Friday, October 19The Voice of London

Waiter knocks thumb off priceless Roman sculpture at British Museum

One of the British Museum’s most prized sculptures was damaged by a clumsy waiter last December, it has been revealed.

Reporter: Yasmin Jeffery | Sub-Editor: James Brookes

Towny Venus
The British Museum’s Goddess of Love statue prior to the incident | (British Museum)

The unnamed server – who was on loan to the museum from a contracted firm – was attending to guests at a corporate event when they accidentally knocked a thumb off the priceless Townley Venus statue.

The catering company responsible for the waiter’s actions will not be identified, and the museum currently employs nine different caterers.

The Roman sculpture, which depicts the Goddess of Love, suffered damage when the waiter knelt down directly under its right hand, knocking it as they got up, The Art Newspaper reports.

While the thumb was severed from the sculpture, the broken piece stayed intact.

Although the British Museum was swiftly informed about the damage, the incident was not made public at the time, and Museum officials acknowledged it for the first time in minutes of the trustees’ meetings this week.

The British Museum,
The home of the statue, the British Museum | (Britain Explorer)

Speaking on the incident, a spokeswoman explained: “This was an unfortunate incident.

“The preservation of the collection is of fundamental importance.

“Our expert conservators have been able to fully restore the object and it has remained on public display.

“We have taken the incident seriously and have retrained all individuals responsible for events.”

The Bloomsbury museum also confirmed: “Any staff who are involved in managing or invigilating events have gone through retraining on the protection of objects before and during events.”

The Townley Venus was sold to the British Museum in 1805, where it has been on display ever since.

Standing at just over two metres tall, and dating from the first or second centuries AD, the sculpture was purchased by esteemed English art collector Charles Townley in Rome, following its successful excavation in Ostia, Italy, in 1775.