|Cicero's bust in the Musei Capitolini|
["Cicero - Musei Capitolini"
by Glauco92 - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons].jpg
This year's visit to Ameliai, Umbria, for ARCA's Art Crime and Cultural Heritage course saw a visit, during a break in teaching duties, to Sicily. Apart from the obvious reasons to visit (I'd never been before, and it being a slightly mythical, Godfather-producing place, and all) two art crime-related reasons spurred my presence in the centuries old, culturally diverse, vibrant and slightly shambolic ancient metropolis.
The first was that about 20 centuries ago, a Roman magistrate named Gaius Verres came to Palermo as governor. During an energetically corrupt, roughly two-year tenure, he managed to plunder and loot and steal his way through whole swathes of Sicilian culture and art and heritage.
|"Michelangelo Caravaggio, Nativity with|
San Francesco and San Lorenzo"
Cicero's Verrines have echoed down the centuries, as exemplars of oratory, of writing, of prosecutorial precedent and, coincidentally, of informative travel-writing. Conceptually, in part they embody and express a fundamental idea that underpins so much of our cultural heritage protection thinking now, the idea that art and culture and heritage belongs not just to the immediate possessor or the country in which accidental history consigns it, but to all humankind.
So I wanted to walk the same ground as had the notorious Gaius Verres, and which had occasioned Cicero's oratory.
|Via Vittoria Emanuele, Palermo, Sicily [Arthur Tompkins].jpg|
One of them was the large and dramatic Nativity with San Lorenzo and San Francesco. For about 350 years the canvas hung undisturbed above the altar in the Oratorio di San Lorenzo, just off the main Via Vittorio Emanuele in downtown Palermo.
I wanted to see where it should still be.