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Politicians plea for home for Riace bronzes

Museum renovations drag on for more than two years

05 July, 17:25
Politicians plea for home for Riace bronzes (ANSA) - Reggio Calabria, July 5 - Italy's culture minister must take fast action on moving world-famous ancient Greek warrior statues, the Riace Bronzes, into a safe home, two Democratic Party politicians said Friday.

The bronzes, some of Italy's most-loved cultural icons, have been lying on their backs for more than two years in the home of the Calabrian regional government after being moved from a museum undergoing restoration work.

However, the work at Reggio Calabria's National Archaeological Museum has become a victim of budget cuts and red tape, which means the statues remain homeless.

''We call on the government to outline what steps it intends to take to safeguard the Riace Bronzes and complete the museum restoration,'' said Rosy Bindi and Demetrio Battaglia, politicians with the Democratic Party (PD).

Culture Minister Massimo Bray is also a PD member in Italy's coalition government cobbled together with members of the PD and the centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Museum renovations began in November 2009 and since then the valuable bronzes have been in storage, away from paying visitors and students.

The bronzes' trip across town to the council offices was supposed to be a brief one.

When they left storage at the Archaeological Museum on December 22, 2012, officials said it was ''just for a six-month restoration''.

The move was the first time in 28 years that the priceless 2,500-year-old bronzes had left the Museo Nazionale di Reggio Calabria.

The only previous occasion they were let out was in 1981, for a triumphant round-Italy tour.

Calabria has repeatedly refused permission for copies of the statues to be made and rejected pleas for Italian promotional events worldwide and for the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa.

In a citywide vote in 2003, the people of Reggio Calabria came out overwhelmingly against the ''cloning'' of the statues, which have been the Calabrian capital's biggest tourist draw since they were discovered.

The Bronzes were discovered in 1972 by a Roman holidaymaker scuba diving off the Calabrian coast and turned out to be one of Italy's most important archaeological finds in the last 100 years.

The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life.

The 'older' man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the 'younger' Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair.

Both are naked.

Although the statues are cast in bronze, they feature silver lashes and teeth, copper red lips and nipples, and eyes made of ivory, limestone and a glass and amber paste.