BEIJING, Nov. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- Conservators at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University think a late first-century statue of Venus looks better with its head attached and are using a giant X-ray machine usually used to inspect commercial airliner parts to accomplish the task.
Renee Stein, conservator of the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University, prepares the head of a Roman marble statue of Venus to be scanned in the x-ray room at Delta Air Lines Technical Operations Center in Atlanta, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006. (Xinhua/AP Photo)
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Scans taken Thursday at the Delta Air Lines maintenance facility in Atlanta, Ga. are the first step in a long process to reunite the 1,900-year-old Roman marble statue of the love goddess with its head. They're using Delta's volunteered equipment and inspectors because of their ability to find the tiniest cracks in hard materials.
The goal is to discover at how many points -- other than the neck -- the statue has been broken before and how the old repairs are holding up. The remedies could date from antiquity or as recently as 200 years ago
"I spend two-thirds of my time reversing other people's good intentions," museum conservator Renee Stein said jokingly of old repairs.
Conservators will look for rusting metal pins that might have been inserted to fix cracks in Venus's thigh, her calf, even the bundle of hair cascading down her neck.
Once they establish the condition of those repairs they will know how best to put the 4-foot-6-inch (137-centimeter) statue back together.
The provocative statue catches the goddess unaware, as if she spies an unseen onlooker as she removes her clothing to take a bath. She tries to cover herself with her hand, while a small figure of Eros rides a dolphin at her feet, a reference to the goddess' birth from the sea.
It's likely the statue stood next to a fountain or pool in the gardens of a luxurious villa somewhere in the Roman Empire, possibly in today's France, where it was first documented in the collection of Napoleon's art adviser in the 1830s, said Jasper Gaunt, curator of Greek and Roman Art at the Carlos.
There are thousands of similar images of Venus in all sorts of sizes and materials, but the restoration of this one is particularly significant because few statues are as large and nearly intact as this one, missing only the right arm.
The museum bought the statue for 968,000 U.S. dollars at a Sotheby's auction in New York. A private collector in Houston had agreed to sell the head at auction to the buyer of the body.