From ANSA:

Italy on Wednesday unveiled the Hercules of Veio, a celebrated masterpiece of Etruscan art, after a complicated four-year restoration.

The bigger-than-life polychrome terracotta statue, which dates from the end of the 6th century BC, was presented to the public at Rome's National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia.

"It's been tough work, but crowned by a huge success," said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli.

"Rediscovering these colours, this delicacy is incredible," he said.

"It's a great day for art and culture".

The Hercules striding forward on the captured Sacred Hind was originally part of a temple group illustrating stories about the sun god.

It returned to the museum three years to the day after the most famous member of the group, Apollo himself, was welcomed back.

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 hero's powerful body is resplendent as he moves to defend the mythical deer.

Hercules, who is largely headless and also missing one arm, has 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 Hercules was kept in the museum so visitors could see the restoration for themselves - and virtually on the Internet.

Hercules' companion piece 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 walking towards 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.

... a photo of the statuary accompanies the original article.