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Statue Leaves Italy For First Time Since 1816 For U.S.

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WASHINGTON (AP) –  One of the best preserved sculptures from Roman antiquity, the “Capitoline Venus,” has left Italy for the first time in nearly 200 years for a special display at the National Gallery of Art, the museum announced Thursday.

The installation goes on public view Saturday through early September. The full-scale female nude statue has only left Rome one other time: when it was seized by Napoleon and taken to France in 1797. It was returned to Rome’s Capitoline Museum in 1816 after Napoleon fell from power.

Gallery Director Earl A. Powell III called it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to see the piece in the United States. It will have a prime spot as a museum centerpiece for the busy summer months.

“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,” Powell said in a written statement.

The sculpture is a descendent from the “Aphrodite of Cnidos” by Greek sculptor Praxiteles around 360 B.C. That sculpture was groundbreaking in art history for its introduction of the large-scale nude female form as a subject.

The statue was unearthed in the 1670s in a garden in the remains of an ancient building, according to historical accounts. The statue was intact, except for the nose, some fingers and a hand that had broken off. It was later reattached. Pope Benedict XIV gave the sculpture to the Capitoline Museum in 1752.

This is the first time it has been lent for exhibition.

The exhibit is part of an effort by Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno to display masterpieces in the United States between 2011 and 2013. It also marks the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification as a single state.

Next week, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray plans to sign a proclamation announcing a new sister city agreement with Alemanno.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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