National Gallery to host Rome’s famed Capitoline Venus

June 2, 2011

The Capitoline Venus, one of the most precious and best preserved artifacts from Roman antiquity, is visiting Washington for the summer.

The National Gallery of Art announced Thursday that the famed statue, making its first voyage ever across the Atlantic, will reside in the rotunda of the West Building until September.

Beginning Saturday, the public will be able to see the masterpiece that was stolen from its Roman home by Napoleon in 1797 and then returned in 1816 to its primary home, the Capitoline Museum. This particular Venus inspired a short story by Mark Twain and was photographed for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Marble Faun.”

Earl A. Powell III, the gallery’s director, said the setting for the six-foot statue was ideal. “We are thrilled to offer this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Capitoline Venus outside of Rome,” Powell said in a statement. “The Venus will feel right at home in our West Building Rotunda, which was designed by John Russell Pope and was based on the Pantheon in Rome.”

The Capitoline Venus, a full-scale nude, was found beneath a garden in the 1670s. In 1752 it was given to the Capitoline Museum by Pope Benedict XIV.

The loan becomes official Wednesday, when the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, and D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray sign an agreement making the two cities “sister cities.”

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