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Crack Found in Famed ‘Three Graces’

March 6, 1998 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ A hairline crack has been discovered on Antonio Canova’s sculpture of the Three Graces, raising questions about the policy of moving the work between museums.

The 2 1/2-inch-long crack on the lower back of one of the Graces was discovered in November in Madrid when it was inspected under strong light, officials at the National Gallery of Scotland said Thursday.

The statue was purchased by the National Gallery of Scotland and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1994 for about $11.7 million, after the British government stepped in to block the J. Paul Getty Museum from buying it and taking it to the United States.

The Three Graces, which depicts the three daughters of the god Jove, was commissioned in 1815 by the Duke of Bedford from Canova, a fashionable Venetian artist.

The two British museums plan to take turns every seven years exhibiting the statue.

The work went to Madrid on loan to Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who had donated $1.3 million to the purchase fund.

Duncan McMillan, director of the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, said the crack highlighted the danger of moving the statue.

``Any good museum knows that the last thing you should do with something so fragile is move it,″ The Times of London quoted McMillan as saying.

``To be honest, it would have been much safer in the Getty,″ he said.