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Juno, Largest Roman-Era Statue in North America, Arrives at MFA

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), has finally received a statue of the goddess Juno, who will make the Museum her final stop on a more than century-long journey from Rome.

Statue of Juno - (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and the William Francis Warden Fund. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Measuring 13 feet tall and weighing 13,000 pounds, this colossal work is the largest classical statue in the United States. It is dated to the Roman Imperial Period and likely graced a civic building or temple in Rome.

Upon her arrival at the MFA in late March, Juno was brought in by crane through a skylight. Beginning April 9, she will be on view to the public in the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, in the gallery also bearing the Behrakis name. To support the conservation of this statue and other works of art, a public appeal for funding will be launched at the Museum with the unveiling of Juno.

Although the date of Juno’s discovery is unknown, the statue was recorded as early as 1633 in an inventory of the renowned Ludovisi Collection, one of the most significant holdings of antiquities and paintings in 17th-century Rome. It was assembled by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, an important patron of the arts. He also built Villa Ludovisi, a grand Roman estate comprising buildings and gardens filled with antiquities such as Juno. Much of the painting collection was dispersed after the Cardinal’s death, but many of the antiquities remained on the site until the end of the 19th century, as documented by the statue’s appearance in an 1890 photograph of the gardens.

When the Ludovisi family dismantled the estate in the late 1890s, Juno was purchased in 1897 by Bostonians Charles Franklin Sprague and his wife, Mary Pratt Sprague, granddaughter of shipping and railroad magnate William Fletcher Weld, and a relative of former Governor William Weld.

Juno Moves into the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

The statue was shipped across the Atlantic, and upon its arrival in Boston, was transported by a team of oxen in 1904 to Faulkner Farm, the Spragues’ estate in Brookline (later known as the Brandegee Estate after Mrs. Sprague’s marriage to Edward Deshon Brandegee).

Juno was placed in the Spragues’ Italianate garden, designed by Charles Platt, where it remained as a centerpiece until she was acquired for the MFA in 2011 through the generosity of an anonymous donor and the William Francis Warden Fund.

“The MFA’s acquisition of Juno provides a unique opportunity for everyone in the Museum family to be involved in the conservation of the largest Roman statue in the United States,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “Visitors will be able to observe the detailed process needed to return her to her former glory and can also support the effort through the MFA’s public appeal.”

Juno Moves into the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Juno’s journey to the MFA has been organized using state-of-the-art conservation methods and modes of transport. To ensure her safe arrival at the Museum, she was encased in a specially built protective cradle, and because of her size, the statue and her cradle will be lifted by crane, then lowered through a skylight into the Museum.

Juno Moves into the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

She will be moved through the MFA’s Italian Renaissance Gallery — part of which has been deinstalled to accommodate Juno’s size—and a wide base will be constructed to properly distribute the weight between the floor beams. The sculpture will reside in the Behrakis Gallery, which will be temporarily closed until Juno is properly in place.

On April 9, the gallery will reopen, revealing the goddess to visitors who will be able to observe conservators treating the sculpture in situ as part of the Museum’s “Conservation in Action” program. In the future, she will be the focal point of a gallery devoted to the gods, goddesses, and heroes of ancient Greece and Rome.

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