Persephone's voyage from Taranto to Berlin
After a fierce debate among scholars, the Italian historian Angelo Conte says he has uncovered new evidence proving that an important sculpture from the V century B.C. is on show at Berlin's Pergamonmuseum - a statue, claims Conte, first discovered in Taranto, Italy, in the 30s.
Although the Pergamonmuseum refers to the artwork as the "Throned Goddess from Taranto", the Sicilian town of Locri is also cited as its possible provenance. However, the answer may have finally arrived with Angelo Conte's latest discoveries.
As reported by journalist Gareth Harris, The Art Newspaper, in 1933 the archeologist Paola Zancani Montuoro suggested that the sculpture found its origins in Taranto. Montuoro stated that the artworks had been discovered in the 1911 in the Apulian city, before being sold to Sicilian dealer Tom Virzì. Some time later Virzi moved the statue to the Hirsch Gallery in Paris and from there to Berlin - first to Kaiser-Friederich-Museum, then to the Pergamonmuseum.
There was however no evidence to support that the statue actually came from Taranto until the Angelo Conte’s "La dea del sorriso" (The Goddess of smile), published details of a 1934 investigation in which three witnesses confirmed the discovery of the Persephone in Taranto city centre in February 1912. One witness also confirmed the identity of the statue after seeing a photograph of the taken in the Kaiser-Friederich-Museum.
In his book Conte also states that, in an effort to have the statue returned to Italy, Renato Bartoccini, the then director of Taranto’s Museum of Archeology, even spoke directly to Benito Mussolini, but according to Conte, the dictator preferred to turn a blind eye to please his military ally, Hitler.
Far from being settled, the mystery of the Persephone continues.The removal of the "Throned Goddess from Taranto" from Apulian soil is not only a matter of local identity, but it epitomises the problem of illegal movement of artwork afflicting Italy for centuries - from the early modern period, to Napoleon and Hitler.