the Berlin museums in 1841 by Gustav Friedrich Waagen, the director of the Gemäldegalerie, and its missing parts, including its wings, were recreated and attached.

Hermann Parzinger, the director of the SPK, and Michail Piotrowkij, the general director of the Hermitage, have agreed to collaborate on the sculpture’s restoration.

Parzinger thanked the Hermitage for its transparent handling of the research, and for a history of successful collaborations on exhibitions surrounding works displaced from German museums during World War II. “With the Victoria of Calvatone sculpture, our successful and mutually trusting scholarly collaboration has gained another milestone to mark.”

Earlier this year, the National Pushkin Museum in Moscow discovered 59 Italian Renaissance sculptures from the collection of Berlin’s Bode Museum, also seized during World War II, in its holdings.

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