November 30, 2011

RAND Europe: "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective"

RAND Europe has publicly published online, "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective", a report by by Siobhán Ní Chonaill, Anaïs Reding, and Lorenzo Valeri:
"The aim of this research is to explore new ways of curtailing the illegal trade in cultural property. Despite a range of legislative and policy interventions, the trade in illicit art and antiquities continues to flourish, resulting in damage to the arts, scholarship and heritage. Through an exploration of existing intervention tools, two case studies and a set of key informant interviews, this study demonstrates the existing difficulties in curtailing the market in cultural property and explores the potential for new policy interventions. More specifically, we map the supply chain for the illegal trade in cultural property and explore the failures of current policy interventions through two case studies, the Medici trading cartel and the Beit collection robberies. On this basis, we prioritise policy interventions to contain the illegal trade in cultural property according to the applicable stage of the supply chain phase (supply, transfer or demand) and the associated priority level (low, medium or high)." 
Readers may access this report here.  RAND Europe is an independent not-for-profit policy research organisation.

The authors propose that in addition to coordinating policing internationally and improving security at cultural institutions that meet the seriousness of the current problem, that a central database is essential.  They write:
"In order to prevent situations whereby individuals or galleries purchase stolen art in good faith, there is a need for a legal mandate that for all prospective buyers to consult a central registry of stolen art.  Although a number of different databases of stolen art are in existence, there is no one central registry used by all parties in the legal art trade.  By ensuring greater diligence in the maintenance and use of a central international database, the number of good faith purchases of stolen art could be reduced.  This would have the additional effect of making it more difficult for illegal traders to sell stolen works of art, making the enterprise less attractive overall."
At the UNESCO meeting commemorating the 1970 Convention in Paris last March, conference delegates also said that a central database was important.  How and who's going to be in charge and finance it seems to be the question.  The Art Loss Register offered its services, but not everyone seemed comfortable with a private company providing a database. 

November 28, 2011

Post from Norway: Unknown Rubens work hung on the wall for 80 years at National Museum

Photo from National Museum
By Therese Veier, ARCA Blog Norwegian Correspondent

It has just been discovered that a very valuable work,  by the world renowned Dutch artist Rubens has been exhibited in Oslo’s National Museum and been part of their collection for 80 years – without them knowing about it. [This text is based solely on information from two articles; one in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten 19.11.2011 which unfortunately is not available on the paper's webpages yet; the other from the National televisions webpages http://www.nrk.no/kultur-og-underholdning/1.7879816.]

'This is not something that we discover every day. It is remarkable. I’m very surprised,' said Nico van Hout, a Belgian curator and Rubens expert. He had come to Norway to determine if the painted sketch was what the museum suspected: a genuine Rubens.

Until recently, the painting had been exhibited with a plaque that said “unknown Flemish artist”. It has now been attributed to the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens, one of the leading Flemish Baroque painters who mainly worked in the city of Antwerp.

The museum first came in contact with Nico van Hout when he visited the National Museum in conjunction with the museums Rubens exhibition during spring 2011. He immediately noticed the oil sketch, and told the museum that he thought it was very special. After his visit, van Hout and the museum kept in touch, and continued their discussions about the work and it’s provenance. He suspected that the work might be a genuine Rubens. This week van Hout was invited back to Oslo. He has been able to establish a final attribution, and has now confirmed that the work is a very good sketch by Rubens. In addition, the National Museum’s Rubens work has connections to a very important painting, "The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus" (1617/18) at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, according to van Hout.

'This is a great discovery, which should be internationally known because of the importance of the work,' says van Hout, and points out that the painting is a great Rubens work. 'This is a masterpiece by Rubens. It is an important work from around 1615. One of the reasons the international art world and scholars did not know about this work is because so far it has not been registered in the artist’s catalogue raisonne.'

Peter Paul Rubens's works are known for nudity, sensuality, vitality, color and speed. The National Gallery's new discovery is a good example of his work. 'This is a magnificent sketch, which really shows the life force, brushwork and speed scholars commonly associate with Rubens,' says Nico van Hout.

The scholar was asked, 'How surprised where you when you found an undiscovered Ruben’s work in Oslo?'

'I was very surprised. The National Museum is known for its great collections, but the museum does not attract the number of visitors it deserves internationally. The museum deserves greater international and national reputation.'

Nils Ohlsen, director of the department for historic and modern art at The National Museum, believes that this discovery shows how important it is to have international contacts in the art world. 'This is a joyful day for us. It proves that we have a pretty good collection also when it comes to older art.  It is important to establish personal contact with other gallery owners because they might know more than us.'

Of course the art work will have a considerable increase in its value by this new authentication. Even though prices at auction houses vary, old masters such as Rubens are not often on the market.

'It is very difficult to determine the value of such a work. I do not think there are similar Rubens works on the open market today,' says Ohlsen.  'What is important for the National Museum is that we have a real Rubens work in Oslo, and that we will now be visited by several researchers who might want to write about this sketch.'

The provenance and history of The National Museums Rubens work

The painting that has now been authenticated as a genuine Rubens sketch was originally donated to the museum by the Norwegian art collector Christian Langaard. He donated his entire collection of historic international paintings to the National Gallery in Oslo, which today is part of Oslo’s National Museum of art. According to the museums current director Nils Ohlsen, Langaard meant that the painting was a genuine Rubens. But at that time scientific researchers refused to authenticate the work, and refuted that the painting was by the Flemish master Rubens. Thus the painting was incorporated into the museum collection, but was left unattributed.

'Early in the 19th century a lot of works where wrongfully attributed to Rembrandt and Rubens,' Says Ohlsen.  'After this new technical and scientific investigations where executed, and as a result of this a lot of former attributions to old masters such as Rubens and Rembrandt where then seen to be incorrect, and several works got the label “painted by unknown Flemish master” or “in the school of...” I do not know exactly who it was that examined the National Museums painting, but it was then established that it was not by Rubens.

'The painting is small, and measure only 77 x 32 cm, but the composition is filled with excitement, shadow and light,' says Ohlsen.

The National Museum hopes for more new authentications

The museum will now investigate the provenance on several other paintings in its collection, with the hope that they will discover other unauthenticated master works.

'The National Museum plans to continue this work. The museum owns several other art works that we do not know who painted. We have decided to send picture files of other works to scientists, amongst others in America,' says Ohlsen.

It is not yet certain which paintings that are to be submitted to a closer examination, but the museum has had several suggestions already from van Hout.

'He has given us suggestions about which works we should send to international scholars. And in a couple of weeks we plan to make a complete agenda and list for these new examinations,' says Ohlsen.

The attribution of works is, as the art world and art market has seen several examples of, both difficult and not precise, and neither technical tests nor the eye of a connoisseur can always be trusted. It is especially the high prices art works fetches at auctions, and the increase in value for a work if it authenticated as the work of a famous artist, that contribute to attract unserious experts and fraudsters.

However it is really great that Oslo’s National Museum has been so fortunate as to have one of the works in their collection be authenticated as a Rubens, and as one of the museum directors say, this is not something that happens everyday. But I really hope that the museum has the right connections and will seek the help of professional experts in their future plans to determine the fate and attribution of other works in the collection.

Freelance writer Therese Veier is an art historian and a lawyer and works at Public Art Norway.

November 25, 2011

New Zealand: Summer Intensive course – Art Crime during Armed Conflict

Hamilton, New Zealand
Down in New Zealand, the University of Waikato’s Te Piringa-Faculty of Law and the University’s Centre for Continued Education have recently announced a forthcoming five-day summer intensive course, entitled “Art Crime during Armed Conflict”.

The course can be taken for credit by enrolled students (in which case, email eileens@waikato.ac.nz for enrolment details), or as a non-credit course by anybody – in this case, the course cost is a very reasonable NZ$215 (at current exchange rates, equal to about US$160, or €120). To enrol as a continuing education participant, go here or email nyree@waikato.ac.nz .

The Course will be taught over five days, from 13 – 17 February 2012 (which is high summer in the Southern Hemisphere!), on the campus of the University of Waikato at Hamilton, New Zealand. The city of Hamilton is situated in a verdant dairy farming region of New Zealand, known as the Waikato after the great river that flows through the province, (and amongst many other attractions is located within an easy 40 minute drive of the location for the filming of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Tours of the extensive, and fully rebuilt, Hobbiton film set can be arranged at http://www.hobbitontours.com/).

Judge Tompkins
The Course’s developer and presenter is Judge Arthur Tompkins. Judge Tompkins developed the course for ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, offered each year at Amelia in Umbria, Italy, and has taught the course there in 2010 and 2011. He will be returning to teach the course again in 2012.

During the first two days the course covers about 2000 years of history, from the sack of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 through to art and cultural heritage crimes committed during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and very many instances of art and cultural heritage crime during times of war in between - including the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years' War, Napoleonic and Imperial France, and the First and Second World Wars.

On the third day, the course covers the fate of several famous libraries destroyed or displaced by war - including the Library at Alexandria, destroyed on several occasions starting with Julius Caesar's sending of fire ships into Alexandria Harbour in 48 BC, the removal of Library of the Palatinate (carried over the Alps from Heidelberg to the Vatican on the backs of 200 mules in the early 17th century), the destruction of the Library at Louvain in the First World War and likewise the devastation of National Library during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s.


Waikato University
On the last two days the international and private law response to such crimes will be covered, beginning with Cicero's prosecution of Verres before the Roman Senate in 70 BC, through to Grotius' Laws of War, the Leiber Code, and on to the Hague Conventions of 1907 and 1954. The two main hurdles in the way of private claimants seeking to recover looted art - Limitation Periods and the differing responses to the bona fide purchaser - will round out the last day of the course.

Throughout the course, the lectures will consider numerous case studies, and the lectures are copiously illustrated by accompanying and extensive Powerpoint presentations. Copies of these will be distributed to all participants, along with a detailed Course Outline and Bibliography.

For more information, email eileens@waikato.ac.nz (for course-credit enquiries), or nyree@waikato.ac.nz (for non-credit enquiries).

November 19, 2011

New Zealand: Prison Term Begins for Thief of National Army Museum

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Blog New Zealand Correspondent

Yesterday, Friday 18 November, in New Zealand one of the more prolific and long-lasting insider thieves in New Zealand’s cultural and military history begins a prison term.

Keith Davies

Keith Davies was a serving soldier in the New Zealand army for 30 years and, upon his retirement from active service after an illness in the 1990s, his considerable knowledge of New Zealand’s military history saw him secure a job at New Zealand’s National Army Museum situated in Waiouru, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.

He served at the museum from 1995 to 2002, being responsible for, amongst other duties, storage and inventorying the Museum’s medal collection, and corresponding with the families of donors. The collection had been built up over many years, and containing medals and other items donated to the Museum by soldiers and their families. Davies’s seniority and knowledge of the Museum’s systems enabled him to cover his thefts both whilst he was employed at the Museum, and for eight years after he left, by altering records and replacing medals with other similar medals, so as to maintain the illusion that sets of medals had not been broken up.

Overall, he stole 750 medals, sold at least 131 to buyers around the world, and had about 270 still in his possession when he was arrested in Australia earlier this year. Around 350 medals are still missing. One estimate put the value of the stolen medals at of NZ$236,515.00. But the prosecutor said to the Court at sentencing that:
“The greatest effect was on the trust of the people who donated medals and other artefacts to the museum for the benefit of the cultural history of New Zealand.”
The New Zealand Army Museum, Waiouru.
His defence lawyer claimed that Davies could not account for why he stole the medals, noting that the thefts began when he took the medals home to clean and mount them, but then did not return them. The sentencing Judge characterised the thefts as “premeditated, ongoing and organised”, and noted the “gross, wholesale and ongoing abuse of trust.”

Davies was sentenced to three years in prison, and ordered to pay reparation of NZ$50,000 immediately, to be funded by raising finance against a home in Sydney, Australia. Under New Zealand’s parole laws, Davies will serve one year before appearing for the first time before the Parole Board.

The Museum announced that it would continue to search world-wide for the missing medals, saying that pictures of the missing medals would be displayed on the Museum’s website at www.armymuseum.co.nz, although at time of writing the pictures had not yet appeared. Nor, indeed, is there yet any mention on the website of the thefts!

The Museum is, unfortunately, no stranger to the theft of medals – on 2 December 2007 smash and grab burglars stole 96 medals from glass display cases, including 9 Victoria Crosses. On 18 February 2008 all the medals stolen in this raid were recovered, after payment of a reward of NZ$300,000, half of which was itself also recovered – a case-study the writer presented to ARCA’s 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Italy. It seems possible that investigative work triggered by that theft revealed Davies’s unconnected but earlier crimes.

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a District Court Judge in New Zealand, and teaches Art in War in Italy each year at ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

November 18, 2011

Part Two: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia Brennan sewing net over damaged areas of silk
by Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part two

Atasoy describes that tent makers were divided into groups – those who sewed the tents and others who embroidered. The tent pieces were layers of fabric; the decorations, mostly floral, were cut out of fabric such as satin or silk, to shape the motif such as vase or column. They were sewn onto the backing fabric. A contour around the motif was shaped with a silk cording and sewn onto around the contours to mask the uncut edges and prevent unravelling. This is exactly how these wall fabrics were constructed; with a combination of stitching, glues, appliqués, and embroidery inside the vases. They are also pieced together; with patches inserted around arches, windows, and the stage. There were obviously plenty of pieces on site in order to exactly fit the fabrics into the finished architectural space. The patterns do not all match up – it is a patch work in many curved and small areas.

Lime encrustations and crepeline overlay from the 1960s
Another clue about the construction comes with the backing fabric, a coarse burlap fabric. This was behind all the appliqué silk. It is essentially the backing cloth. The old Ottoman tents were constructed with a taupe colored structural skeleton called ‘cengari’. This carried the weight of the embellishment and helped stabilize during constant installations. The hanging rings were sewn to this rough cloth. This system of hanging rings, (supplemented by later tacks, nails, and glue) was still evident on the Turkish Residence Ballroom textiles. The jute is part of the structure of the textiles. A linen backing had been sewn onto the back probably in the 1960’s campaign.

This was a massive project –- 515 square feet of complex and damaged textiles.

My team set up our workshop in the Residence and stayed for 11 months working, spread out on tables, and up on scaffolding as the seasons passed from blooming dogwoods, shivering cold winter bringing in our heaters, and back into spring, and the blossoming pear trees again. We vacuumed every two days just to pick up the fibers that were flying off the silks. We divided the panels up by location, documented extensively, and then systematically cleaned and repaired. Repairs had to be gross approach and not minute, due to sheer scope of project.

Once all the panels were de installed, then the architects could truly evaluate and see how damaged and porous the walls were. Since the entire house was being renovated, outside masonry work would be done to solve the leaking and stabilize the interior walls. The old crepeline overlays were removed, as well as the later linen backings. Each panel was carefully vacuumed through protective screens to remove surface soiling and dust. This also provided an opportunity to carefully examine each panel, document damage, as well as embroidery and technique.

Full panel after conservation
The most difficult challenge was cleaning. A majority of the soiling was greasy and gritty, blackened and dark stains, from leaks, coal burning heating system and city grime. Embedded into the silks and burlap, it made the fabrics brittle and dry rotted in areas. Due to the original use of glue to attach some of the appliqué and cording, a wet cleaning treatment was ruled out.

Moreover, this kind of soiling is better cleaned with solvent based applications. All the different fabrics and dyes were tested with the solvent and detergent. An extraction system was employed, pushing and extracting a petroleum-based volatile solvent combined with detergent, through each panel, section by section. Buckets of black solvent were extracted from the panels; a majority of the embedded soiling was removed and many of the dark stains were reduced in appearance.

The repair and stabilization of the fabrics was an eight month process. All the loose cording was re attached with hand stitching. The loose pieces of silk appliqué were re attached with hand stitching, and holes were ‘patched’ using new silk sateen in a similar color. Shredded silk sateen was realigned and couched with hand stitching. The surface silks were still fragile and the weight of the appliqué pulled on the silk ground cloth. Because the panels had to be strong and stable enough to be hung again for a projected fifty years, the decision was made to encase the most fragile of the panels in protective netting. If the panel was predominantly red, then a marroon netting was laid over the panel and hand stitched around the edges, and throughout all the patterning, following the edges of the applied cording and designs. Red and gold netting overlays were applied to about 40% of the panels. This overlay literally holds the silks in place and prevents loss while vertically hanging. The overlays do create a slight ‘veiling’ of the embroidery details and cast a slight red or gold sheen over those treated panels.

Finally, new cotton sateen linings were hand sewn to the back of each panel and fragment. Two inch wide Velcro machine sewn to three inch wide cotton upholstery tape was hand sewn along every edge of each panel, both horizontal and vertical axis. Four years later, when the house was completely renovated, our team returned to install the fabric panels. The walls, fully repaired, were sealed with a vapor and moisture barrier. Two inch wide thin battens were attached to the wall mirroring where the Velcro was on each panel. Two inch wide Velcro hook was stapled to the walls aligning with each strip of Velcro on each panel. One by one, working around the room, the panels were re attached. Finally, a system of low level LED ‘marquee’ lights were installed above and below the panels. This provides a subtle and safe lighting solution.

These textile panels never revealed a name or date, but their construction was telling about a by-gone era and production, as well as a flamboyant architect and his trusting patron. The Turkish Embassy did a great service restoring not only these unusual textiles, but the entire building.

References:

Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”, www.turkishculture.org

Stone, Caroline. "Movable Palaces", Saudi Aramco World, July/August 2010, pgs. 36-43

Julia M. Brennan

November 17, 2011

Part One: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia at work in 2004
Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part one

In 2002 the Turkish government launched the renovation of the 1606 23rd Street, NW mansion; every detail both structural and decorative. It took four years. I served on a team consisting of an architect, engineer, designer, curator, conservators and appraisers evaluating the ballroom wall hangings. The main question was how much life remains? Could they be aesthetically and structurally restored to validate the cost of conservation? Discussions included possible replacement with reproduction weavings from high scale design houses, to simulate the overall look but not historic techniques. Another option considered was having new ‘embroideries’ produced in Turkey. (Could that even be done?) Concerns about the structural integrity of the walls to prevent future damage were hammered out. Since the entire mansion was going to have a grand face lift, these textiles had to meet the same aesthetic bar. Otherwise, the inclination was for retirement and replacement with in a newer look, a ‘proven’ longer term wall treatment.

Detail of stains
Nearly 100 years in situ had severely damaged the 515 square feet of wall fabrics. Visible from the floor, about 25% of the fabrics were in severe condition - badly stained, disintegrating, falling apart, and truly disfigured. Huge black stains around window frames marked where the silks were completely rotted. From a cursory examination on ladders, it was evident that the silks and backing fabrics were dry rotted, huge holes proliferated, the stains and encrustations had deteriorated the multiple layers of fabric in areas, the roof and window leaks had leached lime and plaster into the fabric – in short it was going to be a huge challenge!

As a conservator, I truly valued the historic importance of the fabrics. If they were retired, they would never be seen again. It was a long shot that money would be spent to reproduce them accurately. And while not fully proven, I believe they are original to the house and date to circa 1880-1900. In fact, the wall fabrics have not been definitively dated. (No written records were found.) One appraiser in 2002 concluded that they were a mid-century Ottoman style of embroidery and wall covering. While we can conclude that they were installed in situ circa 1914, they could have been cannibalized and cut from earlier 19th century wall coverings from Turkey. Since architect George Totten had lived and worked in Turkey, it is not inconceivable that he purchased these specifically for the ballroom. They are an extraordinary complex technique of appliqué of silk sateen cutouts (think Matisse) on top of contrasting silk sateen ground, with each large motif outlined with a cording that was stitched and glued on. The pattern, an architectural niche containing a tall bulbous ‘vase’ shapes, alternates the red and gold silk, so the eye moves along as if following a series of decorative windows. Within each ‘vase’ or ‘tree of life’ elaborate floral bouquets are embroidered in blues, pinks, yellows and reds. More than 12 genus correct floral bouquets were identified throughout the fabrics. In spite of the blackened stains, holes and losses, the fabrics were definitely worth preserving.

Inserting silk panels
It was also evident that the wall fabrics had previous repairs and restorations. There were many fine elegant stitch repairs, that may date back to the 1800s, depending on the original date of the fabrics. Coarser darnings and glue repairs were obviously later. Laid over most of the panels, and stitched like large billowing pillow-cases, was a dark brown silk crepeline (sheer silk) that was hanging in crispy tatters. This campaign was probably executed in the 1960s or early 1970s, in an effort to hold in place all the falling bits. This technique of ‘overlay’ is still employed by textile conservators. In fact, it was employed in the new 2003 treatment, but with a different material. Silk crepeline is very fragile and usually more short-lived than the artifact. Most 30 year old crepeline treatments have failed, unless they have not been exposed. Unfortunately, no previous treatment documents were available from the Embassy or other partners. My work was entirely deductive.

De-installing panels in 2003
In the initial stages of conservation research, we took down one smaller panel for examination and analysis. This permitted deconstruction and analysis of the entire construction, techniques and fabrics/materials. Some of the panels were hung with curtain rings at 6” intervals. This is similar to the technique used to hang large architectural banners in Turkey and frequently used to hang large textiles and tapestries until the 1970s (until Velcro came onto the market). Traditionally a string was woven through the rings so that the long hangings could be unfurled and hooked up easily. Construction and historic research revealed that the wall coverings are surely related and descended from an earlier Ottoman style of architectural tent hanging. Professor Dr. Nurhan Atasoy has published extensively on Ottoman Imperial Tents. While these hangings are surely not 16th - 18th century, they derive from the tradition of the interior tent decoration, in both design and construction.

Tents were used for military campaigns, state ceremonies, outings, personal ceremonies, daily housing, and of course by tribal groups. The Ottoman army had extensive tents, elaborately decorated to project power, prestige and comfort. The walls of the tents were formed by rectangular textile panels sewn together, and the number of panels depended on the size of the tent. They were crafted to recreate tiled panels in a room or pavilion. (Atasoy) Depending on rank, the tent had various degrees of decoration. Some were richly encrusted, with silks, and sparkling threads and embossed leather.


Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”, www.turkishculture.org

Part two of this series will resume tomorrow on this blog.

Julia M. Brennan graduated from ARCA's International Art Crime Studies program in 2009.
www.caringfortextiles.com

November 16, 2011

Revisiting the Turkish Residence – The Ballroom’s “Ottoman style” Wall Fabrics

The Turkish Residence
By Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

This story is not about art theft or repatriation, rather it is a preservation account of a monumental project to conserve part of Turkey’s and Washington D.C.’s shared history.

Recently I had the honor of attending a lecture about the Perge excavations at the Turkish Residence in Washington DC. We gathered in the elegant ballroom, whose walls are covered with sumptuous arabesque and floral red and gold silk textiles. They are not just ‘wall fabric’, but architectural textiles; characterized by two-dimensional niches executed with a syncopation of color, pattern, and rich floral details. People wonder if they are painted, leather, old or new. The whole room radiates from the Ottoman-style wall fabrics. They draw you into a dance around the room, over gilt mirrors and carved doorways, the red and gold niches of red and gold silk vases, with flickers of subtle embroidery. They speak to another era and taste. In 2002, the Turkish Government launched a complete restoration of the mansion – every architectural, structural and decorative detail was addressed. I was given the contract to clean and conserve these fabric treasures. Four years later, when the renovation of the entire mansion was complete, the fabrics were reinstalled, restoring the original Ottoman-style sumptuous character to the ballroom. It was a stunning backdrop to the Perge lecture, and personally very gratifying to see the textiles beautifully restored, as they might have looked in 1914 when they first graced the ballroom.

1606 23rd Street NW was an eccentric and extravagant mansion when it was completed in 1914. Commissioned by Edward H. Everett, a Cleveland millionaire, philanthropist and industrialist, who like many barons, needed a Washington DC base for societal and political reasons. He had interests in oil, beer, and huge glass productions. Everett was the inventor of the ‘crimp’ bottle cap, made famous by Coca Cola. During the Everetts’s residency, their home was the scene for many parties, including musical events in the ballroom, “including singers from the Metropolitan Opera.” (The Sunday Star 9-9-56) His second wife, Grace Burnap, was an amateur opera singer. The house was a gem of The Gilded Age, encrusted with elaborate marquetry and parquet flooring, marble entrance hall, Mannerist paintings, Flemish tapestries, Oriental carpets, a stained glass conservatory, an Otis elevator and the first indoor swimming pool in the city. The 1915 tax assessment was $280,000. (The original building estimated that the cost of building would be $150,000.) No expense was spared.

The architectural design and interior decorations were entrusted to architect George Oakley Totten Jr (1866-1939). His international background and keen interest in architectural ornamentation, produced many lavish Embassy Row homes, combining Oriental and Occidental styles. He designed and built over 16 houses in Washington DC. Totten spent three years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1893-1895), lived and worked in Rome, Vienna, Madrid and London, and in 1908 resided in Turkey where he designed the American Chancery and a residence for the Prime Minister. Sultan Abdul Hamid offered him the position of ‘private architect to the Sultan of Turkey’, but the 1909 overthrow of the Sultanate ended that commission. Totten brought to his Washington projects all the elements of his exotic and romantic life, including probably the actual silk wall hangings in the ballroom. No doubt, working for the Sultan, he was exposed to the tradition of ceremonial tent hangings, exquisite Ottoman architectural textiles adorning houses and transitory encampments.

The Ballroom in 2003
In 1932, after the death of Mr. Everett, the Turkish government established their embassy at the Totten ‘palace’. The house was still pristine, and in it’s hey day, a gem of Washington ‘status’ architecture along the Massachusetts Avenue corridor. The Turks acquired the house with all the architectural and decorative décor, “buildings and furnishings” including paintings, fireplaces, wall coverings. Just after the Great Depression, the home was priced to sell. The Honorable Munir Ertegun served as the first Ambassador from the newly formed Republic of Turkey. His sons grew up in this house and in an avant garde musical environment. One of the Ambassador’s sons, Ahmet Ertegun, is known for founding Atlantic Records and signing the Rolling Stones. Given Ahmet’s charisma and love of music, he must have fallen in love with the ballroom with it’s elevated stage, Italianate windows and inset mirrors, gold and blue rinceau-panelled ceiling, carved rinceau double doors, and sumptuous gold and red silk Ottoman walls. It was an over-the-top blend of styles and textures, a perfect place to hold ground breaking jazz concerts hosting Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and other Washington DC music greats. During the Ertegun period, the grand life of the ballroom continued with a renewed style and sound. In segregated Washington DC, local newspaper society columns at the time gossiped and criticized the frequent flow of ‘Negroes using the front door’ of the residence.

In 1999 the house became the Ambassador’s Residence, and after nearly 100 years it was suffering from both structural and decorative damage.

Reference:
“Massachusetts Avenue Architecture, Volume I”, Issued by The Commission of Fine Arts, Washington D.C. , 1973, pgs. 317-346

The next two blog posts will continue the story with the conservation of the wall fabrics.

Julia M. Brennan

November 15, 2011

LA Times' Richard Winton Reports on the LA City Council's Mural Ban and the Lost Art

Street art and advertising mix (Beverly & La Brea)
Photo by Catherine Sezgin
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog editor-in-chief

Richard Winton reported for the Los Angeles Times on October 24th "L.A. to draw a finer line on murals as art, not ads". In his article, Winton reports that Los Angeles' City Council "is revising a 2002 law regulating the artworks as a commercial signage. He reported:
"Officials estimate that more than 300 murals have been painted over in the last several years, a fact that has frustrated artists as well as property owners who commission murals."
The issue is not graffiti, but the rights of building owners to commission art for the exterior buildings which apparently conflicts with the rights of advertisers to monopolize billboards and building façades in the city. Mr. Winton reports:
Mural near Gold Line stop in Little Tokyo
(Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
"City officials said they need to make a better distinction between art, which should be protected under the 1st Amendment, and commerce, which should be covered by the sign ordinance."
He identifies the destruction of "some of Los Angeles' most famous murals on public and private property".

Los Angeles' streets, filled with cars and slowed by traffic, are more interesting and more human with the display of public art.

November 14, 2011

ARCA Award Winner Paolo Ferri Featured in Smithsonian Magazine

Last summer ARCA awarded Paolo Ferri, a former Italian State prosecutor, for his work in Art Policing and Recovery, the first award the former Italian State prosecutor had received for his work, Ferri told the audience at the International Art Crime Conference. This month, Dr. Ferri's work is highlighted in an article by Ralph Frammolino in the Smithsonian Magazine, "The Goddess Goes Home." Frammolino is co-author with Jason Felch of "Chasing Aphrodite."

Frammolino discusses the extent of the Getty's purchases in building an antiquities section and Dr. Ferri's role in indicting Marion True.

November 13, 2011

Today's Zaman: "Turkey's museums at risk if hit by earthquake"

Today's Zaman reported November 10th that "few of Turkey's archaeology museums or storage facilities have been built to a code which could withstand an earthquake similar to the magnitude 7.2 temblor that struck Turkey's Van province on October 23."

Istanbul's Archaeology Museum consists of a main building constructed during Ottoman rule around the turn of the 20th century; the second is six-storeys; and the third is another Ottoman building which was once the Fine Art School. The Istanbul Archaeological Museum has not been upgraded like the Anatolian Civilization Museum in Ankara. It seems like a potpouri of artefacts from the eight thousand years of occupation of this land and the areas once attached throughout the Ottoman Empire. The depth of the collection challenges the visitor to think beyond the more traditional Classical Histories of the Greeks and Romans of Western Europe.

November 12, 2011

Jason Felch on Deadline LA (Radio): "See No Evil, The Policy of Art Looters at the Getty and other museums"

Barbara Osborn and Harold Bloom conduct a 30 minute discussion with Jason Felch, co-author with Ralph Frammolino of "Chasing Aphrodite", about museums complicity in art theft and the looting of archaeological sites since the accord of UNESCO's 1970 Convention meant to create international cooperation in stopping the sale of illegal antiquities. From essentially laundering the works of art from Italy through Switzerland and notable art collectors in the United States, Felch quickly and lucidly outlines how the Getty's spending of more than $150 million likely encouraged the unearthing of new objects to be sold to the billionaire institution in Los Angeles. However, the Getty wasn't the only museum to engage in such practices and as Harold Bloom says, put stolen art on public display.  Felch explains what finally prompted Italian authorities to take action against the practice by museums to purchase objects of antiquities without asking questions. Deadline LA (Bloom and Osborn's show) will also broadcast the second part of their interview with Felch next week.

November 11, 2011

Noah Charney for ArtInfo Interviews Sandy Nairne, National Portrait Gallery Director and Author of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners"

Noah Charney, ARCA founder and president, published on ArtInfo an interview with Sandy Nairne, the director of London's National Portrait Gallery and author of "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion, 2011)."

Charney and Nairne discuss symbolism of the Turners, the morality of ransom versus payment for information, and similar art thefts.

You may also read more about Sandy Nairne on previous ARCA blog posts here and here.

November 10, 2011

Report from DC: American Friends of Turkey hosted lecture on the Sixty-Five Years of Perge Excavations

Ballroom of the Turkish Residence, Washington DC
 (Photo by Julia Brennan)
By Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Blog Washington Correspondent

The American Friends of Turkey hosted a fascinating lecture and exhibit about the excavations in Perge, Turkey last week in the elegant circa 1909 Turkish Residence in Washington DC.  The Embassy hosted a reception with delicious Turkish food, followed by the lecture. Incidentally, the ballroom of the Residence is famous for it’s post Ottoman embroidered and appliqué silk wall coverings. From 2003-2008, I cleaned, restored and then reinstalled these elegant turn of the century red and gold textiles. They create a spectacular backdrop for any function.

Celebrating 65 continuous years of archeological research, Istanbul University is touring a lecture series and photographic exhibit celebrating the fabled city of Perge, A UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also a celebration of an important recent repatriation. Dr. Inci Delemen, a long time archeologist on the project, gave a sweeping and colorful history of the sixty five years of discoveries and history of this ancient site. Using both aerial views and close ups of specific structures, we were drawn into the once vast and robust Roman city.

Perge, located close to the Mediterranean coast, near the city of Antalya, was the capital of ancient Pamphylia. It grew from the prehistoric era into a thriving Roman city. For centuries, Perge was a thriving walled metropolis; with extravagant water canal system, roads, agora, mosaic encrusted baths, gymnasium, theatre and the best preserved stadium in Asia Minor. It is a remarkable case study for Hellenistic, Imperial Roman and Late Roman history. Perge had eight significant benefactors who kept expanding the city, and developing a sophisticated urban plan. One of these benevolent priestesses was Plancia Magna, hailed as the daughter of the city. Her statue is simply beautiful.

Istanbul University has embarked on a project to resurrect the columns within the city. Each column is ‘adopted’ by a patron, contributing the funds to revive the colonnaded streets. The Theatre, which is in excellent condition, contains life size colossi statues and mythological reliefs of Dionysus making offerings to Tyche of Perge. Throughout Perge, Istanbul University has unearthed and preserved a vast number of imperial portraits and marble statues. One of the most realistic was a bearded curly haired youth, Lucius Verus.

Post of Herakles (Photo by Julia Brennan)
Another find from Perge is the Heracles Farnese or ‘Weary Heracles”. Known to many who study and follow ‘orphaned’ antiquities, the bottom half of Heracles lives in the Antalya Museum. His top half, had migrated to the USA, owned by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In the 1990’s the Turkish authorities set out to prove that the upper body in Boston belonged to the Perge statue. The negotiations for repatriation took over ten years. In September 2011, the Boston half of Heracles returned to meet his other half, and be reunited in the Antalya Museum. This recent repatriation is a focal part of the lecture and exhibit tour of the Perge project.

Next chapter will highlight the restoration project of the Ottoman style wall textiles at the Turkish Residence.

Dr. Delemen will tour and lecture in Boston, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Charlottsville, Va. For more information contact American Friends of Turkey or email them at info@afot.us

Ms. Brennan graduated in 2009 from ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime Studies.

November 9, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine"

Da Vinci's "Lady
 with an Ermine"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog editor-in-chief

Leonardo Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine created a sensation with the public in Berlin for the past few months during it's first trip out of Poland since the masterpiece was recovered from the Nazis after the end of World War II.

Today it opened at the National Gallery in London as part of the exhibition, "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan". Conservationists have insisted that once the painting returns from London in February 2012 that it will remain in Krawków for at least ten years (The News.pl).

In 1489, just some 20 years after artists began using oil paints, 37-year-old Da Vinci used oils when his employer, Lodovico "Il Moro" Sforza, the Duke of Milan, commission the Renaissance master to paint his 15-year-old mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, on a 21 by 15 inch walnut wood panel. When "Il Moro" married someone else, Cecilia had to leave the palace but took the portrait with her. "Il Moro gave her a dowry and a castle outside Milan where she spent the rest of her life with her husband Count Pergamino," according to the Czartoryski Museum.

Princess Isabela Czartorska founded the Czartoryski Museum in 1796. Two years later, her son, Prince Adam Jerzy, traveled to Italy and purchased Da Vinci's "The Lady with an Ermine" (and the still missing painting by Raphael "Portrait of a Young Man"). Condemned to death by the Russians after the 1830 November Uprising of the Russian-Polish war, Prince Jerzy fled to Paris, bought The Hotel Lambert, and set up the Living Museum of Poland (displaying all the objects from the first museum).

"Lady with an Ermine", which has only traveled cautiously since its return to Poland after World War II, traveled extensively in escaping to safety throughout various wars.

In 1871, after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Prince Jerzy's son packed or hid all of the museum's objects and fled. In 1874, the city of Krakow offered him a building and four years later the current museum opened.

To protect the works from war in 1914, the most important objects were taken to Dresden by the Czartorska family which continued to manage the museum. The collection was finally restored to the museum in Krakow in 1920.

In August 1939, on the eve of the invasion of Poland, cases of objects were hidden but later found by the Germans. In January 1940, 85 of the most important objects are sent back to Dresden to be part of Hitler's collection at Linz. The paintings went to Berlin then Neuhass before being claimed by the Polish representative at the Allies Commission for the Retrieval of Works of Art on behalf of the Czartoryski Museum (excluding the Raphael and 843 other artefacts).

The communist government operated the museum behind the Iron Curtain until 1991 when the museum was returned to its rightful owner, Prince Adam Karol Czartoryski, who set up a foundation to oversee the museum today.

"The Lady with an Ermine" traveled to Milwaukee Art Museum in 2002 and to Houston and San Francisco in 2003. This year the painting traveled from Madrid to Berlin. 

November 7, 2011

Art Restitution: Klimt painting sold for $40.4m after being returned to owner's grandson

Klimt's "Litzlberg on the Attersee" 1918
by Catherine Schofiled Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

BBC News (online) reported 'Klimt painting fetches $40.4m' when a 1915 landscape of a lake in western Austria ("Litzlberg on the Attersee") by Gustav Klimt was sold by Sotheby's in New York City.

In July the Museum of Modern Art in Saltzburg in Austria returned the painting stolen from Amalie Redlich in 1941 to her 83-year-old grandson, Georges Jorisch, now living in Montreal.

"The Austrian law calls for restitution," Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, responded in an email.  "That means the object is physically returned to the rightful owner.  The position of the Salzburg Museum, much like that of the Leopold Foundation in Vienna, is to reject outright restitution in favor of financial settlements, which allow them to retain title to the claimed object. Ideologically speaking, that stance runs counter to the principle of restitution.  Hence, I would not hail this moment as a victory for restitution but rather as the outcome of an arduous negotiation between an auction house, a claimant, and an Austrian museum, which led to a financial settlement."

You may read more about this case as reported by the CBC, "Nazi-looted Klimt sells for $40" which includes a video and an image of the only descendent of the painting's owners sitting down in his chair at the painting's auction.  CBC concludes it's segment by mentioning that many of the proceeds from the painting's sale will be used to build a new wing at the Saltzburg museum to be named after Amalie Redlich who was murdered after her deportation from Vienna.

November 6, 2011

Noah Charney on Studying Art Crime: A Program Taught by Police and Professors

By Noah Charney for ArtInfo

ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies is now taking applications for its fourth season as the first, and only, interdisciplinary program of study in the field of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Featured in The New York Times mid-way through its first year, in the summer of 2009, it is a good moment to reflect on the founding of this new and unusual academic program.

The idea for the program began with a conversation at a restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia with two trustees and friends, both professors of criminology. The problem was how to attract world-renowned faculty without the infrastructure or funds for a year-long program of study. It was important to retain quality-control by not simply running this unique program through a university, and yet we wanted to include as many of the best of the relatively few world experts in art crime and its related fields as we could. We also wanted a program that would be post-graduate level, and which would include as many or more course hours as normal, year-long European masters program. Having completed two European MA programs myself in art history (at The Courtauld Institute and University of Cambridge), I realized that the taught component to these programs actually took a relatively concise amount of time that was spread over 9-12 months. At The Courtauld Institute, the MA included twice-weekly meetings of 4 hours each over around 7 months (plus 2 months to write the dissertation), while at Cambridge the only required coursework was one 2-hour lecture per week—the rest of the time was one’s own, largely meant for research and writing of a substantial dissertation.

We decided that the scattered lecture hours, distributed over the course of many months, could reasonably be condensed into a concise period of time, for instance three months. By concentrating on intensive but acceptable 5-hour work days (2.5 hours in the morning, a generous lunch break, and 2.5 hours in the afternoon), we could create what is, logistically, a summer-intensive program that would run 10-11 weeks.  This format also allowed us to invite world-class faculty, from professors to professionals, who would come to Italy to teach a short, intensive course. This worked with faculty schedules, because it did not require them to be on-site for more than two weeks at a time (our courses are 25 hours long, divided over 5 days within a two-week period). Coming up with this highly unusual format (10 professors each summer, two teaching in each two-week period, one Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning, the other Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday), allowed us to recruit the best faculty we could, and to allow students (who in many cases are older professionals using this unique program as a means of further professional training) to undertake the program over a reasonable period of time, one summer. We also allow students to divide the program over two consecutive summers, 5-6 weeks each, with the understanding that this would ideally fit into active professional schedules, or indeed could be taken by students enrolled full-time in another post-graduate program, but with a summer free.

Such was the discussion that we had in Ljubljana back in 2007, that led to the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program.

The program was established in 2009 when ARCA and its trustees realized that there was not one academic program available anywhere in the world in which students and professionals could study art crime. Individual courses had existed, but appeared rarely on curricula. But one of the difficulties, and exciting aspects, of studying art crime is that it is inherently interdisciplinary. To understand art crime, one must approach it theoretically as well as practically. A purely theoretical, scholarly program which provided no sense what was happening in “real life,” in the field, at night in the museums and countryside churches so often the victim of theft. But a course of study which solely explored the practical side of things, such as Italian police investigation techniques, ran the risk of being overly specific, teaching only based on the experience of the teacher and the country in which they worked. The ideal course of study would embrace the inherent interdisciplinary nature of the field, and would complement theoretical/historical courses with practical experiential courses. For example, last summer’s program includes courses on art policing and investigation taught by the former head of Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiques Unit (Dick Ellis) and the current head of Chubb International Art Insurance (Dorit Straus); but students also took a course on criminology, art, and organized crime taught by a world-famous criminology professor (Petrus van Duyne).

ARCA has become a point of union for the relatively few scholars, police, security experts, lawyers, archaeologists, insurers, and others around the world affected by art crime. The Postgraduate Certificate Program is a unique opportunity for students to learn from the top professionals and professors in the fields relevant to art crime and cultural heritage protection.

Because of its unique and ground-breaking nature, the ARCA Postgraduate Program was featured in The New York Times (21 July 2009), midway through its first year. It has since established itself and continues to attract passionate students and adult professionals from around the world to spend a summer studying with the world’s leading art crime experts in Italy.

The program provides in-depth, masters-level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements of art and heritage crime: its history, its nature, its impact, and what can be done to curb it. Courses are taught by international experts, in the beautiful setting of Umbria, Italy. The topics taught include the history of art crime, art and antiquities law and policy, criminology, the laws of armed conflict, the art trade, art insurance, art security and policing, risk management, criminal investigation, law and policy, vandalism and iconoclasm, and cultural heritage protection throughout history and around the world.

Recent lecturers and faculty include: Maurizio Fiorilli (Advocate General of Italy), Francesco Rutelli (former Italian Minister of Culture and Mayor of Rome), Vernon Rapley (Director of Scotland Yard Arts and Antiques Unit), Col. Luigi Cortellessa (Vice-Comandante, Carabinieri Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage), Matjaz Jager (Director of the Institute of Criminology, University of Ljubljana), Anthony Amore (Security Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), Stefano Alessandrini (Head of Italy’s Archaeological Group), Dennis Ahern (Security Director, Tate Museums, UK), Paolo Giorgio Ferri (leading attorney in the Giacomo Medici case and in repatriation cases with the Getty and the Met), and Peter Watson (acclaimed author and former undercover investigator against art theft). At the heart of the program is the ARCA International Conference in the Study of Art Crime (this year 23-24 June 2012), which gives students a chance to meet with top professionals in the field.

Past program graduates include art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade, and post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history. About one-third of the students are adult professionals, while two-thirds are post-graduate students, ranging in age from 21 up to 65.

The 2012 program runs from June 1 to August 12. We have received more interest than ever for the program this fall, and students should apply early for better chance of admission. For a complete schedule and prospectus, or with any questions, you can email education (at) artcrimeresearch.org

November 5, 2011

Noah Charney on Martin Kemp and Lost and Stolen Leonardo Da Vinci Paintings

Noah Charney, founder and president of ARCA, has recently published three articles covering the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 (The Patriotic Thief); an Interview with Martin Kemp on How to Spot a Lost Leonardo; and on the Los Angeles Time's Op Ed Page, The 'Lost' Leonardo, about London's National Gallery's exhibition of 'Salvator Mundi' in a show of paintings by Leonardo Da Vinci.

Link to Tom Flynn's blog: Auction house to offer rare Chinese Qing dynasty Imperial gilt metal box looted from Beijing Summer Palace

Chinese gilt metal box
Tom Flynn, a London-based journalist and art historian, writes with passion about the business of selling art. Recently on his blog, artknows, a post titled "More 'loot' from the Beijing Summer Palace at Salisbury auction in November' was distributed by the Museum Security Network (MSN) and caught my interest as we had recently at the ARCA blog run posts about auction catalogues and provenance descriptions.

Dr. Flynn, who has taught "Art History and the Art World" at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, discusses the item in his latest post and what Chinese and Asian buyers may spend to recover this and other items:
The fine and rare Chinese Qing dynasty Imperial gilt metal box appearing at Wooley & Wallis's November 16 sale of Asian Art bears an inscription - "Loot from the Summer Palace, Pekin, Oct. 1860. Capt. James Gunter, King's Dragoon Guards."
There are no international treaty's or agreements that would return this item to China as UNESCO's 1970 convention does not apply to items stolen prior to 51 years ago.

November 4, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Portrait of Église Saint Roch patron

Saint Roch (ParisDailyPhoto)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Eric Tenin, who describes himself as a 'friendly Parisian', publishes online ParisDailyPhoto. Subscribers (such as myself) receive an email containing a photo and a few comments from Mr. Tenin -- a bit like receiving a postcard from a friend from the City of Lights. One of this week's photos was from the 1st arrondissement's rue Saint Honoré of the front façade of the Church of Saint Roch (Église Saint Roch), a 17th century church vandalized during the French Revolution. A portrait of the founder of the original chapel on the site is now at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

According to Wikipedia (my-at-home-encyclopedia), when tradesman Jacques Dinocheau built a chapel in 1521 honoring Saint Susanna on this site, it was on the outskirts of Paris. Fifty years later, his nephew built a small church and eighty years later Louis XIV laid the first stone of the existing church. During the French Revolution, fighting surrounded it and the façade still has battle scares. Inside the church, many artworks were either damaged or stolen. One of the missing paintings is allegedly of Dinocheau (either Jean or his nephew Etienne described as a 'generous donor' which hung in a side chapel at Saint Roch but is now at the church of Santa Maria Maggiore and classified as a painting by Paul Feminis.

I tried to track down the painting at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome but a colleague found a reference to the painting at a parish church in Santa Maria Maggiore in northern Italy (http://www.eau-de-cologne.com/fr/Femminis-tableaux.html).  Dr. Karl Kempkes writes that the painting of Paul Feminis in the sacristy of the parish church at Santa Maria Maggiore is likely that of Monsieur Dinocheau, a member of the family that founded the church of Saint Roch on the rue Saint Honoré in Paris. Feminis is known as the main benefactor of the parish church Santa Maria Maggiore. Dr. Kempkes concludes that the 'original' paintings (of which there are three known copies) has likely been reworked in restoration. Dr. Kempkes conducted a thorough analysis of the paintings, including an x-ray that analysis that showed the inscription on the lower right hand corner of the painting was added later onto the canvas.  Dr. Kempkes traces this painting in the sacristy of the parish church Santa Maria Maggiore to Jean Marie Joseph Farina of Paris who supplied eau de Cologne to Napoleon.  Farina lived on rue Saint Honoré near the church of Saint Roch.  He may have not been responsible for the 'theft' of the painting which may have been removed when repairs were made to the church of Saint Roch after the French Revolution, but he likely had either the original or a copy of the original reworked and transformed into the image of Paul Feminis.

It's a complicated and fascinating story of art displacement, probably quite representative of many of the paintings reported 'stolen' that have been hiding under restorations for hundreds of years.

November 3, 2011

Marc Masurovsky provides perspective on Lawsuit regarding disputed Modigliani painting "Seated Man with Cane'

Modigliani's "Seated
 Man with Cane" (1918)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Most of my art crime news comes to my email box from Ton Cremer's Museum Security Network. As I suspect most of our readers on this blog also subscribe to MSN, I don't often repeat the news, but a particular article today intrigued me and I sent the link over to my mentor on Nazi-looted art restitution, Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP).

Journalist Bill Hoffman of the UK's Daily Mail reported online yesterday that "Billionaire art dealer refuses to return $25m Modigliani masterpiece stolen by Nazis from Jewish art dealer." Hoffman reports that the Nazis sold the 1918 painting, "Seated Man with Cane", at an auction in 1944 and that the grandson of the Parisian Jewish art dealer, Oscar Stettiner, alleges that the painting is at a gallery in New York City.  Hoffman quotes the lawsuit filed in the U. S. District Court of Manhattan that the family was unable to stop the sale during the war and unable to recover it afterward because the painting was then inaccurately labeled.

Masurovsky offers his professional perspective: 
"Due to the paucity of information released to the public, there is potentially conflicting reporting on the story of the allegedly illicit sale of the Stettiner Modigliani in 1944. Artinfo states that Oscar Stettiner placed the painting in the care of Marcel Philippon before he fled to the unoccupied zone of France. If that is so, why would other articles allege that the Nazis appointed him as the administrator of Stettiner's assets? That makes no sense. Vichy was responsible for appointing non-Jewish overseers of Jewish-owned property. Sometimes, it was for liquidation purposes, other times to facilitate the transfer of ownership of those assets to an Aryan. The real question becomes: did Stettiner leave instructions to Philippon to dispose of the property or did Vichy instruct Philippon to do so? I am curious to know why it took 3 years to sell the painting after it had been placed under Philippon's management. Once the full historical docket is released, we can make a more informed decision about who's right and who's wrong in this instance."

November 2, 2011

Underwater Cultural Heritage: "Keeping the Lid on Davy Jones' Locker: A Conference on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage from Titanic to Today

Tomorrow begins a conference in Washington DC to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, "Keeping the Lid on Davy Jones' Locker: A Conference on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage from Titanic to Today" organized by the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation.

The story of the sinking of the luxury liners RMS Titanic on April 12, 1912, fictionalized in the captivating movie Titanic by James Cameron (1997) was motivated, according to the director, because of his fascination with shipwrecks. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is currently in Las Vegas. I saw it in Montreal in 2009 and found it fascinating, including realizing that many people on the ship had never  purchased their tickets for the maiden voyage but had been rebooked from another ship.

The conference will address such issues such as who owns or controls shipwrecks and the knowledge and artifacts newly available with recent technology that can reach these sunken treasures. You may read more about this conference here.