From ANSA:

The Hercules of Veio, a celebrated masterpiece of Etruscan art, has been restored to its many-coloured glory.

The bigger-than-life polychrome terracotta statue, which dates from the end of the 6th century BC, will be presented to the public next week at Rome's National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, fresh from a three-year restoration.

The Hercules clutching the Sacred Hind was originally part of a temple group illustrating stories about the sun god.

It will be unveiled next Wednesday - three years to the day after the most famous member of the group, Apollo himself, was welcomed back on view to enthusiastic acclaim.

The biggest problem facing restorers were the thick deposits of dirt which had built up on Hercules' stomach, giving him an unseemly paunchy look.

The torso has now been scrubbed clean and the muscular abdomen of the hero as he clenches to defend the mythical deer shines out anew.

Hercules has also been fitted with a new set of painted resin legs, replacing a stucco pair stuck on when he was first restored in the 1920s.

The golden-horned doe was in such poor condition that it had to be taken away and restored in a lab but the leaning, club-wielding Hercules was kept in the museum so visitors could see the restoration for themselves - and virtually on the Internet.

The Apollo, which like its fellows once adorned the top of a temple to Minerva, is one of the most famous pieces of ancient art in the world.

The restored and smiling, braid-haired god was unveiled on July 18, 2004, spurring a fresh influx of visitors to the museum in northern Rome.

Apollo is dressed in a short-sleeved vest and a knee-length yellow-toned toga and appears to be striding towards the viewer - as he once advanced to grab the doe from Hercules.

Of the other figures in the group, all that remains is the head of Hermes, the messenger of the gods sent down to try to stop the mythical contest.

The sculptures are believed to be the work of Vulca, a famous sculptor from Veio just north of Rome, one of ancient Etruria's richest settlements. Another giant statue, of Apollo's mother Leto holding Apollo as a child, was also recovered from the temple of Minerva and can be seen at Villa Giulia.

But of the three figures, the Apollo remains the most famous and has come to epitomise the highest expression of Etruscan art the world over.