November 27, 2019

"Hold on to your hat": Antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford, a/k/a “Pakpong Kriangsak”

Looted Cambodian art for sale by Douglas Latchford
Image Credit:  US DOJ
In a case being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Feinstein, in the Office’s Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit, prominent 88-year-old British art collector and dealer Douglas A.J. Latchford has been indicted in the US Federal Court of the Southern District of New York.  The charges against the Bangkok-based dealer include "wire fraud, smuggling, conspiracy and related charges pertaining to his trafficking in stolen and looted Cambodian antiquities."

Latchford in his home standing next to
a Chola period (880 - 1279) Somaskanda from Tamil Nadu
For 50 years Latchford has been considered one of the world’s leading authorities on Asian Art, and at one point was believed to be the biggest single contributor to the National Museum of Cambodia, one of the very countries outlined in the indictment unsealed today at the US Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.  According to the prosecution, Latchford is believed to have been a major stakeholder, acting as a cross-border conduit in an multi-billion dollar cultural property network which trafficked in plundered artifacts from Southeast Asia to some of the most important galleries, auction houses, and museums in the western world charging him with conspiracy to smuggle, false import statements, wire fraud, and the illicit transport and sale of stolen cultural property.

According to the US indictment it is alleged that "from at least in or about 2000, up to and including at least in or about 2012, Latchford engaged in a fraudulent scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market, including to dealers and buyers in the United States."

The statue of warrior Duryodhana, which once graced the cover of Sotheby’s Asia Week catalog was returned to Cambodia.  In situ, this warrior was one of two matching statues facing each other in a rendition of the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata. 
Included in that list of fraudulent activity is involvement in the illicit removal and sale of the Angkorian sandstone statues stolen from Prasat Chen, the most northern sanctuary in the remote Koh Ker temple complex in Northern Cambodia.  Koh Ker (Khmer: ប្រាសាទកោះកេរ្ដិ៍) sits 120 kilometres northeast of Siem Reap and was briefly the capital of the Khmer kingdom from 928 to 944 CE.

In 2012, Latchford was already identified in a civil lawsuit, as a middleman in the trafficking of looted Khmer sculptures from “an organized looting network” and said to have conspired with the London auction house Spink & Son Ltd., to obtain false export permits for the sandstone temple antiquities.

Some of the incriminating evidence against the dealer related to charges against him include a brazenly written email sent on/about April 23, 2007, which leaves little to no  doubt about the dealer's level of direct involvement and knowledge in transnational criminal activity against cultural artifacts.  Attached to this email was a photograph of a freshly (and clandestinely) excavated standing Buddha statue, still covered in dirt.  In that email, Latchford is reported as having written "Hold on to your hat, just been offered this 56 cm Angkor Borei Buddha, just excavated, which looks fantastic. It’s still across the border, but WOW.”

It should be noted that by 1996, Cambodia had already enacted its overarching Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, which criminalizes both the unauthorized excavation, looting, and unauthorized export of antiquities, defining "movable cultural property found by chance" to be public property. This law, known colloquially as "the 1996 Law" remains in effect and is the relevant governing law, supported by a number of decrees, sub-decrees, and regulations.  Cambodia further demonstrates its determination to protect its cultural heritage by being a signatory to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (joined 1962); the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import (joined 1972); the World Heritage Convention (joined 1991); the Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects (joined 2002), and the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (joined 2007).

As part of the present indictment Latchford is also alleged to have created "false letters of provenance and false invoices" misrepresenting the nature, age, country of origin, and/or the value  of an antiquity in order to conceal the illicit nature of the objects he brokered.  It should also be mentioned that he is also mentioned obliquely, though not directly named, as Co-Conspirator #1, in the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan district attorney against Nancy Wiener, and several co-conspirators in December 2016.

In that New York criminal complaint co-conspirator #1 (Latchford)

  • allegedly is an antiquities dealer based in London and Bangkok
  • allegedly entered into an agreement with Nancy Wiener to purchase and sell a looted Baphuon Shiva from Cambodia, dated to the 11th Century C.E
  • allegedly shipped the Baphuon Shiva to London to be “cleaned, put together, and mounted.”
  • allegedly sold Nancy Wiener a bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly falsified provenance along with Nancy Wiener and Co-conspirator 2 for the bronze Buddha sitting on a throne of Naga stolen from Thailand or Cambodia, dated to the 10th Century C.E.
  • allegedly is a male 
  • allegedly admitted in email that he gave Co-Conspirator #2 bronze statues in exchange for false letters of provenance
  • allegedly purchased the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya from Subhash Kapoor
  • allegedly colluded with Nancy Wiener to create appraisal report for the Krishna Dancing on Kaliya 
Evidence collected in both cases illustrate a textbook formula of how looted antiquities are laundered onto the licit art market through poor controls and a lack of ethics and transparency among the major dealers working at the highest levels of the ancient art market.

Note: the charges contained in the US indictment are merely accusations and the defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.  For now Latchford, in purportedly poor health, remains at large in Bangkok, though it should be noted that the USA & Thailand signed an agreement on December 14, 1983 in which Article 2 permits extradition for any offense punishable under the laws of both States by imprisonment for more than one year.  By unsealing this indictment, it seems that the US intends to bring Latchford to the US, despite his reported ill health, to stand trial.

In conclusion, ARCA has elected to transcribe the entire SD/NY statement below, to make it searchable by future scholars conducting open source research on known/suspected traffickers.

----------


Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Peter C. Fitzhugh, the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging antiquities dealer DOUGLAS LATCHFORD, a/k/a “Pakpong Kriangsak”— with wire fraud, smuggling, conspiracy and related charges pertaining to his trafficking in stolen and looted Cambodian antiquities.  LATCHFORD remains at large, residing in Thailand.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, LATCHFORD built a career out of the smuggling and illicit sale of priceless Cambodian antiquities, often straight from archeological sites, in the international art market. This prosecution sends a clear message to the art market and to those who profit from the illegal trafficking of cultural treasures: the United States and the Southern District of New York will use every legal tool to stop the plundering of cultural heritage.”

HSI Special Agent in Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said:  “The theft and trafficking of cultural property and priceless national treasures is a global concern. Historical artifacts are living sources of knowledge, objects of worships, and symbols of hope that must be safe guarded for future generations.  Through the investigative efforts of HSI special agents, three stolen artifacts from Cambodia and another from India, valued at a total of $750,000, were successfully recovered and will be returned to their rightful homeland.  In addition, an alleged major player in a multi-billion dollar cultural property transnational criminal network was identified and revealed.   Working hand in hand with our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, HSI will not waiver in its commitment to stopping the illicit distribution of cultural property, both domestically and abroad.”

According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:

Background on Looting of Cambodian Antiquities

From the mid-1960s until the early 1990s, Cambodia experienced continuous civil unrest and regular outbreaks of civil war.  During these times of extreme unrest, Cambodian archeological sites from the ancient Khmer Empire, such as Angkor Wat and Koh Ker, suffered serious damage and widespread looting. This looting was widely publicized and well-known to participants in the international art market.

Looted artifacts usually entered the international art market through an organized looting network.  Local looters, often working with local military personnel, would remove statues and architectural elements from their original locations, sometimes breaking and damaging the antiquities in the process of excavation and transportation. The antiquities would be transported to the Cambodia-Thailand border and transferred to Thai brokers, who would in turn transport them to dealers of Khmer artifacts located in Thailand, particularly Bangkok. These dealers would sell the artifacts to local or international customers, who would either retain the pieces or sell them on the international art market. Widespread looting of ancient Khmer and Cambodian antiquities continued into the 1990s.

The Scheme to Sell Looted Cambodian Antiquities

At all times relevant to this Indictment, DOUGLAS LATCHFORD, a/k/a “Pakpong Kriangsak,” the defendant, was a prominent collector and dealer in Southeast Asian art and antiquities, in particular, ancient Cambodian art. Starting in or about the early 1970s, LATCHFORD supplied major auction houses, art dealers, and museums around the world, including in the United States, with Cambodian antiquities from the ancient Khmer Empire. LATCHFORD, a dual citizen of Thailand and the United Kingdom, maintained residences in Bangkok and London.

From at least in or about 2000, up to and including at least in or about 2012, LATCHFORD engaged in a fraudulent scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market, including to dealers and buyers in the United States. As part of that scheme, in order to conceal that LATCHFORD’s antiquities were the product of looting, unauthorized excavation, and illicit smuggling, and to encourage sales and increase the value of his merchandise, LATCHFORD created and caused the creation of false provenance for the antiquities he was selling. In the context of art and antiquities, provenance refers to records and other evidence documenting the origin and history of ownership of an object. In particular, LATCHFORD misrepresented the provenance of Cambodian antiquities in letters, emails, invoices, and other communications. As part of the scheme, LATCHFORD also falsified invoices and related shipping documents to facilitate the international shipment of the antiquities to dealers and buyers, and to avoid restrictions on the importation of Khmer antiquities into the United States.

Beginning in or about the early 1970s, LATCHFORD regularly supplied an auction house based in the United Kingdom (“Auction House-1”) with looted Khmer antiquities, including from the archeological site of Koh Ker in Cambodia. LATCHFORD conspired with representatives of Auction House-1 and others to conceal the real provenance of looted Khmer antiquities and to create false export licenses and documentation. Many of the antiquities that LATCHFORD consigned to Auction House-1 were eventually sold to museums and collectors in the United States.  In or about 2011, an auction house in New York (“Auction House-2”) offered for sale one of the Koh Ker statutes that LATCHFORD had originally supplied to Auction House-1, a stone guardian figure called the “Duryodhana.” During the course of preparing to sell the Duryodhana in or about 2010, Auction House-2 asked LATCHFORD and a scholar closely associated with LATCHFORD (the “Scholar”) to help trace the provenance of the Duryodhana back to the early 1970s. LATCHFORD falsely stated to Auction House-2 that he had the Duryodhana in London in 1970, and that he had consigned it with Auction House-1 in 1975; whereas in truth and in fact LATCHFORD had exported the Duryodhana from Cambodia in or about 1972. About a month later, LATCHFORD changed his story, telling Auction House-2, in substance and in part, that he had never owned the Duryodhana. Around the same time that LATCHFORD falsely denied owning the Duryodhana, the Scholar warned LATCHFORD in an email, “I think maybe you shouldn’t be known to have been associated with the Koh Ker Guardian figures[.] . . . Let’s fudge a little, and just put the blame squarely on [Auction House-1] .  .  .  .”

Over the course of his lengthy career, LATCHFORD continued to act as a conduit for recently looted Cambodian antiquities. LATCHFORD advertised purportedly newly discovered and excavated pieces for sale to trusted associates, including a Manhattan-based dealer in Southeast Asian art (the “Dealer”). For example, on or about August 12, 2005, LATCHFORD emailed the Dealer photographs of a bronze seated Buddha, visibly covered in earth. Latchford explained that the photographs showed the statute “before cleaning” by a restorer, and “[w]hen it was found they took off most of the mud, or as it was, a sandy soil, it was found near Sra Srang, the lake in front of Banteay Kedi, right in the Angkor [Wat] Complex.”  Similarly, on or about March 13, 2006, LATCHFORD sent the Dealer an email labeled “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL -------- FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.” The email contained a photograph of a bronze head. LATCHFORD explained that the head “was recently found around the site of the Angkor Borei group in the N E of Cambodia, in the Preah Vihar area. They are looking for the body, no luck so far, all they have found last week were two land mines !! What price would you be interested in buying it at? let me know as I will have to bargain for it.”  On or about April 23, 2007, LATCHFORD sent the Dealer another email, attaching a photograph of a standing Buddha statute that appears to be covered in dirt. LATCHFORD wrote, “Hold on to your hat, just been offered this 56 cm Angkor Borei Buddha, just excavated, which looks fantastic. It’s still across the border, but WOW.”

In order to facilitate the sale and international transportation of the antiquities to buyers and to conceal that the antiquities were looted, LATCHFORD, created false letters of provenance and false invoices, including letters of provenance purporting to have been drafted by a particular art collector (the “False Collector”). For example, in or about 2000, LATCHFORD sold a 12th Century stone Khmer sculpture to a museum in Colorado (the “Colorado Museum”). LATCHFORD informed the Colorado Museum that he had purchased the piece from the False Collector in June 1999, and provided the Colorado Museum with a letter of provenance purportedly from the False Collector as part of the sale.  However, LATCHFORD also supplied the Colorado Museum with records indicating that the statute was transported from LATCHFORD’s residence in Bangkok to London in 1994, long before he claimed to have purchased it from the False Collector.  The False Collector died in or about 2001. Thereafter, LATCHFORD continued to provide numerous provenance letters purportedly provided by the False Collector, while claiming, falsely, that the False Collector was still alive.

On other occasions, LATCHFORD directed third parties to create false provenance documents and false invoices for him.  For example, in or about September 2005, LATCHFORD sold the Dealer a 12th Century Angkor Wat-style standing Buddha statue for $90,000. LATCHFORD told the Dealer that the Buddha “needs to be cleaned, as there is surface corrosion and earth still on it,” indicia of recent excavation. LATCHFORD arranged to ship the Buddha from Bangkok to an “antique consultant/collector” in Singapore (the “Singapore Collector”), and from Singapore to the Dealer’s gallery in Manhattan. LATCHFORD instructed the Singapore Collector to “re-invoice[]” the Buddha on the Collector’s letterhead, “mentioning it has been in your collection for the past 12 years.” The Singapore Collector followed LATCHFORD’s instructions, creating a new, false invoice and letter of provenance stating that the Buddha had been in the Singapore Collector’s private collection in Singapore for the last 12 years, omitting any mention of LATCHFORD, and falsely describing the statute as a “17th C. Bronze Standing Figure from Laos.” The Singapore Collector then shipped the Buddha with the false invoice and false provenance to the Dealer in Manhattan.

As part of the scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities in the United States, from at least in or about 2005 up to and including in or about 2011, LATCHFORD supplied false information to the United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) regarding the antiquities he imported into the United States for resale. In particular, LATCHFORD’s false invoices misstated the nature, age, country of origin, and/or value of the Cambodian antiquities. LATCHFORD misrepresented the country of origin and the age of the goods in particular in order to conceal that they were looted antiquities, and to avoid an embargo on the importation into the United States of Khmer antiquities exported from Cambodia after 1999. Frequently, LATCHFORD listed the “country of origin” as “Great Britain” or “Laos,” rather than Cambodia, and often described the objects as “figures” from the 17th or 18th century.

*                      *                      *




November 18, 2019

At least 120 pieces of papyri appear to be missing from the Egypt Exploration Society collection

 Papyrus from the EES Collection
Graeco-Roman Memoir 103/Oxyrhynchus Papyri LXXXII
In continuing their internal investigation surrounding the illegal sale of papyri from their collection, The Egypt Exploration Society (EES) has issued a statement to members of Society at the Annual Gathering Meeting (AGM) which took place on 16th November 2019.  During that meeting, they indicated that it has determined that at least 120 pieces of papyri from Oxyrhynchus appear to be missing, from the EES collection, almost all from a specific group of folders.  

The EES collection is estimated to hold some half a million fragments so reviewing what is missing may take a considerable amount of time.  Previously it was announced that 13 of the missing pieces were determined to be in the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC.  An additional 6 fragments were located with a collector, Andrew Stimer in California.

This is the first time that the EES has mentioned that they are cooperating with the University of Oxford and the police to try to determine how papyri from their collection were illicitly sold on the art market. 

The EES stated that while the police investigation is in progress, they will not comment further "but will report on developments as and when it is possible."

Carabinieri, EUROPOL , EUROJUST investigation, code named: "Achea"

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TP
NOTE: This article has been updated after the conclusion of the press conference. 

Today at 10:30, the Carabinieri Provincial Command of Crotone, a port city in Calabria, southern Italy, and the region's Public Prosecutor held a press conference to announce the results of a multicountry operation into the illicit trafficking of antiquities which feeds the clandestine market for ancient art.  This after having carried out an order for the application of precautionary measures, issued by the Judge of the Crotone Court, at the request of the local Public Prosecutor who coordinated the investigations.

Begun in 2017 and carried out in coordination with EUROPOL and EUROJUST, the investigation, named "Achea" after the first Hellenic population, involved 350 officers from Italy, France, Germany, Serbia, and the United Kingdom working together to reconstruct an entire criminal chain of actors responsible for the illegal exportation of archaeological material from the areas around Crotone to market countries in Europe.

Image Credit:  Europol
Inside Italy, searches were carried out by the Carabinieri Provincial Commands of Bari, Benevento, Bolzano, Caserta, Catania, Catanzaro, Cosenza, Crotone, Ferrara, Frosinone, Latina, Matera, Milan, Perugia, Potenza, Ravenna, Reggio Calabria, Rome, Siena, Terni, Viterbo as well as with the support of the 8th Carabinieri Core of Vibo Valentia and the helicopter squadron "Cacciatori di Calabria".  Outside Italy's borders, additional searches were conducted by the French Central Police Office for the fight against the international traffic of Cultural Heritage (OCBC -  (Office central de lutte contre le trafic de biens culturels) in France, the German Bavarian LKA (Bayerisches Landeskriminalamt) in Germany, the Serbian Criminal Investigations Directorate in Serbia and the Metropolitan Police (New Scotland Yard) of London in the UK.  According to a EUROPOL statement the Europol Analysis Project FURTUM supported the investigation by coordinating information exchanges, holding operational meetings, preparing the action day and providing analytical support in Italy.

Image Credit:  Europol
The network of criminal actors included a structured group of tombaroli, fences and intermediaries involved in moving illicit antiquities from archaeological sites in and around Crotone, where one of the most important and best known sanctuaries of Magna Graecia is located.  Source locations preyed upon by the squad include the public archaeological sites of Apollo Aleo at Cirò Marina, Capo Colonna, Castiglione di Paludi in the Municipality of Paludi, as well as unmapped areas near Cosentino and Cerasello.  The looters also dug on private lands in the province of Crotone and Cosenza.

During the press conference, it was stated that the criminal group associated with this action appeared to be well organized and had an entrepreneurial approach to structuring their criminal association. As the result of surveillance and wiretaps law enforcement officers were able to determine the top management of the organization, who directed and controlled the activity of the lower members of the association.  They also determined who planned the individual shipments, identified the places of interest for plunder, and worked to prevent, or at least minimize the risk of detection by the police.

Image Credit:  Europol
In Italy searches were conducted against a total of 80 individuals.  In italy, two were taken into custody and 23 have others been reportedly placed under house arrest upon the request of the public prosecutor.  The coinvolved overseas have not been named. 


Held in Custody
Giorgio Salvatore Pucci, from Cirò Marina who was already named in a previous investigation. 
Alessandro Giovinazzi, from Scandale

Released under house arrest
Alfiero Angelucci, from Trevi
Antonio Camardo, from Pisticci,
Giuseppe Caputo,from Dugenta
Sebastiano Castagnino, from Petilia Policastro
Enrico Cocchi, from Castano Primo
Francesco Comito, from Rocca di Neto 
Simone Esposito, from Rocca di Neto
Giuseppe Gallo, from Strongoli
Raffaele Gualtieri, from Isola Capo Rizzuto 
Domenico Guareri, from Isola Capo Rizzuto
Vittorio Kuckiewicz, from Fermo
Franco Lanzi, a numismatic expert from Norcia
Leonardo Lecce from Crotone,
Raffaele Malena, from Cirò Marina, (also named in previous antiquities investigation)
Marco Godano Otranto, from Crotone,
Renato Peroni, from Magnago
Santo Perri, from Sersale
Vincenzo Petrocca, from Isola Capo Rizzuto,
Aldo Picozzi, from Castano Primo
Domenico Riolo, from Scandale
Dino Sprovieri from Cirò Marina

4 others unnamed individuals have been arrested are domiciled abroad

Initial reports state that some of the individuals involved in the criminal conspiracy communicated with one another using a codified language and in some cases accessed archaeological finds using a backhoe, drones, and sophisticated metal detectors from Minelab, despite the fact that the use of metal detectors is completely prohibited in Calabria.


Some of the artifacts recovered include terracotta vases and oil lamps, terracotta plates, fibulas and pieces of ancient jewelry, some dating to the IV and III century BCE.

Italy's Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini gave a statement regarding the investigation saying "Thanks to sophisticated investigative techniques and the collaboration of Europol and the competent foreign police forces, in Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Serbia, the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage has completed with a vast operation to counter the illicit trafficking of archaeological finds from Calabria to Northern Italy and abroad has been successful, recovering thousands of goods and seizing materials used for clandestine excavations, an operation that once again demonstrates the excellence of the Carabinieri Command which has been operating since 1969 in defense of the Italian cultural heritage."


Unfortunately this is not the first time Crotone has been the focal point of such a blitz.  From 2014 until January 2017 an investigation coordinated by the Public Prosecutor of Crotone through Procurator dott. Giuseppe Capoccia and the Deputy Dr. Luisiana Di Vittorio, and conducted by the Police of the Cultural Heritage Protection Center of Cosenza followed up on a number of clandestine excavations conducted in archaeological sites in the areas surrounding Crotone area. While that investigation also served to identify many of the actors of a diffuse and well-structured criminal association it seems that one group dismantled simply made room for another.


November 17, 2019

Recovered: Ring once owned by Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde


Note:  This article has been revised to include an interview with Arthur Brand at the closure of this article: 

Engraved with Greek lettering, a gold ring donated by the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde has been recovered. The author 
Albumen Photo of Oscar Wilde, 1882
by Napoleon Sarony
National Portrait Gallery NPG P24
of scintillating essays and The Picture of Dorian Gray donated the ring to his second alma mater, the University of Oxford, in 1876.  A place where, looking back on his life Wilde reflected pivotally in a letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas that "the two great turning points in my life were when my father sent me to Oxford and when Society sent me to prison." ('De Profundis' — O. W.).  It was the young lord's father who brought about Wilde's spectacular fall from grace.

Wilde read Classics as an undergraduate at Oxford from 1874 to 1878. His ring was once displayed in a butterfly case alongside the  "Magdalen" papyrus, three pieces of a manuscript donated by Reverend Charles B. Huleatt.  The ring disappeared from Magdalen College on May 2, 2002 in the early morning hours when Eamonn Andrews A.K.A. Anderson, a former Magdalen cleaner and handyman broke into the college, stole whiskey from the college bar and then impulsively made off with the 18-carat gold friendship ring and two rowing medals: the 1910 Henley Royal Regatta Grand Challenge Cup medal and a 1932 silver and bronze medal presented to RFG Sarell in 1932. 

The "Old Library" of Magdalen College in Oxford.
When forensic evidence quickly linked the thief to the crime, Andrews confessed, telling police during his interrogation that he had sold the ring and medals to a London scrap metal dealer for just £150.  Andrews was subsequently sentenced to two years incarceration for this offense, yet despite a modest reward, the 18-carat gold literary artifact seemed lost, and would remain missing for 17 years. 

But Wilde's famous ring was too important and too valuable to be melted down, something the fence Andrews delivered the ring to evidently knew.  Collaborating with London based Hungarian-born antiquities dealer William Thomas Veres, a dealer with a less than pristine background written about often on this blog, Arthur Brand, a Dutch private investigator worked credible leads which led to the eventual recovery of the author's ring. 

Brand's informant (or informants) led him to explore details of the famous April 2015 London heist at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company.  That multi-million pound heist took place over the four-day Easter and Passover holidays and was carried out by a gang of mostly elderly robbers, in what some believe was to be their swan song burglary before retiring for good. 

During this heist some of the culprits dressed as gas repair men as they drilled away for hours before eventually boring their way through a 50 centimeter wall to gain access the storage facility, while bypassing the main door.  Once through the wall, the team of burglars ransacked a total of 73 safety boxes containing gold jewellery, precious and semi precious stones, documents and cash. 

Destroyed safety deposit boxes at
Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company after the 2015 burglary
Following up on leads London's Metropolitan Police would eventually arrest ten suspects.  Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company never recovered and went into liquidation. Ultimately eight career criminals involved in the dramatic heist would be sentenced for their involvement.  

John "Kenny" Collins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Hugh Doyle was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, suspended for two years. 

Daniel Jones pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

William Lincoln was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a seven-year prison term. 

Terry Perkins pled guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and  initially sentenced to a seven-year prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail but died one week after the ruling.  

Brian Reader was sentenced to a six years and three months prison term and to pay a total of £27.5 million or face another seven years in jail. 

Michael Seed was found guilty of burglary and conspiracy to burgle and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. 

Carl Wood was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property and was sentenced to a six-year prison term. 

Jon Harbinson was found not guilty and discharged.  

Paul Reader was never charged.

Of the £14 million in loot taken during the Hatton Garden burglary only a fraction of the stolen property, approximately £4,3 million, was ever recovered. Yet whispers from not so literary criminal informants with knowledge of the London heist's haul spoke of one of the items grabbed in the burglary:  

...a Victorian gold ring inscribed with what they thought was Russian text.   

For now details about Brand's recovery are limited due to the nature of the investigation, though this is not the first time that the name of the London art merchant William Veres has been connected to the Dutch investigator's recoveries, as Mr. Brand openly admits when interviewed. 

In November 2018 Veres was connected to Brand in the recovery of a 6th century byzantine mosaic of Saint Mark which once decorated the apse of the church of Panaya Kanakaria in Lythrangomi, Northern Cyprus. Veres' name also came up a second time in January 2019, connected to Brand's recovery of two 7th century limestone reliefs which originally adorned the church of Santa Maria de Lara.  

When asked about the London dealer's motives for helping, Mr Brand stated first and foremost, that Mr. Veres is never paid for the assistance he gives on these cases.  Secondly he stated that though he [Veres] has had encounters with the law in the past, Brand believes that these assists might help the dealer in cleaning up his reputation.  Lastly, Brand stated that you cannot recover stolen art with the help of the Salvation Army, and underscored "all my investigations, including this one, are conducted with the local police authorities full knowledge and are completely legal in the eyes of the law."

When asked about George Crump, who Brand states facilitated in this investigation, the private investigator stated that Crump is "an honest man who knows the London criminal world thanks to his late uncle, a former owner of a casino."  Brant also indicated that Crump's uncle died decades ago but that the nephew still knows his late Uncle's old friends and was therefore "the best person to discreetly inquire as to where the ring might be located, and indeed he succeeded."

The story of this recovery has been filmed by a Dutch film crew and will be aired as part of a documentary in the Summer of 2020.  For now Oscar Wilde's ring is is set to go on display, Wednesday December 4th during a ceremony at the University of Oxford. 

Culprits Identified in the theft at the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino


Proving that museum theft is a bad idea, the Carabinieri and the local municipal police force have identified two culprits, aged 20 and 23 responsible for breaking in the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino with a crow bar during the early morning hours of November 9th.  

Analyzing CCTV surveillance footage, which captured the culprits lighting their way to the stash using their cell phones, as well as images in the city's historic center, investigators were able to hone in on two individuals responsible for the burglary in just four days.  After that, they questioned the suspects about their whereabouts at the time of the theft.

After contradicting one another, and eventually breaking under the stress, the 23 year old, listed only by his initials as "SM" quickly confessed, soon after followed by his accomplice.   Later, the pair led the authorities to the spot in Valle di Chio, a valley in the municipality of Castiglion Fiorentino, where the 61 mostly bronze and silver objects had been buried at the foot of a tree, along the banks of a stream for later retrieval. 

As is sometimes the predictable case in thefts of this nature, one of the two accomplices had once worked at the museum. A second irrefutable bit of evidence, the GPS location data from the cell phones they carried at the time of the theft.  With this law enforcement can conclusively pinpoint their locations at the time the alarm system sounded.  

In the famous words of Forrest Gump:  "Stupid is as stupid does."


By:  Vittoria Ricci

November 15, 2019

Revisiting the case of the marble head of Alexander the Great as Helios, the Sun God

Sotheby's Website Screen Capture
taken 24 July 2018
This week journalist John Russell, of Courthouse News Service, reported that the attorney representing Safani Gallery Inc., in New York has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to block the application for turnover request for a marble antiquity seized by the Manhattan District Attorney.  In their complaint Safani Gallery Inc., wholly owned by Alan Safani, is seeking a trial by jury for the return of an Augustan Age marble head of Alexander the Great as Helios, the Sun God, or damages for the losses it believes it has incurred, from the Italian Republic.  On page 15 of that complaint, Safani through their council asks for a ruling by jury for either the return of the marble sculpture or the full fair-market value of the Head of Alexander, plus legal expenses and interest.

In its complaint Safani Gallery also represents that it was given express representations and warranties of the authenticity, ownership, export licensing, and other attributes of the provenance for the marble head from Foundation, Classical Galleries. Ltd., which sold the New York gallery the antiquity. The complaint also states that by seizing the sculpture, Italy seeks to receive a benefit, including the expropriation of the gallery's property for Italy's own use and gain, to which the country has no claim, interest, or right.

To provide background on this case, Matthew Bogdanos, Senior Trial Counsel in the Office of New York County District, through Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., submitted an Application for Turnover on 23 July 2018 in support of an order pursuant to N.Y. Penal Law §450.10 (Consol. 2017) and N.Y. Criminal Procedure Law §690.55 (Consol. 2017) requesting the transfer of this antiquity, seized pursuant to a previously executed search warrant, from the custody of the court, to the custody of Italy.

Under order of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, the marble head of Alexander the Great had been seized at Safani Gallery  on 22 February 2018.  As a result of that seizure, the object was taken into evidence as part of a state investigation seeking to demonstrate the crime of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree.  That seizure was carried out based on evidence provided by the Italian authorities that the object had been stolen and illegally exported from the country of origin in contravention of Italy’s cultural heritage law (No 364/1909).

Looking across the remains of the Basilica Aemilia
towards the Severan Arch,
the Tabularium, and the Modern Senate House
Image Credit: B. Dolan
In terms of its history, the NY District Attorney court documents set out that the head was discovered during excavations of the Basilica Aemilia, located on the Via Sacra.  This is the ancient road between the Capitoline Hill and Rome's Colosseum, located within the Roman Forum. While little remains of the Basilica Aemilia today, its presence in the form is documented by Rome historian Pliny the Elder as being one of the three most beautiful elements on the site alongside the Forum of Augustus and the Temple of Peace.


The contested marble head was discovered at some point during Italian research excavations carried out by Professor Giacomo Boni and later by Professor Alfonso Bartoli, who conducted archaeological surveys of the Palatine Hill in Rome between 1899 and 1939.  Written documentation from these explorations suggest that the head was once part of the “Statues of Parthian Barbarians” which are believed to have adorned the Basilica Aemilia.  As such, these objects represent a valuable testimony to the art and architecture decorating buildings in the Forum during the Augustan Age.

After 20 BCE Roman art often portrayed the people of the Empire and during its restoration in 14 BCE, Augustus chose to line the Basilica with a series of Parthian figurines, perhaps to humiliate the ancient foreign enemy of Rome.  Representing individuals from the Parthian Empire (also known as the Arsacid Empire), these human likenesses depicted the conquered Parthians as representatives of the Orbis Alter, subjects of Rome not considered to be part of the “civilised” world.  Stylistically, they differ from representations we have from the same time period of people from the Orbis Romanus which makes this statue grouping particularly identifiable.

Correlating statue from the Basilica Aemilia
According to New York court documents, the Italian Soprintendenza alle Antichità Palatino e Foro Romano began keeping archival ambrotype photographic documentation of the objects it discovered during these excavations beginning in 1908.  This method of documentation most likely came about as a result of the country having instituted regional "Superintendencies" in 1907 on the basis of law no 386 dated 27 June 1907.   Prior to that, Italy lacked a strong national framework to encompass cultural heritage laws and regulations, and the area's cultural heritage was protected by the individual laws and decrees inherited from the many states and kingdoms that formerly made up Italy prior to it unification.

To archive the excavation finds from the Roman Forum, the city's cultural authorities placed the smaller antiquities discovered during this excavation upon a table in the Museo Forense cloister for cataloging.   The objects were then photographed against a dark background to aid in their identification and documentation.

Italy's archival records from this period document an image of the Head of Alexander, taken after its initial excavation, resting alone on this table in the aforementioned cloister.  The location where this image was taken is confirmed via a second image photographed in the same cloister of additional excavation finds from the Basilica Aemilia excavation which depicts objects photographed on the same table, but taken from a wider angle which allows the viewer to see the architectural elements from the cloister.  Based on these photographic records, the contested head of Alexander the Great is believed to have been discovered during the second phase of excavations which began after 1909, one year after the superintendency began using this type of photographic imagery for this excavation.

An ambrotype is an early form of photography dating to the 1850s which, in many ways, is a more cumbersome antique equivalent to the modern day slide, with the exception being the photograph was created by way of a fragile glass negative.  To preserve them, ambrotypes are generally stored in cases called a casket or union case and in single envelopes which require special care given their fragility. 

Sample ambrotype photo in its union case.
To date the find period for this object it must be remembered that the Italian authorities also have no contradicting written entries or alternative photographic archival documentation of any marble head finds, Alexander the Great or otherwise, from the Basilica Aemilia excavations related to the Barbarian statues prior to 1909.  All records of this marble head date from 1909 and points thereafter.

It is important to note that Professors Bartoli and Boni began their explorations in the zone of the Basilica Aemilia, where the head has been reported to have been excavated, in September 1909.  This time period, discussed at length in the State of New York's Application for Turnover, is documented in the archaeological record and demonstrates that in all likelihood, the marble head was found after September 1909 when excavations at the Basilica resumed.  Possibly more precisely, the first written documentation of marble sculptural heads of this type being found at the Basilica Aemilia were documented in  Bartoli's excavation journal in March and June 1910.  

This dating is critical to this restitution case in so much as Italy's Code of the Cultural and Landscape Heritage (No 364/1909) was made into law less than three months earlier, on 20 June 1909.  According to that law, there is a presumption of State ownership for all archaeological objects discovered after the law's implementation, unless the Italian cultural ministry acknowledges that the object does not have a cultural interest.  Given the importance of the Roman Forum excavations, it is not likely that the newly established Superintendency responsible for Rome would have categorized the symbolic head of Alexander the Great, from a site as important as the Basilica Aemilia, within the Forum Romanum,  as insignificant.

History tells us though that records for the marble head notated "perduta" (Italian for the word "lost") in November of 1960, when a review of the photographic negative of the Head of Alexander, inventory number 5862, no longer could be matched with a correlating object within the state's collection inventories.  Yet, at the time of this notation, there was no evidence to indicate that the object, or a second, also notated missing antiquity, had been stolen.  It is for this reason perhaps that the object was not archived within Italy's Leonardo database, the Italian state's archive for stolen art and antiquities.

But where was the object bought and sold before ultimately being located by the Italians? 

While the documentation of this object's collection history is spartan, we know that on 22 November 1974 the head of Alexander sold for a mere $650, having been consigned by the Hagop Kevorkian fund to Sotheby Parke Bernet. Sotheby’s Auction House acquired Parke Bernet Galleries in 1964 and adopted the name Sotheby Parke Bernet throughout the 1970s.  Today, that auction house is now known simply as Sotheby’s.  The buyer at this time was listed only as "Altertum Ltd."

Sometime after that date, the object was then purportedly purchased by Professor Oikonomides who indicated to others that he purchased the object while vacationing in Cairo, Egypt sometime between 1984 and 1986.  The object was then bequeathed to Dr. Miller by Oikonomides when he passed away in 1988.

Sotheby's Website Screen Capture
taken 24 July 2018
On 08 December 2011 the object then sold at Sotheby's for a second time, during Sotheby’s Egyptian, Classical and Western Asiatic Antiquities sale .

At the time of this second auction, the purported provenance for the object was listed as:

Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962), New York, most likely acquired prior to World War II
The Hagop Kevorkian Fund (Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, November 22nd, 1974, no. 317, illus.)
A.N. Oikonomides, Chicago

At the time of this transaction, there was very little in the way of documentation to confirm the provenance narrative.  Despite this, the marble head sold to a then unidentified buyer for $92,500 USD.

In May 2017, the head of Alexander surfaced once again, but on the other side of the Atlantic.  This time the ancient marble head went up for sale in the United Kingdom, having once been in the possession of former Qatari culture minister and cousin of the current ruler of the oil-rich Arab country, Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Ali Al-Thani.  Before his death in 2014 Sheikh Saud Al-Thani was believed to have been the world's richest art collector.

Through Classical Galleries Limited, UK the Sheikh’s foundation in turn sold the head of Alexander to Alan Safani of Safani Gallery for $152,625 on 20 June 2017.

Object Identified by the Italians

Safani Gallery Booth - TEFAF 2018
Image Credit: L. Albertson
By an amazing bit of serendipity, on 19 February 2018, Dr. Patrizia Fortini, Director and Coordinator of the Archaeological Site of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill chanced upon an art fair advertisement which featured a photo of the stolen head in a publication for the upcoming 2018 fine arts fair known as TEFAF.  In the dealer's documentation, a photograph of the head had been included highlighting Safani Gallery's offerings for the upcoming Maastricht sale due to be held in the Netherlands, 10-18 March 2018.  Fortini determined that the photo in the advertisement and the old archival documentation photo of the head in the Museo Forense’s cloister were of the same object.

That same day, 19 February 2018, Fortini contacted the Carabinieri Headquarters for the Protection of Cultural Heritage a informed them of her suspicions.  On February 20, 2018, the Carabinieri likewise notified the New York authorities of Dr. Fortini's concerns.  Two days later, on February 22, 2019, a formal theft report had been filed with the Italian authorities and Lieutenant Colonel Nicola Candido, Commander of the Italian Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Rome, formally notified Matthew Bogdanos at the New York District Attorney's office that the Head of Alexander was “stolen from the L'Antiquarium Forense in Rome (Italy) - an Archaeological Site that belongs to the Italian State,” and that “the Italian Republic has never issued a state-approved license for the exportation of the [Head] from Italy; and has never transferred the ownership of the [Head] from Italy to any third party.”  These statements and the accompanying evidence gathered in relation to the assertion resulted in the seizure of the sculpture from Safani Gallery.

Statute of Limitations and Clear Title

Under New York law, barring the expiration of the statute of limitations or application of the laches doctrine, one cannot obtain title from a thief unless the present-day possessor's title can be traced to someone with whom the original owner voluntarily entrusted the art.  As clear title is not possible in the case of this marble head, this leaves Safani and his counsel, David Schoen, to see if they can make their case based on the laches defense.  The purpose of the doctrine of laches is to safeguard the interests of good faith purchasers, in this case of lost/stolen art, by weighing in the balance of competing interest against the owner's diligence in pursuing their claim.   

While delay in pursuing a claim for the head could be considered in the context of laches under New York law, given that the theft occurred at an unknown time so many years ago, it has long been the law of the state of New York that a property owner, having discovered the location of its lost property, cannot unreasonably delay in making their demand upon the person in possession of that property.  As Italy acted within days of its identification that its "lost" item was in fact stolen, this course of legal action doesn't seem to be a viable route for retaining the object in question.

Likewise, as of this date, Safani Gallery hasn't produced any records or bill of sale for any pre-1974 transaction for the Head of Alexander.  Nor are there any records or invoices for the 1974 sale by Sotheby’s to Altertum Ltd., or any export visas or stamp authorizing the Head’s legitimate removal from Italy. Nor are there any records which would confirm a date for which the object was shipped out of the source country, such as a bill of lading or a customs declaration.  This leaves Safani with little tangible evidence to disprove the NYDA's stance that the object was stolen and then illegally removed from Italy.

Despite this, on 14 November 2018 Safani's attorney reported that the New York courts denied the NY DA's Turnover Application

To clarify on the aforementioned tweet by David Schoen, which only presents a portion of the facts,  the judge in this complicated case has stayed the proceeding pending the outcome of the federal case, and ruled that New York does have jurisdiction to resolve ownership disputes of antiquities under PL 450.10, and that he will do so in appropriate cases.

So for now, the court wrangling continues to drag on.

To view the 22 February 2018 Seizure Order, please see here.
To view the 23 July 2018 Application for Turnover, please see here.
To view the 12 November 2019 Safani Complaint, please see here.

By:  Lynda Albertson

November 9, 2019

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,, No comments

Museum Theft: Numismatic thieves also strike at the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino

In the second of two museum thefts reported in Italy this week, two thieves broke into the Museo Civico Archeologico in Castiglion Fiorentino around 2:00 am by forcing open a window in Palazzo Pretorio, in the early morning hours of 7 November.   As the alarm sounded drawing attention to their incursion, the culprits had to work quickly in order to complete their burglary before a private security firm, responding to the alarm, had time to intervene.

Once inside the museum, CCTV footage captured the pair on the second floor, where they proceeded to break into a display case and make off with thirty papal medals donated to the museum by a private collector. At present, it is not known whether their choice of objects was premeditated or simply an impulsive grab to get in and get out quickly before being captured.  Officials have reported however that the thieves took gilded gold medals from the case while leaving behind others which were dull in appearance but more valuable, being made of silver.

Saturday, November 09, 2019 - ,,, No comments

Museum Theft: Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy


In one of two museum thefts this week in Italy, authorities have reported that fifty gold solidus, dating back to the 5th century CE have been stolen from the Museo di San Mamiliano in Sovana, Italy.  

Discovered during restoration works carried out under the floors of the city church of San Mamiliano in 2004, the hoard of gold coins is known as the Treasure of Sovana.  Coins like these, were once in use by the Byzantine Empire between the fourth and tenth centuries. 

In total, cultural authorities documented 498 coins in the cache which can be dated chronologically between the beginning of the 5th century with the reign of Honorius and the last decades of the century - the reign of Zeno. Each of the coins weighed in at approximately 1/72 of a Roman pound (approx. 4,5 grams), and is said to be nearly 24 karat gold (so in excess of 99% pure).

It has been reported that once the thief or thieves entered the museum, they were able to deactivate the alarm system connected to the local carabinieri station and then turn off the internal video surveillance system to impede their identification.  For good measure the thieves also stole a CCTV backup storage device, likely indicating they were familiar with the museum's security. 

Once inside the museum, the culprits attempted to break the safety glass surrounding the coins, but meeting some resistance, and pressed for time, the thieves made off with only a portion of the gold coins on display. 

The following is a list of the coins that make up the Treasure of Sovana divided by empire and by name of the emperor (or emperors) transcribed.  Note: Which coins are missing has not been released. 

Western Empire
  • Honorius: eight coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Valentinian III: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Petronius: a coin; mint of Rome.
  • Miano: two coins; mints of Milan and Ravenna.
  • Libio Severo: ten coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Anthemius: seventeen coins; mints of Milan, Ravenna and Rome.
  • Glycerine: a coin; Mint of Milan.
  • Giulio Nepote: six coins; mints of Arelate, Milan, Ravenna and an unidentified Germanic area.
  • Romulus Augustus: eight coins; mints of Arelate, Milan and Rome.

Eastern Empire
  • Theodosius II: twenty-three coins; mints of Constantinople, Ravenna and Thessalonica.
  • Pulcheria: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Marciano: eleven coins; mints of Constantinople and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I: twelve coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan, Rome and Thessalonica.
  • Leo I and Leo II: a coin; mint of Constantinople.
  • Leo II and Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Basilisk: eight coins; mints of Constantinople, Milan and Rome.
  • Basilisk and Mark: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Zeno: two coins; mint of Constantinople.
  • Ariadne (Wife of Zeno and Anastasius, daughter of Leo I, mother of Leo II): a coin; mint of Constantinople.


Today, the fifth-century solidus is highly sought after, as much for its gold purity, as for its historical interest. Purchased legally, they are usually more expensive than a denarius issued by the same emperor. 

November 8, 2019

Book Review – Females in the Frame, Women, Art and Crime

Guest Blog post by: Dr. Catherine Gardner

Penelope Jackson wrote this book as a result of a challenge unwittingly thrown down by Dr Noah Chaney. He somewhat naively noted in his 2015 book The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of Master Forgers “there is a decided lack of female forgers in this book; there are female accomplices and con men, but I know of no notable forgers in the history of forgery”.  This motivated Jackson to investigate further the role women play (have played) in art crime.  The result of her research is this easy to read book. 

Penelope Jackson is an Art Historian and is the author of: Thieves, Fakers and Fraudsters: The New Zealand Story (2016).  The offenders in this book are all men apart from one female thief who somewhat brazenly stole a piece of art from an exhibition in a small Otago town.  Jackson noted that the only other women in the book were at the receiving end of art crime. In Females in the Frame she wanted to uncover not only other roles women took in art crime but also try and understand their reasons for doing it.  For me, the why is often more interesting than the how.

One of the first things that you will notice (well I did anyway) is the depth of the research that Jackson has done for this book. In some instances, she has given institutions information about their artwork that they were unaware of.  In her way Jackson has added to the history of these artworks.

Jackson has given each chapter a theme which provides a useful cohesion to the book. These chapters are essentially case studies on the women involved.  I believe this makes the book more relatable as it brings the characters to life.  The chapters give examples of women who have destroyed art  (chapter 2 – Lady Destroyers), mothers who have protected their art criminal sons (chapter 3 – The Mother of All Art Crimes), women who have vandalised art (chapter 4 – She Vandals), women who conned artists and clients (chapter 5 - The Art of the Con(Wo)man), women who stole art works (chapter 6 - The Light Fingered),  forged art (chapter 7 - Naming Rights), those who used their professional positions to commit white collar crime (chapter 8 – The professionals) and her concluding chapter (chapter 9 – Afterword: Making a Noise about the Silence).

Jackson goes into detail in her chapters about the women who did what they did and why.  She has sympathy for some of the actions such as the Suffragettes who destroyed paintings rather than hurt people to highlight the inequity of women in society. Although the cause for women’s right to vote is a just one there is an overarching sadness in terms of artwork that has been lost due to vandalism, destruction or theft. Another example is of the Russian woman who stole from her work to pay for diabetes medication. Something I can’t imagine ever having to do living in my comfortable world but once again, I get a feeling of sadness and disappointment by Jackson who is fiercely protective of art works.   

She does save some particular ire for Clementine Churchill.  Jackson spends a considerable amount of time discussing Clementine Churchill’s alleged penchant for destroying unflattering portraits (according to her) of her husband.  One such painting was commissioned by the House of Commons and the House of Lords after the sum of 1000 guineas was raised.  This painting was to celebrate Churchill's 80th birthday.  The chosen artist was celebrated portraitist Graham Sutherland and the painting was unveiled at a televised event, meaning, thankfully, that there are photos of the painting. This painting was a gift from the nation but also to the nation of a highly regarded public figure. The story (in fact Jackson gives four possible accounts of its demise) is that Clementine did not like the portrait, that she believed it to be an unflattering likeness of Churchill and organised for it to be destroyed.  Arguably it showed him perfectly, quite possibly how everyone remembers him, stubborn, unbending and resolute, not to mention 80 years old.   Jackson rightly argues that this was never her painting to destroy.  This painting belonged to the people of Great Britain.  Likewise, Jackson asks the question about who truly has authority, ownership or the right to destroy any of these artworks.  

This segues rather nicely into the case studies of women protecting their art criminal sons and the lengths they would take to protect them, including the heart-breaking destruction of many irreplaceable pieces. Jackson is forever trying to understand why the women did as they did and explores the psychology behind their actions as well.  I believe this adds another layer of richness to the book.

Jackson also discusses where artwork has been accidently damaged by cleaners or more intriguingly or perhaps tragically by amateur restorers.  She highlights the work by two well-meaning but ultimately hopeless (that word might be too strong) women who did irreparable damage to very old and sacred work.  They meant well but there is a reason why such work is left to the professionals. In my view, the results were criminal and perhaps did more damage than any criminal/vandal could have done.

Another very interesting story that Jackson writes about is the case of an Australian woman, an acclaimed artist, who decided one day to paint under a nom de brush.  That in itself was not an issue, but it was the fact that she took on the name and persona of an aboriginal man and began to paint in an obvious aboriginal style that is the problem.  Add to that her total lack of understanding why a white, middle class woman pretending to be an aboriginal man might be offensive.  

Jackson’s book also sets the story straight on a few myths.  The belief that the novelist Patricia Cornwell destroyed a painting just to get DNA from the artist is debunked by setting out the facts of what happened. Likewise, in her final chapter she also sets the record straight on the film, The Monuments Men and separates the truth from the Hollywood version. This brings me to my favourite moment in the book, the story of Rose Valland (played by Cate Blanchett in the movie The Monuments Men).  As Jackson says the film should be called The Monuments Men and Women but Hollywood never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  It is this section in the book (in my view) that sums up so much of what Jackson is trying to highlight.   

Rose Valland (inter-alia) was responsible for saving and recovering many works of art that the Nazis tried to pilfer during world war two.  She put her life on the line so that these works could be recovered.  Rather than focusing on this remarkable act of bravery and the fact that she was a well-qualified art historian there seems to be more attention placed on how she looked; “plain looking, and plainly dressed” or described as; “a mousy little spinster” (with nerves of tungsten).  Jackson talks more than once about gendered language in her book and comments on the way in which women are portrayed in the media versus men.  

Jackson has written an accessible book that takes the reader on a journey into the world of art and crime and women.  She attempts to understand why the women did as they did as well as trying to redress the balance in how women are portrayed in print.  It is evident that Jackson has a real love of art and the overriding message for me was the need to protect and look after all art so that future generations can experience these marvellous works. 

November 7, 2019

Exhibition commemorating the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht: Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy


In commemoration of the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the state-sponsored pogrom known as the “Night of Broken Glass” which took place November 9-10, 1938, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is hosting an speaking engagement Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7:00 pm featuring Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC followed by the opening of a special exhibition which is then scheduled to remain at the centre for a little more than one year.

The event Kristallnacht Commemoration and Dr. Hayden's talk will be streamed online on Facebook tonight, November 7th at 7pm (PST).

Dates:  
November 8, 2019 – November 27, 2020
Location:  
Wosk Auditorium, Jewish Community Centre Greater Vancouver
950 West 41 Avenue
VANCOUVER, BC October 23, 2019

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is an acclaimed teaching museum devoted to Holocaust based anti-racism education.  

Treasured Belongings: The Hahn Family & the Search for a Stolen Legacy brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts to detail the story of the family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts and exhibition speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

During Kristallnacht hundreds of synagogues in Germany and Austria were burned, Jewish-owned businesses were destroyed, nearly 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 were sent to concentration camps.

Kristallnacht was a turning point in the Nazi persecution of European Jews and a defining moment for Max and Gertrud Hahn of Göttingen, Germany. 

Born in Göttingen, Germany in 1880, Max Hahn was a successful businessman, civic leader and passionate collector.  The Hahn’s Judaica collection was one of the most significant private collections in pre-war Europe, rivalling those of the Rothschild and Sassoon families. During the Kristallnacht pogrom, Max was arrested, and the Nazis proceeded to confiscate his silver Judaica and strip the family of their property and possessions. 

With the support of his wife, Gertrud, Max engaged in a lengthy battle to retrieve his stolen collection. While their children, Rudolf (later Roger Hayden) and Hanni, were sent to England for safety in 1939, Max and Gertrud were deported to Riga in December 1941, where they ultimately perished. Most of their collection was never recovered.

Roger’s son, Dr. Michael Hayden, MC, OBC, became immersed in his remarkable family history when he encountered photographs and documents left to him by his father. This original exhibition, developed by the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, brings together items from the Hahn archive alongside rich artefacts and interviews to detail the story of the Hahn family, their collection, and their descendants’ restitution efforts. Involving extensive research and intensive negotiations with German museums and archives, the family’s ongoing search for their stolen collection speaks to timely themes of cultural loss, reconciliation and intergenerational legacy.

The Exhibition is supported by Michael and Sandy Hayden and children, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver, the Isaac and Sophie Waldman Endowment Fund of the Vancouver Foundation, Isaac and Judy Thau, Yosef Wosk, Audre Jackson, and the Goldie and Avrum Miller Memorial Endowment Fund of the VHEC.

The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC) is Western Canada’s leading Holocaust teaching museum, reaching more than 25,000 students annually and producing acclaimed exhibitions, innovative school programs and teaching materials. The VHEC is a leader in Holocaust education in British Columbia, dedicated to promoting human rights, social justice and genocide awareness, and to teaching about the causes and consequences of discrimination, racism and antisemitism through education and remembrance of the Holocaust.