July 31, 2011

Sarah Zimmer on “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print”

By Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Sarah Zimmer is a part-time faculty member at the Art Institute of Michigan’s Photography department and teaches both art history and studio art. Her experience ranges from fine art exhibitions to art history to museum work, on which her presentation, “The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt’s 100 Guilder Print,” is based. While working in the archive of a museum, Zimmer discovered that an etching by Rembrandt was missing and then proceeded to investigate its disappearance. Her investigation, which included emailing former directors of the museum and anyone that may have an idea of where the print disappeared to, led to an interesting turn when she was asked to halt all investigation into this mystery.

Rather than completely forgetting the project, Zimmer was driven to investigate the value of this particular print and the value of works to museums. A contemporary artist with no prior knowledge of Rembrandt’s “worth,” she was intrigued by the question of: “What is the value of this museum protecting this secret when the value of the work may be minimal?” Using her artistic training, Zimmer delved into the realms of forgery to recreate the Rembrandt print along with provenance documents for an exhibition examining the value of a work and where the value lies. “I’m attempting to understand the value of the work, whether it’s monetary value or assigned value. Whether it’s the name that counts or the functional value of depicting a story.” Zimmer’s exhibition was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit in 2010 and also in Chicago.

Not inclined to completely let go of the project, Zimmer is still interested in examining the value that museums place on works and what value society places on works of art, such as “How we’ve made Rembrandt, the name, a commodity.” Though she no longer works for the museum, from which this print went missing, Sarah stated that, “the true crime was the institution depriving us of information and not allowing us to continue our investigation.” Of the multiple missing works that Zimmer investigated while working at this museum, the Rembrandt is the only one that raised the attention of the institution to cease research into its whereabouts. Zimmer is still pursuing research into the value that is placed on works by museums and the art community.

July 30, 2011

Leila Amineddoleh on “The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside”

Leila Amineddoleh
By Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

Leila Amineddoleh, a 2010 alumnus of ARCA’s postgraduate program and Boston College Law School, presented her latest research titled “The Pillaging of the Abandoned Spanish Countryside” on the panel “Fresh Perspectives on Art and Heritage Crime”.

Many towns in the Spanish countryside have been abandoned. Since the towns operate on tax dollars and people have fled to bigger, more industrial cities, rural houses and churches become vulnerable to pillaging. Leila’s presentation even included an astonishing ad in a Spanish newspaper that advertised for an entire “Town for Sale” for 189,000 Euro.

One very unfortunate issue with these depopulated cities is the fate of the art and cultural objects left behind. Though some construction companies have permission to remove Roman ruins and Visigoth remnants from the abandoned homes and churches, much of the forgotten art is eventually ripped from its context and sold.

Unbeknownst to many Spanish citizens, the hidden works have incredible cultural and historical value for the nation’s identity. Municipalities receive 1% of tax revenue for art restoration but in many cases without a sufficient number of people in the town paying taxes, there is little money for protection.

Leila strongly believes that for Spain to protect its patrimony it must create an extensive catalogue that encompasses both State and Church property. She believes working with a database modeled after the Italian ICCD catalogue, which receives donations and revenue, would be ideal for keeping track of and protecting Spain’s cultural treasures.

July 29, 2011

Author and Historian Peter Watson Discussed What He Called “Some Unpublished and Un-pulishable Details about Recent Art Crimes”

Peter Watson (Photo by Urska Charney)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Peter Watson, author of numerous books including “The Medici Conspiracy” and “Sotheby’s the Inside Story”, leaned back in his chair in front of the audience and like an practiced storyteller, said that he would talk about “some unpublished and unpublishable” details about recent art crimes.

He asked the audience to question about how much they knew about the truth of art theft. “Museums lie about provenance and experts are not experts,” he said.

Watson spoke about the stories in his books, of how the priest with the Vatican’s mission trafficked in stolen paintings, pleaded for mercy on the court, and after the judge suspended his sentence, went on to trafficking in drugs.

John Drew, the forger, was once suspected of burning down a house that killed a Hungarian lodger and two months ago was sentenced for defrauding a widow.

When Robin Symes partner Kristos died, Symes went to jail. The judge changed the case from a civil to a criminal case. Symes was sentenced to two years in jail and only served 10 months. He made enemies with Kristo’s family. A month after Robin came out of jail, a BMW was deliberately set on fire and a yacht went up in flames. “Nothing was ever proved, but this is underlining the idea that we are not dealing with nice people,” Watson said.

In regards to the Sevso silver, a strange murder in the late 1970s in a wine cellar showed three sets of footprints going into the wine cellar, and two going away. People accused of these crimes are “too dangerous”, Watson said. His friend Charley Hill, who recovered one of the Munch paintings while working for Scotland Yard, said that his children were threatened in a case.

“This is a very unpleasant world so watch where you’re going,” Watson told the audience.

July 28, 2011

"Stealing Beauty: Art Crime during War" a public lecture by Judge Arthur Tompkins on July 29

Art Crime Writer Fabio Isman on "The Biggest Looting: an awful story that will never end" and his latest book "Il predatori dell’arte perduta: il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia"

Fabio Isman (Photo by Urska Charney)
by Jessica Graham Nielsen, ARCA Intern

Fabio Isman, a celebrated investigative journalist in Rome, who contributes to The Art Newspaper and writes regular columns for Il Messaggero and Arte e Dossier, took part in ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy, July 9. Through an English-speaking interpreter, Mr. Isman talked passionately about the immense scope of illegal excavations, the illicit trade in Italian antiquities, and the yet unpunished main characters in a drama of tomb robbers, dealers, antiquities collectors, auction houses and the world’s major museums.

In his presentation, which he called: “The Biggest Looting: an awful story that will never end,” he shared pictures and information he found while researching his book, Il predatori dell’arte perduta: il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia (Raiders of the Lost Art: the Looting of Archaeology in Italy), which is the first written on the subject in Italian. He described his book as following Peter Watson’s fundamental work in The Medici Conspiracy, thanked him, and added that the depth of the issue has not been discovered until recently.
I will talk of a phenomenon: one million antiquities shipped from Italian soil from 1970 on, the most important [of which] was sold to the world’s greatest museums and big collectors…I wrote it because Italy is a great source of antiquities and I realized that few [here] are aware…
He went on to describe a story of 10,000 people, involved in the systematic looting and sale of one million illicit objects sold to 36 museums and 12 private collectors through specialist dealers from 1970 to 2004 in a business that is still ongoing – items having just come up at auction a few months ago.

Isman traced the beginning of the Grande Razzia to the Metropolitan Museum’s purchase of the illegally excavated Euphronius Krater for $1,000,000 in 1972, which made the market and established a record for an ancient object. As the market hungered for more objects, it was fed by looter/dealers Giacomo Medici and his secret depositories discovered in Geneva in 1995; four rooms filled with vases and recently excavated objects and 4,000 polaroid pictures of artifacts, some of which were already in major museum’s collections, and Gianfranco Becchina’s four warehouses discovered in Basel in 2001 containing more than $6 billion worth of antiquities. He referred to these men and other nefarious characters as “murderers of antiquities” who had scattered important objects around the world, leaving them out of context and thus “destroyed.” He underscored his words with images of a villa excavated in an unknown location at Pompei, its frescoes buried yet still intact, and those same frescoes cut into pieces so that they could be taken to Medici’s storehouses.

Isman thanked the State, and particularly Prosecutor Ferri and the Carabinieri (which increased from 16 personnel to 300 during that period) for helping to curb the flood of antiquities leaving Italy and helping many find their way back home. But he lamented that “no police dog is at the airport sniffing for ancient vases and [that] one-third of the people in prison have something to do with drugs and not one [of them is there] for illegal art.”

Mr. Isman has published 24 books, 18 of which are dedicated to art and culture in Italy.

July 27, 2011

Neil Brodie Awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship

Neil Brodie receiving his award
by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

At ARCA’s third annual international art crime conference, Neil Brodie was awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship. Brodie is an archaeologist and former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre at the University of Cambridge. Brodie has studied and written extensively on the illicit antiquities trade. His publications include Stealing History: the Illicit Trade in Cultural Material (Cambridge: McDonald Institute, 2000), Trade in Illicit Antiquities: the Destruction of the World's Archaeological Heritage (Cambridge: McDonald Institute, 2001), Illicit Antiquities: the Theft of Culture and the Extinction of Archaeology (London: Routledge, 2002), and Archaeology, Cultural Heritage, and the Antiquities Trade (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006) among over thirty other academic papers. In January 2008, Brodie received a Saving Antiquities For Everyone (SAFE) Beacon Award for his significant role in raising awareness of illicit antiquities.

During his acceptance speech, Brodie offered his thanks to Noah Charney for developing an organization that educates students in the many issues related to art crime. Through its conference, academic program, and various publications, ARCA continues to inspire new research and projects aimed at combatting the growing problem. Brodie served as a writer-in-residence during the first six weeks of ARCA’s international art crime and heritage protection studies program.

July 26, 2011

South African Lawyer Specializing in art law, shares his experiences with conferences in Milan and Amelia

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The ARCA blog has been running a series of posts about the speakers who presented at ARCA's third annual Art Crime Conference on July 9th and 10th. Toby Orford, a lawyer specializing in art law in South Africa, attended ARCA's conference in Amelia this year. He also attended a conference in Milan. We decided to share his experiences with readers of our blog. During the conference, Mr. Orford stayed at Palazzo Farrattini, a Renaissance building within the walls of this medieval town.

ARCA Blog: Toby, what conference did you attend in Milan and what was your perception?
Toby: Speakers at Christie's Holocaust Art Looting and Restitution Symposium included eminent international lawyers, academics and activists. The choice of Milan was deliberate. Italy's inconsistent track record of restitution "requires a more extensive explanation" and some of the speakers - notably Charles Goldstein from the Commission for Art Recovery - pointed out inter alia that missing art works taken from Italian Jews is probably still in Italian museums, institutions and private collections. The lack of serious research or restitution in Italy (and indeed instances where restitution has been revoked and export licenses blocked) is in contrast to Italy's recent campaigns for the recovery of its own cultural property. Other countries have made greater efforts. Norman Palmer spoke about the work of the UK's restitution commission - the Spoliation Advisory Panel. He and the other experts highlighted the on-going and unresolved moral and legal aspects of restitution - as well as changes in government policy and (post the Washington Conference) the development of changing legal principles and claims procedures. All in all the Milan conference was a thought-provoking precursor to ARCA's Amelia conference.
ARCA Blog: This is the first time you attended the ARCA art crime conference. What had you expected and did the conference meet your expectations?
Toby: The focus of ARCA goes beyond World War II restitution. The conference dealt with all kinds of present-day threats to cultural property, including looting, theft, fraud and destruction. Not surprisingly, as a lawyer I appreciated the legal discussions. I think that there is scope for some more "law" next time - with reference to the achievements noted during the Milan conference. But the other disciplines created new insights into the practical and theoretical aspects of heritage protection. The more academic topics were usefully balanced at the end of the proceedings by Chris Maranello's matter-of-fact talk on the day to day work of the Art Loss Register. He reminded us that it is vital to translate words into action. So, yes, the conference met all of my expectations and expanded my understanding considerably. I am also finding the ARCA blog's talk summaries very useful.
ARCA Blog: What do you think will most be carried back with you to South Africa as far as knowledge and experience?
Toby: Restitution is much talked about in Africa but in a confused and undisciplined way. This is mostly due to misunderstanding and misinformation. And, thanks to colonial complications, frustration. The hard won and piecemeal progress, and the on-going challenges in other parts of the world, explain the nature and scope of the problem - and identify some of the solutions. And so both of these disciplined and focused conferences - in their different ways - helped me to understand what has happened, and what still must happen. Others should benefit too and, for example, I am recommending the work of ARCA to the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA). Perhaps ARCA will benefit from closer ties with similar agencies in other countries?

July 25, 2011

ARCA Award for Art Policing & Recovery Given to Paolo Ferri at International Art Crime Conference

Paolo Ferri and Noah Charney (Photo by Urska Charney)
By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Paolo Giorgio Ferri received ARCA’s Award for Art Policing and Recovery for his work as a former Italian State Prosecutor and his role in the return of many looted antiquities from North American public and private collections. He was the lead attorney in Italy’s cases against The Getty Museum, Marion True, and other American museums for the return of looted antiquities. He now serves as an expert in international relations and recovery of works of art for the Italian Culture Ministry.

Dr. Ferri told the audience, in Italian and through the use of an English translator, that he was delighted to receive the ARCA award, his first major award recognizing his professional accomplishments.

Years ago, Ferri said, exporting of looted antiquities was a fiscal misdemeanor and assisted by the ease with which the items could be cleared through Switzerland. He credited the work of Peter Watson, the author of The Medici Conspiracy, for his investigation into Giacomo Medici that enabled the return of many objects. In addition, the subsequent media coverage increased awareness of the problem of selling cultural heritage.

Regarding resolution of these matters of allegations of stolen antiquities, Dr. Ferri would prefer an international court that would provide more uniform judgments. “This court could possibly be under the offices of UNESCO which recently started offices for mediation and restitution,” Dr. Ferri told the audience.

He proposes that arbitration would expedite these matters and that inexpensive working groups in each state could provide spontaneous information that could ease the return of cultural objects. “The Washington Agreement should help people who hold title in ‘good faith’ and return objects to the original state,” Dr. Ferri said. “The necessity of proof should come from the buyer of good faith.”

The object should be returned to the country of origin who claims it if there is any doubt, Dr. Ferri said. “Cooperation in marco-regions is of extreme importance,” he said.

July 24, 2011

Elena Franchi on “Under the Protection of the Holy See: The Florentine Works of Art and Their Moving to Alto Adige in 1944”

Elena Franchi
Update: This is post has been republished with corrections.

On July 9, at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference, Elena Franchi presented her latest research on the protection of art in Florence during the Second World War, "Under the protection of the Holy See": the Florentine works of art and their moving to Alto Adige in 1944."

Ms. Franchi is the author of two books on the protection Italian cultural heritage during the Second World War: I viaggi dell’Assunta: La protezione del patrimonio artistico veneziano durante i conflitti mondiali, and Arte in assetto di guerra: Protezione e distruzione del patrimonio artistico a Pisa durante la seconda guerra mondiale. She has also been involved in a project on the study of the “Kunstschutz” unit. In 2009 she was nominated for an Emmy Award – “Research” for the American documentary The Rape of Europa, 2006, on the spoils of works of art in Europe during the Second World War.

"In Italy, at the beginning of the war in 1940, the movable works of art were subdivided into three classes of importance and sent to castles and villas in the countryside to protect them from the only danger to be expected: the air raids," Ms. Franchi told the audience. "The most important Florentine works of art were gathered in three deposits: Villa reale in Poggio a Caiano sheltered masterpieces from the Uffizi Gallery and Palazzo Pitti; Villa reale della Petraia housed precious sculptures; and Palazzo Pretorio in Scarperia protected the main works of art coming from churches and private collections."

At the end of the first year of the war, Ms. Franchi said, Poggio a Caiano was filled up and other deposit sites needed to be set up to shelter the important works. By 1943, Florence's mobile patrimony resided protectively in more than 20 storage sites.

On July 10, 1943, the Allied Forces landed in Sicily in "Operation Husky", and launched the Italian Campaign. "A frenetic moving of works of art from one deposit to another suddenly started, under heavy bombardment, even though fuel and means of transportation were hard to find," Ms. Franchi said.

Fifteen days later, Benito Mussolini was dismissed and Marshal Pietro Badoglio was appointed to head the government in his place. After the Armistice declared on September 8th between Italy and the Allied armed forces, the situation of the deposits became increasingly risky, Ms. Franchi said. In those days two military units began to operate in Italy for the protection of cultural property: the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission (MFAA) by the Allied Commission for Italy and the German Kunstschutz. Frederick Hartt, responsible for the MFAA in Tuscany, declared at the end of the war: "Italian authorities had done almost everything possible to protect their country's treasure against bombardment."

According to Franchi, and contrary to what many believe, the Nazis did not always steal the art work around them. Franchi argued that in the case of Florence, the Kunstschutz unit, the German military unit created to protect cultural property, worked with Italians Carlo Anti, the General Arts Director in the Ministry of Education, and Carlo Alberti Biggini, the Minister of Education, to move as much as possible to the north of Italy (controlled by the Italian Social Republic with Mussolini and the German occupation).

In June 1944, Biggini ordered to move the main works of art of Florence and Siena to the north of Italy, far from the battle line. But the difficulties of his journey made it clear that it was impossible to carry such precious shipment to the north.

Despite this order, at the beginning of July, the German Army evacuated the precious works of art belonging to Florentine Galleries from the deposit of Montagnana, since the battle line was approaching. The German Army also evacuated the deposit of Oliveto, unbeknownst to the Kunstschutz, the Italian Ministry and the Superintendency.

Kunstschutz got on the trail of the missing works of art and removed the works of art from the deposit of Poggio a Caiano, that was under the protection of the Holy See.

At the end, the Florentine works of art removed by German Army and Kunstschutz were all moved to two deposits to Alto Adige, that were entrusted to the local Superintendent and to German Kunstschutz until the arrival of the Allies in 1945.

July 23, 2011

Annika Kuhn on “The Looting of Cultural Property: A View from Classical Antiquity”


Update: This post has been republished with corrections.

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Annika B. Kuhn, currently a Fellow of the Mercator Kolleg on International Affairs (German Academic Foundation / Federal Foreign Office), conducting research on the illicit trafficking and repatriation of antiquities, presented “The Looting of Cultural Property: A View from Classical Antiquity” at ARCA’s Third International Art Crime Conference in Amelia on July 9, 2011.

Dr. Kuhn, who holds a PhD in Ancient History from the University of Oxford, discussed how the destruction and pillage of cultural property in times of war and peace reach far back in history to the Greek and Roman periods. She selected several historical examples and examined the different forms of ancient responses to the loss of significant religious and cultural artifacts, which ranged from the diplomatic negotiation of returns, the repatriation of looted property as symbolic political acts, or the restoration of the religious and cultural order by the use of replicas.

Dr Kuhn referred to cases of plunder during the Persian Wars (e.g. Xerxes’ looting of the statue group of the Tyrannicides Harmodius and Aristogeiton after the sack of Athens in 480 BCE), the capture of war booty by Roman generals and soldiers, which was displayed in the triumphal parades at Rome, as well as excessive art thefts committed by provincial governors and emperors. Thus, the Sicilian governor C. Verres, one of the earliest art thieves, conducted “forced sales” in the province and used slaves to rob residences and temples in a systematic theft of art. Verres looted statues, furniture, vases, jewelry, carpets and paintings from sites throughout Sicily. The Julio-Claudian emperors Caligula (37-41 CE) and Nero (54-68 CE) were art thieves on the throne and plundered statues to decorate the rooms of their palaces. However, Greek and Roman contemporaries not only criticized the plunder of art, but actively tried to protect or recover commemorative artifacts, and there are already antecedents of the ‘codification’ of norms to respect the inviolability of religious and cultural sites and prohibit the illicit appropriation of art.

July 22, 2011

Laurie Rush on "Art Crime: Effects of a Global Issue at the Community Level"

by Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

At ARCA’s third annual international art crime conference in mid-July, Dr. Laurie Rush, the Booth Family Rome Prize Winner in Historic Preservation at the American Academy in Rome, presented on “Art Crime: Effects of a Global Issue at the Community Level.”

Dr. Rush’s lecture featured discussions of the role of military archaeologists in preventing the inadvertent damage and destruction of cultural heritage as well as limiting the illicit traffic in antiquities during the most recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt. For example, academic archaeologists in cooperation with military and NATO personnel were able to develop a 'no strike list' of 'at risk sites' in Libya within 36 hours after US participation was announced.

During the most recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt, Dr. Rush worked with the Legacy Resource Management Program to create decks of playing cards inspired by the US military’s tradition of using playing cards as educational tools. However, rather than depict images of the most-wanted Iraqis like a previous deck, the Heritage Resource Preservation playing cards depict the challenges of preserving heritage during military operations as well as provide useful archaeological site preservation advice.

According to Dr. Rush, the constant rotation of military officers and the flux in standard practices that it creates can make it difficult to effectively maintain efforts to protect cultural heritage sites and institutions during conflicts. During the US-led military invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Garrison Commander  at the military base in Talil developed a strategy to protect Ur, the biblical birthplace of Abraham, by incorporating it within the installation fences. While it was a simple risk mitigation strategy, it enabled the US to effectively secure the site and protect it from potential looting. In 2009, the US returned control of the ancient site, which had been preserved in pristine condition, to the Iraqi authorities.

Rush believes that the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, which has been sent into numerous conflict zones in order to train local leaders and military personnel in the protection of cultural sites and institutions, should serve as a model for other countries that seek to develop similar cultural heritage preservation efforts. Currently, while based in Rome, Rush is working closely with the Carabinieri and examining their best practices. In addition to working with the military to protect sites during conflict, Dr. Rush stressed the need to focus attention and resources on developing strategies to maintain cultural heritage sites in the immediate aftermath of conflicts. Managing sites as community assets and rebuilding tourist attractions are critical to attracting local and international investment and attention. Dr. Rush believes that such efforts can be spearheaded by partnerships between academic institutions and government organizations.

July 21, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins on Gustav Klimt's "The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer"

by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The luminous Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer now hangs in the Neue Galerie, on New York’s Fifth Avenue. How it got there is quite a story.

The dispute over this portrait, together with others owned originally by Ferdinand Bloch and his wife Adele Bloch-Bauer, and in keeping with many similar private law restitutionary struggles, was resolved only after a long, tortuous, expensive and emotionally draining process. It involved, over many decades, the Austrian national courts, the United States courts all the way to the United States’ Supreme Court, and finally an Arbitration Panel agreed to by both sides. Some 65 years passed between the unlawful passing of the painting to the Austrian National Gallery in 1941 and the return of the paintings to Maria Altmann in early 2006.

Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer was, before World War II, a wealthy Czech industrialist, and president of the Österreichische Zuckerindustrie AG, a major sugar company. He commissioned a portrait of his wife from Gustav Klimt, and after about a year’s work, the golden, shimmery portrait was delivered in 1907. Adele died in 1925, from meningitis, and in her will, “requested” Ferdinand to leave the Klimt paintings the couple owned to the Austrian National Gallery.

Ferdinand fled Austria in 1938, and the invading Nazis confiscated both his businesses and the Bloch-Bauer’s home, containing the portrait and the other Klimt paintings. They assessed spurious “taxes” as being owed, thus triggering liquidation of the assets. An attorney was appointed, and unlawfully he sold or swapped the paintings, with three, including the Portrait, ending up with the Austrian Gallery.

Ferdinand died in Switzerland in 1945, and, understandably, by his will he did not leave the Klimt portraits to the Gallery. Two nieces and a nephew, including Maria Altmann who by that time was living in the Los Angeles, were his heirs. His estate consisted mainly of claims to seized property.

The Case Summary prepared for the later Arbitral proceedings recorded:
In January 1948, the heirs’ attorney, Dr. Gustav Rinesch, attempted to recover some of the Klimt paintings from the Austrian Gallery. The Austrian Gallery responded by taking the position that the paintings were donated by Adele Bloch-Bauer in her will of 1923, which designated her husband as her universal heir and requested that he donate six Klimt paintings to the Austrian Gallery after his death.
However, according to the legal proceedings which followed Adele’s death in 1925, Ferdinand stated that the paintings were his, and not his wife’s, property and that he was not legally obligated to fulfill the wishes expressed in her will, although he allegedly promised to do so.

Despite efforts by and on behalf of the heirs over the years, the three paintings, by now held by the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, remained there through until the late 1990s, and as Simon Houpt notes,
“ ... became synonymous with Viennese culture and Austrian pride, especially Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, which has been reprinted endlessly on T-shirts, postcards, and dormitory room posters. It seemed fruitless to Maria Altmann [Ferdinand’s niece] and the other Bloch-Bauer heirs to put up a fight.”
But the legal landscape changed in 1998. The Austrian Parliament passed legislation,
“ ... requiring all federal museums to ensure their holdings were free of art illegally seized during the war.”
As a resident of California, and frustrated by procedural and technical delays and obstacles which had stalled her Austrian legal proceedings, Altmann sued in the US Courts, and ultimately, the Supreme Court held that she was not barred from suing the Austria by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the case did not proceed to trial in the US as in May 2005 the family and Austria agreed to arbitration in Austria.

Thus the case came to be decided before an Austrian arbitral tribunal, governed by Austrian law and procedure. The Tribunal concluded:
1. The Republic of Austria acquired ownership of the paintings by Gustav
Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, Apfelbaum,
Buchenwald/Birkenwald, and Häuser in Unterach am Attersee by virtue of
the settlement with the representative of the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer,
Dr. Gustav Rinesch, in 1948. 
2. The conditions of the Federal Act Regarding the Restitution of Artworks
from Austrian Federal Museums and Collections dated 4th December 1998,
... for the return of the five paintings indicated above without remuneration to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer are fulfilled.
The Tribunal accepted that Adele’s will, by which she left the paintings to her husband, with a wish that after his death, they be left to the Austrian nation, was a non-binding request :
“I ask my husband after his death to leave my two portraits and the four landscapes by Gustav Klimt to the Austrian State Gallery in Vienna and to leave the Vienna and Jungfer, Brezan library, which belongs to me, to the People’s and Workers’ Library of Vienna."
Therefore, Austria could not have acquired title to the paintings via her will. Title was not acquired through other available means, and given that the requirements of the Austrian statute were fulfilled, the paintings should be, and were, returned.

Although the ruling was initially greeted with some concern as to its narrowness of application, it was subsequently viewed:
“ ... as a pivotal Holocaust reparations case, ... Having litigated all the way to the Supreme Court prior to arbitration, Altmann established the United States civil litigation system as an acceptable platform for Nazi looted-art cases.”
Left, Neue Galerie director Renee Price.
 Seated, Maria Altmann,
Adele Bloch-Bauer's niece.
"These paintings stolen from Jewish homes are the last prisoners of World War II. I believe more art will be returned to its rightful owners," said art collector and Neue Galerie founder Ronald Lauder, who purchased "Adele Bloch-Bauer II" in June for the museum. 

Maria Altmann sold the Adele Bloch-Bauer I portrait in 2006 to the Neue Galerie Museum in New York, founded by Ronald Lauder and dedicated to German and Austrian Art, and which plays a prominent role in provenance research, including issues relating to “Jewish life and post-Nazi restitution issues.” The portrait is a centre piece of its collection.

The carefully worded provenance statement from the Museum’s website hints at the storied tragedies of the painting’s history:

“Provenance
Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, Vienna (Acquired from the artist).
Seized by the Viennese Magistrate (following the Nazi Anschluss, March 1938).
With Dr. Erich Führer, Vienna (the state-appointed administrator for Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer).
Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna.
Restituted to the heirs of Adele and Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer by the Republic of Austria. Neue Galerie New York.”
The Neue Gallery
The Gallery’s website is at: http://www.neuegalerie.org/

July 20, 2011

ARCA's 2011 IACC: Charlotte Woodhead on “Assessing the Moral Strength of Holocaust Art Restitution Claims”

By Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

At ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia on July 9, Charlotte Woodhead, Assistant Professor at the University of Warwick, shared her analysis of the numerous moral considerations of the United Kingdom’s Spoliation Advisory Panel, which hears claims relating to World War II thefts of cultural objects.

Founded only in the year 2000 and keeping in mind the time bars involved in civil suits, the panel assesses and resolves claims from people, or their heirs, who lost property during the Nazi era which is now held in UK national collections. Members of the panel, including lawyers, judges, professors, an art dealer and a baroness are appointed by the Secretary of State and consider both legal and non-legal obligations, such as the moral strength of the claimant’s case, and whether any moral obligation rests on the holding institution. In cases where the claimants received post-war compensation, the panel also considers any potential unjust enrichment were the object to be returned or a monetary reward offered. The public interest of a piece is also a factor in deciding whether to simply return the item or offer a reward.

The panel’s proceedings are an alternative to litigation, and its recommendations are not legally binding on any parties. However, if a claimant accepts the recommendation of the Panel, and the recommendation is implemented, the claimant is expected to accept this as full and final settlement of the claim.

Woodhead also discussed the difference between UK claim resolution and those of the Restitution Committee of the Netherlands. The British panel seeks restitution for art lost or stolen during the Nazi era (1933-1945) whereas the Dutch committee focuses on art lost in direct relation to the Nazi regime. Regardless of their differences, Woodhead stressed the importance of the existence of these panels saying “Nazi stolen art is different from stolen art as there is a wider cultural goal to right the wrongs of the past.”

July 19, 2011

Maria Elena Versari on “Iconoclasm by (Legal) Proxy: Restoration, Legislation and the Ideological Decay of Fascist Ruins”

Update: This post has been republished with corrections.

By Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Maria Elena Versari, the Assistant Professor of Modern European Art and Architecture at the University of North Florida, spoke about the perception of and reaction against  Fascist architecture in Italy. Her presentation, titled “Iconoclasm by (Legal) Proxy: Restoration, Legislation and the Ideological Decay of Fascist Ruins,” examined the conflicting modern views of Fascist architecture and, particularly, what to do with what remains of it. The debate that Versari highlighted centers on those historians who wise to preserve the architecture of the past for its part in history, and those who wish to wipe away the memories of Fascism and its place in Italian history.

Versari’s main focus concerned iconoclastic acts towards remaining Fascist architecture: both destructive and in terms of conservation. In specific reference to the Mancino Law of 1993—which punishes acts that incite violence—she referred to people who had been prosecuted for publicly endorsing Fascist symbols. In addition, Versari referenced the application of Hans Belting’s division of symbols and how that can apply to the iconoclastic actions against Fascist art and architecture—an attempt to destroy the collective mental symbol by destroying the physical symbol. However, as Versari pointed out, Mussolini  appropriated past symbols and images, using them for his own purposes and changing their meaning—making the selective destruction of Fascist iconology within the Italian public space a particularly compelling enterprise.

Versari focused on the other form of iconoclasm found in the action or inaction of conservation on the part of governmental bodies. She specifically pinpointed the legal complexities that led to the inaction on the part of several offices to allocate the funds to properly preserve architecture built during the Fascist period, allowing these buildings to decay and crumble rather than preserving them for their historical purposes. Versai concluded by comparing recent practices of local administrations in dealing with Fascist art and architecture. While some will give money to alter or ‘cover up’ the symbols of Fascism in certain architecture—whitewashing plaques and the like, others, as in the case of Forlì, are pursuing a more subtle critical practice, suggesting the visual historicization of Fascist remains and of their subsequent iconoclastic history.

After graduating with her PhD from Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Versari has taught in both Italy and the United States and published many scholarly works, including Constantin Brancusi (Florence: Scala Group/Rome: L’Espresso, 2005) and Wassily Kandinsky e l’astrattismo (Florence: Scala Group, 2007). In addition to teaching, she is currently a member of the Advisory Board for the online journal Art in Translation.

July 18, 2011

Duncan Chappell on “Forgery of Australian Aboriginal Art”

Duncan Chappell
by Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

Professor Duncan Chappell, Chair of the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security International Advisory Board and an Adjunct Professor at the Sydney Law School at the University of Sydney, discussed the moral and monetary corruption of contemporary forgeries in his presentation, "Forgery of Australian Aboriginal Art", at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Italy.

Aboriginal Australians make up only 2% of the nation’s population. Their art is of extremely spiritual nature and works consist mostly of desert sand, rocks, and homemade pigments -- things from the earth. The value of Aboriginal art has soared in recent years with one work selling for a record $2.4 million at auction. The market itself grosses nearly $100-$500 million annually, which makes it a major source of income for many Aboriginal communities and individuals. Because of the swelling demand for Aboriginal art on the market, more and more pieces are being forged and slipped into auction sales. Aboriginal forgeries are mores upsetting than traditional forged works because they undermine the integrity of Aboriginal art, its meaning, and even the original painter’s spirituality.

In one case, a married couple was tried and convicted of selling nearly $300,000 worth of fake Rover Thomas paintings through Australian auction houses. When initially arrested, police seized not only numerous Thomas catalogues, but two unfinished forged canvases. In other cases, criminals forged prints to provenance to entire exhibitions and unfortunately, often suffered minimal consequences.

Authorities have run into issues in trying to protect the cultural heritage of Aboriginal art. Sometimes artists sign blank canvases before beginning work on them or family members aided in the production of thee work; therefore, issues of provenance and authorship becomes more complicated.

The aforementioned examples as well a number of civil suits underscore the need for due diligence of galleries and auction houses not only to defend their reputation but the integrity of the Aboriginal artists and their legacies.

July 17, 2011

Saskia Hufnagel on “Harmonising Police Cooperation in the Field of Art Crime in Australia and the European Union”

Saskia Hufnagel in Amelia, Italy
by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Intern

Dr. Saskia Hufnagel, a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS) at Griffith University in Queensland, presented “Harmonizing Police Cooperation in the Field of Art Crime in Australia and the European Union,” at ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia.

Her research project was originally meant to focus on the collaborative effort of Australia and the European Union, but became a project centered more on the need for cooperation in both systems. As Dr. Hufnagel said, she was doing “the dance of presenting a research project that doesn’t exist.” Her project, therefore, became more focused on the comparison between Australia and the European Union concerning perception, priority, policing, and reactions towards art crime.

Dr. Hufnagel demonstrated in her presentation that Australia, in general, does not put a policing priority towards art crime, because of the perception that art crime is a financial matter compensated by the insurance companies.

“Generally there is a lack of recognition which leads to a lack of resources,” Dr. Hufnagel said.

Australia’s nine territories therefore do not allocate funds towards investigation and prevention of these crimes, Dr. Hufnagel said. Accordingly, they also do not feel the need to enhance cooperation amongst the states and territories to combat the problem. It is difficult to generate support for the problem because in Hufnagel’s words, “we don’t know how much art crime is going on in Australia” due to the fact that most crimes are not reported.

Dr. Hufnagel stated that there is not a strong focus on art crime research in Australia and that the last funded research related to art crime from a practical policing perspective was conducted in 1999 by a single individual, who was not granted sufficient resources to finalize his research, which undermined the effectiveness of his conclusions. Art crime is a very sensitive issue and cooperation is not only necessary between different law enforcement agencies, Dr. Hufnagel said, but also between the museums and galleries and police, which is probably even more difficult.  Police cooperation between Australia and neighboring countries concerning drug smuggling is relatively high, but unfortunately, when it reaches the bounds of art crime, the differences in culture seem to impede effective cooperation. Dr. Hufnagel compared this to the European Union, which has divisions of laws to each of the countries that do not aid fellow countries in the fight against art crime.

Speaking passionately about the need for appreciation of art crime, Dr. Hufnagel said, “Art is really important to our lives because our lives are so limited…art allows you experience a vast range of emotions, cultures and situations you could never perceive otherwise.” She intends to continue her research into art crime and to raise the field’s status in the realm of police enforcement with the hope that something will be done to further cooperation and collaboration in Australia and the European Union.

July 16, 2011

Ludo Block on "European Police Cooperation on Art Crime"

by Mark Durney, founder of Art Theft Central

Ludo Block, a former Dutch police officer and current investigator at Grant Thornton, recently submitted his doctoral dissertation on the topic of police cooperation in the European Union. While his dissertation focuses on EU policy-making in relation to police cooperation, Mr. Block focused his panel lecture at ARCA’s third annual International Art Crime Conference on transnational police cooperation in crimes against art.

Unfortunately, art crime is often overlooked by law enforcement due to the lack of political priority. Whereas most members of the European Union do not maintain law enforcement units to investigate art crimes, a few countries such as France, Spain, Greece, and most especially Italy, maintain special units to curb the problem. Italy has organized its data management capabilities, its art crime experts, and investigative capacity under the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale with over 300 staff. Furthermore, it has trained officers at the local level in order to enable them to effectively investigate crimes against art. Also, the Carabinieri play a major role in the annual art crime courses offered to senior law enforcement by CEPOL, the European Police College.  Some other EU Member States maintain centralized units but these are usually staffed with only a handful of experts.  In mother Member States, data management on art crimes is insufficiently organized and as a result, reliable statistics on the scope of art crime are hardly available.

Throughout his research, which featured interviews as well as extensive research, Mr. Block found that the countries that placed art crime high on their policing agendas largely drove the European Union’s cultural heritage protection policy. In spite of various attempts since 1993, only recently in 2008 the  European Union passed new policy aimed at increasing police cooperation; however, as yet it did little to enhance the cooperation between the member countries. Mr. Block stated that in practice law enforcement efforts in a majority of the member countries rely on the personal dedication of a handful of specialized art crime investigators. In cases that involve transnational crimes, most investigators take advantage of their informal relationships with other investigators in order to pursue crimes that extend beyond their borders.

The European Union is in the process of developing an art crime database for its member countries.  In 2008, Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, declined to participate in the project but Interpol, which has a long history of supporting the fight against art crime, quickly agreed to  convert their database to the EU member states' needs. According to Mr. Block, combatting art crime starts with proper data management on the local level where art crimes are usually first registered.

July 15, 2011

Arthur Tompkins on “Paying a Ransom: The Theft of 96 Rare Medals and the Reward Payments”

by Molly Cotter, ARCA Intern

Judge Arthur Tompkins opened the 3rd annual ARCA International Art Crime Conference with an engaging discussion on the positive and negative aspects of paying ransoms or rewards in order to recover stolen art. He utilized the 2007 theft of 96 rare medals from New Zealand’s National Army Museum, valued at NZ$5-$6 million, as a case study to examine the arguments in support of and against ransom payments. He first noted that readily paying a thief’s ransom may seem to be ideal solution. The art is returned quickly; it limits the potential for the work to be damaged; bad publicity for the institution is avoided; and the necessity of having to make, or pay out on, an insurance claim is prevented. In the New Zealand museum’s case, a substantial private reward was posted for information pertaining to the theft and the medals were returned within a few months.

Judge Arthur Tompkins
Amelia, Italy
Though this seems like a storybook ending, the arguments against ransom payments suggest that this behavior not only encourages, but endorses future crimes. If a ransom is paid or a reward given, the chance of a repeat offense is much greater. Also, it perpetuates the gentleman art thief myth, and reduces the level of moral turpitude attributable to the crime. Simply put by Judge Tompkins: “The thief is happy, the owner is happy, the police are happy, and some wealthy insurance company has paid, but will get its money back from its customers, so everyone wins.” The payer also becomes complicit in the crime, and the transparency of the transaction can be lessened.

Judge Tompkins also discussed the legal responses around the world to such crimes. In the most extreme examples such as in Italy and Colombia, ransom payments are illegal. Other countries only find it unlawful to offer a “no questions asked” reward; however, penalties for violating this often involve only a minimal fine.

A contemporary case-study of how ransom payments endorse crime is the activities of pirates off the coast of Somalia. As of mid December 2010, Somalia pirates were holding at least 35 ships, more than 650 hostages, and had earned nearly US$240 million through ransoms. Their system has become so sophisticated that there is even a piracy stock exchange, Judge Tompkins told the audience.

A systemized ransom/reward structure does encourage and sustain illegal activity, and the direct costs of recovering stolen art have a detrimental effect on collections and access to art, according to Judge Tompkins.  However, he noted, “Legal prohibitions of activities where there is a potential for profit involved, simply do not work,” and suggested that in an ideal world, a victimized individual or institution would pay the money, get the artwork returned, find and prosecute the thieves, and then recover the ransom payment.

July 14, 2011

ARCA's 2011 International Art Crime Conference: Mayor Riccardo Maraga Welcomed the Participants to Amelia

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor-in-chief

Mayor Riccardo Maraga welcomed participants of ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference to the Palazzo Boccarini in Amelia last Saturday, July 9.

When citizens of the 3,000 year old Umbrian town elected Maraga from the Democratic Party in May 2011, they voted in one of the youngest mayors in Italy.

A native of Amelia, Riccardo Maraga graduated in Law from the University of Perugia with a thesis on "Labor and the Constitution". Last October, he earned his doctorate in Economic Law.

Readers may find out more about the Mayor of Amelia and his projects through his website here and on his Facebook page where he announced on Tuesday that he has been selected as one of 40 Young European Leaders for a meeting in December to be held in Paris.

July 13, 2011

Report of the UNESCO meeting commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention

UNESCO recently posted pictures and a report of the commemoration meeting held in March 2011 of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention. You may find it here.

July 12, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins on The Codex Aureus of Lorsch and the De Arte Venandi in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Part III)

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Lecturer and blog contributor

It turned out to be a much smaller, slimmer volume that the Codex Aureus. But it too is missing the coat of arms and the inscription! Instead, there appears on the opening leaf the commonly encountered oval and/or circular "Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana" stamps, and the handwritten pencil inscription “Facs Bav Pal. Lat. 1071 [1969.2] Concs."

This version is a copy of the original manuscript by Frederick II, which was lost in 1248 during a siege of Parma. Copies of the original exist in two-volume and six-volume versions – the Vatican’s copy is in the former category.

The facsimiles of the opening leaves show clearly been reasonable extensive damage around the edges. All the pages are written in dense, small, text, in two columns ending about two thirds down each page, and each block of text on each page is surrounded by a profusion of pictures of birds of all kinds, flying, walking, wading, and occasionally swimming. Every now and then a human falconer or a hunter appears, but infrequently in the first section of the volume. A few of the illustrations of birds have handwritten labels appended to them (by son Manfred?). There are is one picture of two dogs, which look like greyhounds, savaging a fallen deer .

Towards the back of the volume, more numerous falconers appear, one with a startlingly red hat on, and others with similarly coloured red tunics, showing the correct way to carry birds, to hold them in preparation for flight, to secure them to their perches or on transportable field stands.

In one memorable picture, a falconer is shown having discarded his clothes in a heap, and is taking a naked dip in a pond (retaining his hat, presumably for modesty’s sake) as he is watched by two bemused ducks.

There are a few uncoloured line drawings, some showing how to bath a falcon in a small basin.

The back inside cover of the volume bears the printed inscription (in German as well as English):

First edition 1000 copies.
Binding: Graphic K.G. – Graz – Printed n Austria
Text and plates: Akademische Druck – u. Verlagsanstalt – Graz
And on a separate sticker at the top of the inside cover, the information:
Facs.Bav. Pal.lat1071[1969:1-2]. Cons. (1969:2)
Friedrich II imperatore del Sacro romano impero e re di Sicilia, 1194-1250
De arte venandi cum avibus, ms, pal, lat 1071
Bibkioteca apostolica vaticana.
Pubblicazione: 1969
After completing my inspection of my second volume, but before I returned it and perforce ended my visit, I went on a slightly nervous wander. I was interested to see if anyone would accost me, arrest me, and forcibly remove me from the premises and the City State. It turns out that I had been working in one of two connected rooms, labelled Sala Manoscritti 1 and 2, and I was able, without being apprehended or stopped, to walk elsewhere in the complex of interlinked reading rooms. The Manuscripts Reading Room was by far the most fully occupied. For most of the time I was there, there were only a handful of spare seats.

Next to this, is a Room referred to in the Rules as the Inventory room. The Rules told me that it was forbidden to take manuscripts out of my room into this adjacent, much less stylish and indeed almost blandly functional, and in it the tables were mostly unoccupied.

The Sale Leonine
Adjacent to these two rooms, and connected to it by the entrance foyer containing a large rococo gilded table with a marble top, was a far longer and grander reading room, about three or four times the length of the one I had been in, containing many more multiple-seat reading tables, with around its walls tall shelves of printed books and, in a neighbouring narrow area running the length of the main room, banks of card catalogues. This room overlooked the Cortile de Belvedere, through which I had walked to gain my initial entry. This room is called the Sale Leonine, and features a significantly frescoed ceiling, with many Popes’ names featuring.

During my walks, executed with pencil in hand, and with a studious expression on my face, I spotted on a wall a floor plan which revealed that manuscripts with the shelf mark "Palatinato" (referring to the books taken from the Bibliotheca Palatina) were only available in the main Manuscript Reading Room, on request. The same floor plan also revealed that, down some stairs and off somewhere else there existed a space invitingly labelled with the word, “Bar”. More of that in a moment. But, also on the same floor plan, there appears, in the bottom right corner in an otherwise blank area, the words "Archivo Segreto” – much like old maps used to have the words, “There be dragons…”. Equally if not more inviting, but my Rules told me that “in order to access the Secret Archives from the Library, or visa versa, the main entrance of each of the two Institutions must be used.” So I guess that I best not try to go there ….

And indeed it turns out that the Vatican Library has a Bar. Who would have thought? After checking with the same helpful librarian who had, upon my arrival steered me safely in the direction of the Manuscript Reading Room, that I would not set off any alarms or be locked forever on the outside, I discovered that one exits into a large internal Courtyard (Cortile della Biblioteca), crosses this, (in the by no fiercely hot sun), and ascends a narrow, almost hidden staircase, into a small room which seems to have been created out of a ruined apse of a Romanesque church, with the ruined walls and partially broken semi-circular apse, with rough niches, still very much in evidence. Opposite the broken apse was a small counter, an automated coffee machine, and a couple of hot plates for heating pre-prepared paninis. Here, I had my lunch – a tepid coffee served in a flimsy plastic cup, and a dry, reheated ham and cheese Panini. But hey, it was my Vatican Library lunch …!

And so my visit to the Vatican library drew to a close. I returned my second volume, gathered my belongings and, reversing the process I had followed upon arrival and with a backward glance of regret and longing, I quit the Vatican Library. Happily, I get to keep my magnetised swipe card.

A most memorable occasion in pretty much every respect. Perhaps on a return visit I will get to see the original manuscripts, presumably under even stricter supervision, and solve the mystery of the missing coat of arms and inscription.

July 11, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins on The Codex Aureus of Lorsch and the De Arte Venandi in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Part II)

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Instructor and blog contributor

The Manuscripts Reading Room
The Vatican Library’s main Manuscripts Reading Room is a light and airy room about 8 metres wide, by about 22 metres long, with beige coloured, plastered walls, a high, vaulted ceiling complete with frescoed oval medallion in its centre, three large windows set into slightly recessed arches on one wall, (looking out
onto a grassed garden area, the Cortile della Bibliotheca), and four more or less corresponding niches on the opposite wall. One of the niches has a bust of Father Ehrle, who seemingly lived from 1845 – 1934 (a past and revered Librarian, perhaps?), and three full-length, female statues. Opposite the entrance door, at one end, is a high desk running most of the width of the room, in front of two large wooden cabinets fitted with interior metal shelves, for returned volumes. Librarians hover, ready to assist, in hushed tones.

On the wall above the entrance door hang portraits of Cardinal Scipionne Cobelluzzi (1618-1626) and Francesco Barberini (1626-1633). Above the main desk there is a bronze bust of “PIO XI PONT MAX”, surmounted by a large crucifix with Christ that looks somewhat similar to the one that hangs in Santa Maria Della Croce in Florence. Above a desk to the left of the entrance door, which remained unoccupied during my stay, hangs a large portrait of an unnamed, seated cardinal.

The Reading Room’s procedure requires initial registration at the desk, which electronically reveals the number of the locker you have been allocated downstairs. Readers are required to write (in pencil, of course, and in block capital letters only) their surname next to the locker number on a pre-printed sheet, and then also to enter the number of the seat they have chosen for the day – in my case #52, at the back right corner of the room, so as to afford me the good view of my fellow readers. An informal head count reveals that the room can accommodate 57 readers – 30 seated at tables of three each, on the right side, and 27 at nine corresponding tables on the left, below the windows.

Each reading space is equipped with a small lectern-like stand for the manuscript being study, with elongated wooden pegs to hold the pages of the manuscript open, and a printed card reminding one, in case you have forgotten, that, among other prohibitions, it is forbidden to use an ink pen of any type, and that only an erasable lead pencil or a personal computer may be used.

I was told that both my requested manuscripts were available to me only in facsimile (I knew that from an earlier email from Dr. Ciminella) but one, it seems was not within easy reach. So I first received the facsimile of the Codex Aureus. A facsimile of the Codex, incidentally, was given by Pope Benedict to Queen Elizabeth of England on 16 September 2010 (although the facsimile he gifted was of the whole work, and included copies of the famous front and back covers, torn off in Heidelberg and still separated from the body of the manuscript), in return for which the Queen gave His Holiness a series of Hans Holbein prints from her collection.

Surprisingly, the facsimile is incomplete. In particular, it omits from the front leaf of the volume is the Coat of Arms of the Bavarian House of Wittelbach, and the Latin inscription:
"Sum de bibliotheca quam Heidelberga capta Spolium fecit et papae GREGORIO XV trophaeum misit Maximiliianus utriusque bauariae Dux &c S
R I Achidapifer et Princeps Elector."
Which translates, more or less, to:

"I am from the Library which, after the capture of Heidelberg, Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria … took as spoil and sent as a trophy to Pope Gregory XV."

The Wittelbach coat of arms, and the inscription, were precisely what I had come to see. Perhaps, in preparing the facsimile, a choice had been made not to include a record, plain to anyone with eyes to see and read, of the taking of the Codex by the army of the Catholic League following the fall of Heidelberg in 1621, during the opening years of the Thirty Years’ War?

Another, less sinister, explanation is perhaps that, given that the original codex was torn in two, and its front and back covers removed, in Heidelberg (for ease of transportation) then the coat of arms and inscription might appear in the missing bits. But that is unlikely, as the desecrating of the manuscript happened, as I understand it, in Heidelberg prior to transportation over the Alps to the Vatican, so that the inscriptions, which were most likely inserted into all the Palatinato volumes, happened after their arrival in Rome.

So where are they? And was there anything else to see which might assist?

Instead of the Coat of Arms and the inscription, the front leaves of the volume are suspiciously blank, except for the pencilled notation “Facs. Bav Pal. Lat 50 [2000] [1B) Cms.” Following these blank opening pages, the first page is resplendent with gloriously golden text, set out in two columns on each page, and bordered with both a plain outer gold border and a broader (about 1cm wide) inner coloured border, which varies in colour and patterning from page to page.

Several pages in, there appears a comparative table, with four decorated columns headed MATTHEVS, MARCUS, LUCAS, and JOHANNIS - which are a bit of a giveaway, although the following pages sometimes omit one or other of the names. Then there begins what the gospel of Matthew – given both that the figure depicted in glorious colour on the opening page is strikingly similar to the three St. Matthew Caravaggios I saw a few days ago in. And then there is the word MATHEUM appearing at the top of the following pages, which fairly compelling, I think. The Christ in Majesty illumination appears a dozen or so leaves after that.

The next major illumination is of an apostle surmounted by a horned bull, so I am guessing this is Luke (again, assisted in my scholarly deductive reasoning by the word LUCAM that appears every regularly at the top of the following pages…).

Further on through the volume is an apostle pictured with a large bird above him, and given the helpful word JOHANNON in the now familiar position on the following pages, this is John.

The last 16 pages of the volume, after a page which ends with the words "Explicit Evangelium Secondum Jonhannem", are still in gold lettering, but now in lowercase, rather than capitals, with interspersed red sub headings, red capital letters at the beginning of most paragraphs, and no borders. I have no idea what they are. I am sure others know full well.

The last page is a half page of modern printed German text, very obviously not written in the 8th century, and containing at its base the notation: ISBN 3-85672-066-9.

Thus ends my examination of the Codes Aureus of Lorsch. Returning it to the care of the librarian, I went now in search of the De Arte Venandi…

Judge Tompkin's adventures in the Vatican Library to be continued tomorrow.

July 9, 2011

Judge Arthur Tompkins on The Codex Aureus of Lorsch and the De Arte Venandi in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Part I)

The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library
by Judge Arthur Tompkins

The Pope's personal library - Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana – was founded, in accordance with the direction of Pope Nicholas V, by Pope Sixtus IV in 1475. For the first little while (a few centuries) it was accessible only to His Holiness, and "eminent scholars". But in 1883 it was opened to all "qualified readers", by Pope Leo XIII, who made the admissions process less taxing, and also opened the Secret Archives to appropriately qualified readers.


The Library is not formally part of the Church, but stands alongside the Roman Curia, and "provides useful and necessary services to the Supreme Pontiff, to the Curia and to the Universal Church, in association with the Holy See." It is the personal and inalienable property of the Pontiff and, as such, it is not a public institution.

Admission is by advance approval only (unless, presumably, you are the Pope), and is available to "qualified researchers and scholars, and learned persons known for their writing and scholarly publications”, who must provide a letter of introduction from their home institution, certified proof of their home address, and a formal identification document (e.g. passport).

All of this is by way of preamble, to explain why, at 8.30am on a very sunny Thursday in early July, I was having coffee and breakfast in a small cafe close by Ponte d'Angelo, resplendent in the early morning sun with Bernini's towering sculptures standing resolute under the stern gaze of the hulking pile that is Castel Sant’Angelo. I was waiting until the Library's admissions office opened, and I havd my documents ready to flourish at (I was secretly hoping) a resplendently uniformed Swiss Guard, thus to gain admission to the Vatican City through Porta Santa Anna, and from there on into the Library.

I had come to inspect two manuscripts, both originally part of the Bibliotheca Palatina, the Library of the Princes of the Palatine founded in the 1430s by the Elector Louis III, both of which had been taken from Heidelberg after the city fell to the army of the Catholic League in 1622, (along with much else from the library), transported across the Alps and given as a gift to the Pope by the Maximilian of Bavaria. In particular, I wanted to see, on the frontispiece of each volume, the Wittelsbach Coat of Arms, and an inscription recording the making of the “gift”.

Having finished breakfast, I crossed the Tiber in the shadow of Castel Sant Angelo, and walked up Mussolini’s ill-fitting Via della Conciliazone into St. Peter’s Square. The queues to enter the basilica were already slow moving, and lengthening., just through Bernini’s colonnade and to the right.

Cortile del Belvedere
Inside Porta Santa Anna, on Via di Porta Angelica, the gate a young Swiss guard in (sadly) a plain blue-uniformed was politely but firmly turning away an enquiring family, but then, when I flourished a printout of the email I had received a few months earlier from the Library’s Admissions Director, Dr. Giuseppe Ciminello (who I was later to meet in person), and asked in my best Latin, “Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticano?”, he politely directed me to a small, glass-sided office. My passport was photocopied and retained, and I received back the photocopied page and a ”Visitatore Biblioteca No. 153” lapel badge. I was directed onwards into the heart of the Vatican, through a distant archway and into the Cortile del Belvedere.

At the end of the courtyard, to the right, were two doors, and upon entering the grander of the two a porter talking on a telephone waved me along a short corridor to the "Segretaria" office. There was a little waiting area, with six straight backed chairs, outside a firmly closed door, and a marble plaque detailing, in Italian and in English, crucial dates in the history of the Library on the wall. The recorded timeline ranged from the first mention of the Library, in a written document in 1451 by Nicholas V, though various relocations, reorganizations, relocations, building projects, and the like, down to 20 September 2010, when the Library reopened after “an extraordinary closure” lasting fully three years.

The plaque included reference to the recent provision of “new technologies, new elevators, and a remodelled entrance hall” - presumably the one through which I had just passed. Sadly, I thought, the remodelling had not extended to “New and helpful instructions posted in numerous strategic locations”, as I had time enough to read the marble plaque from top to bottom, thoroughly and twice, given that there was nothing else to do but sit and wait and wonder what was going to happen next. I was, perhaps fortunate, that I had, quite by accident, chosen a seat with a view of the marble plaque on the opposite wall – my companions, who arrived in dribs and drabs as I sat and read, and were seated opposite, were not nearly so lucky. They had to make do with staring at a blank wall.

There was no indication as to how long I, and the four others who had silently joined me as I sat there, were expected to wait. Eventually, however, after about a ten minute wait, a bespectacled gentleman (who turned out to be my email correspondent Dr Ciminello) opened the door a little, and beckoned to the applicant to my left (who, to be fair, had been sitting there quietly and patiently, when I had arrived, so was in front of me in our little queue) into the inner sanctum. About 10 minutes later she emerged, and it was my turn.

Dr Ciminello spoke good English, which was a relief to me as my Italian is rudimentary at best. My letter of introduction was scrutinized, and I completed a form with the required details on it, supplemented immediately thereafter by the taking of a digital photograph, and was given a photo ID card complete with magnetic strip.

I had earlier provided the call numbers of the two manuscripts I had come to consult - Pal. Lat. 50, for the Codex Aureus of Lorsch, created around the end of the 8th century at Lorsch Abbey in Germany, and written almost entirely in gold lettering, and with numerous full page illuminations including a famous one of Christ in Majesty; and MS Pal. Lat. 1071, for "De Arte Venandi Cum Avibus", literally “The Hunting of Birds”, a Latin treatise on ornithology and falconry written in the mid thirteenth century by Emperor Frederick II, and dedicated to his son Manfred, in two volumes and containing handwritten annotations by Manfred.
Christ in Majesty, from
 the Codex Aureus of Lorsch

Both of these volumes with others, had originally, in 1622, been in the Library of the Palatinate located in the University Cathedral in Heidelberg, and both were looted following the taking of the city by the army of the Catholic League, led by the Emperor Maximilian, carried over the Alps aboard a 200 strong mule convoy, led by one Leo Allitius, a Greek-born scholar sent expressly for the purpose by the Pope.

I received a somewhat hurried and complex set of verbal instructions, which had me lost after the first couple of sentences, as to the procedure now to be followed. I left the Segretaria, and the next applicant was admitted and the door closed behind them.

I had understood enough to know that the next step in the process was a visit to the locker room. The online instructions I had read, (and which had also been given to me in the Segretaria, in printed form) directed me that in no circumstances were pens, ink, scissors, knives, razor blades, food, drink (although the rules did refer, somewhat cryptically, to a Library’s Bar) or anything of a like kind were to be taken into the reading Rooms, and no photographs, reproductions, film or sound recordings of any kind were to be made. I found the locker room, but then struggled unsuccessfully with the electronically secured lockers, there being no instructions posted, until another reader, obviously a veteran of the process, took mercy on me and told me that I had first to go and register my swipe card back with the porter talking on the telephone by the front door. When I retraced my steps to the front door, he was indeed still talking on his phone, and but duly waved a scanner handset at my card. I then returned and place the card on a small, relatively inconspicuous magnetic reader box on the wall of the locker room, at which point my allocated locker, number 41, obediently opened.

I deposited my belongings, and clutching my laptop (without case, as per the instructions), pencils, a sharpener and eraser, and some paper, I went in search of the lift that I had understood would take to the Manuscript Reading Room.

There was, again, no apparent sign to guide me, so after wandering a little in some confusion I returned to Monsieur la Telephonique by the front door, who, thankfully, was now between calls. He pointed down a corridor across the entrance lobby, flanked by two curving staircases, and my by now trusty swipe card duly opened the glass barrier midway down this corridor. After passing several glass display cases, I entered the lift and ascending to the Third floor. I took an initial wrong turning, into the Printed Books Room, at first, but a stern-looking but friendly and quietly spoken librarian redirected me into the Manuscripts Room.

My copy of the Rules had informed me that “The Reading Rooms are equipped with surveillance cameras and with tracking devices which will identify any irregular passage (e.g. into the stacks) by readers, as well as volumes which are moved from one reading room to another or illegally removed from the Library.” I had been warned.

This adventure will be continued tomorrow.