Showing posts with label Boston MFA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boston MFA. Show all posts

April 12, 2015

An Updated Analysis of What Remains of Nimrud's NorthWest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II

Photo by Mustafa Al Najjar
As news of the Nimrud explosion video produced by Daash, ISIL, Deash, ISIS, Daaesh, Islamic State gets press time.  Rearchers and journalists are beginning to comment on the missing chunks and slices of the Assyrian reliefs seen from the video's imagery of the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II.  Social Media has been abuzz with speculation that these pieces may have been removed in advance of the explosion, for sale on the illicit antiquities market.   While this might partially prove to be  true, it is premature to speculate on this before cross referencing and doing so just adds to the shock and horror propaganda the militants want to demonstrate.

Sam Hardy has excellent Day One analysis of the attack on Nimrud as does Paul Barford who asks when this video was made.

A new PDF report analyzing relief and object damage was published by Simone Mühlon on April 15, 2015 and can be downloaded here

Assyrian reliefs, stone slaps and epigraphic remains in the form of cuneiform texts can also be found in private and museum collections throughout the world.  ARCA has listed a fairly comprehensive listing of the 76 known public collections and 6 private collections which contain material culture from this archaeological site.

Abegg Foundation, Bern
Amherst College, Amherst
Archäologisches Institut und Archäologische Sammlung der Universität Zürich, Zurich
Arkeoloji Müzeleri, Istanbul
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
The Art Museum, Princeton University
Arts & Culture Centre, Memorial University
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Australian Institute of Archaeology
Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbay, India (formerly Victoria and Albert Museum)
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
The British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,
Burrell Collection. Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbay, India (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)
Christ Church College, Oxford
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Fleming Museum, University of Vermont
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Glencairn Museum, Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn
Hood Museum, Dartmouth College
Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo
Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Michigan
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
Louvre Museum, Paris
Magdalen College, Oxford
Manchester University, Museum, Manchester
Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
M.H. De Young Museum, San Francisco
Miho Museum, Kyoto
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Mosul Museum, Mosul, Iraq (Condition unknown)
Middlebury College, Middlebury
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley
Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure, Genoa
Museo Barracco, Rome
Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Rome
Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels
Musei Vaticani, Rome
Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
Museum of Art, Cleveland
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw
National Car Museum of Iran, Tehran, Iran
National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad (Condition unknown)
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen
National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
Skulpturensammlung, Dresden
Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Swedish National Museum, Stockholm
Tyndale House, Cambridge
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Virginia Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria
Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown
Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities, Trinity College
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
Yale University, New Haven

Private Collections:
Anonymous (3)
Fred Elghanayan, New York,
Collection Merrin, New York
Collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne

A joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin has completed a comprehensive list of the known collection items with corresponding drawings to the Assyrian reliefs where information has been available.  This online reference may be useful in determining more details of what was gone before vs. what might have been cut away for illicit sales prior to the site's detonation.

Another excellent research project for review materials is the  "Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production: Object Biographies of Inscribed Artefacts from Nimrud for Museums and Mobiles".   Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/K003089/1) it was based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, UCL, the British Museum's Department of the Middle East, and the Babylonian Section of Penn Museum

In final comment, this might be an opportune time to underscore that the site does live on, primarily in the hearts and souls of the people of Iraq, but also tangibly, albeit widely dispersed. 

By Lynda Albertson

February 6, 2014

Anniversary of the Ducal Palazzo Theft 1975: “Paintings stolen from palace” (Associated Press, 1975)

Associated Press headline “Paintings stolen from palace” on February 6, 1975 announced a robbery at the Ducal Palace in Urbino. This is what the Associated Press published on February 6, 1975:
URBINO, Italy (AP) – Three priceless paintings by the Renaissance masters Raphael and Piero della Francesca were stolen early today from the Ducal Palace in Urbino. Police said it was the “greatest art theft in modern Italy.” 
The police said the thieves climbed a scaffold erected on the palace wall for restoration work, broke a window and escaped with Raphael’s La Muta (The Mute Girl) and Piero della Francesca’s Madonna of Senigallia and The Flagellation of Christ. The canvases were taken from their frames, which were left behind. Officials said the value of the paintings could not be estimated since it had been years since a work by either painter has come on the market. Although Raphael is the more popular of the two, the paintings by Piero della Francesca were considered among the best examples of that 15th Century master’s work still in existence. Officials said the three paintings would be difficult if not impossible to sell since they are so well known. There were two theories: that the thieves had been commissioned by a collector who would keep the paintings for his secret enjoyment, or that they would try to collect ransom for their return. 
The Ducal Palace is now a museum. 
Bruno Molaioli, Italy’s former director-general of fine arts, said the stolen Raphael “is a masterpiece of the master’s Florentine period when the young Raphael was still under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci.” 
He said the two paintings by Piero della Francesca “represent two pillars in the painter’s brilliant career.” 
Raphael was born in Urbino in 1483. Piero della Francesca was born in San Sepolcro, in the Umbrian region of central Italy, around 1420. 
Italian art officials said recently that thefts of art from Italian museums, churches and private collections were averaging four or five a day. Last year the national police said a total of 2,420 art works were stolen in the first four months of 1973, and most of them are still missing.
The "Ducal Palace" (English) is identified as "Palazzo Ducale" (Italian) in Urbino in the region of Marche. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the hometown of Raphael.

Piero della Francesca's Senigallia Madonna was on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts through January 6, 2014. Here's a link to more information about the painting and the exhibit, including an 18-minute video on The Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage which recovered the paintings one year after the theft when the thieves could not sell the well-known artworks. 

September 15, 2013

Italy loans Renaissance masterpiece to MFA, Boston as part of exhibit on recovery work by the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage

Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna"
Piero della Francesca's "Senigallia Madonna", a 15th century tempera and oil on panel, is on display through January 6, 2014, at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. This cultural exchange is part of the Italian government's program, 2013 - The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

In the Boston Globe, Geoff Edgers reports in "A museum, a heist, a rescued 'Madonna'":
The 24-by-21-inch work is a prime example of how a seemingly grim acknowledgment -- that the MFA had acquired works most likely looted from Italian soil -- has been turned into a bountiful cultural exchange. Back in 2006, under pressure and scrutiny from Italian investigators with photographic evidence that showed works looted sometime before they arrived in US museums, the MFA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York struck deals to send objects back.
Here's a link to the MFA's website and a video about the work of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

Edgers writes:
The loan of the Piero is part of a campaign by the Carabinieri, Italy's military police, to publicize their effort to recovery stolen artworks. So the MFA's Lee gallery will feature extensive wall labels detailing both the significance of the work as well as the tale of the theft.
Virginia Curry, who spoke at ARCA's first international art crime conference in 2009, was interviewed for the article:
Virginia Curry, a retired special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who has worked closely with the Carabinieri and also on the 1990 Gardner theft, said the MFA loan truly helps both parties. The MFA gets to show a priceless masterpiece. The Italians, sometimes criticized for reclaiming artworks on prime display in the United States and putting them in storage or in little-seen galleries, are able to share the country's culture.
“That’s really the purpose of it,” said Curry, who is based in Texas. “They’re showing that they’re willing to bring something back. That they’re not just going to demand the return of this material to be placed in a storehouse in Italy because they can’t display it as well as at the MFA or at the Metropolitan. They’re trying to show some responsibility and willingness to share their culture.”

August 5, 2012

Stonehill Art Crime Symposium Visits Boston Museum of Fine Arts

by Virginia Curry, Stonehill Art Crime Symposium

Our class was warmly welcomed to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Professor Candice Smith-Corby from Stonehill College arranged for a private lecture presented by Victoria Reed, the Monica S. Sadler Assistant Curator for Provenance and the first Curator of Provenance in the United States. Her job is to research works with questionable histories both in the collection and on the MFA’s "shopping list". As a result, Reed’s other job is to break curators’ hearts.

The MFA, which like many museums has had to return works in recent years, took special care in creating Reed’s post in 2010. She is the first and only endowed curator of provenance at an American museum.

Ms. Reed elaborated on the practices of past acquisition management at the MFA and the steps that it now takes to ensure that the Museum exercises due diligence in acquisitions and researches any questionable provenance of exhibits already accessioned into the MFA collection, which opened its doors to the public in 1876. The class learned that the MFA, due to Ms. Reed's research, has already returned numerous accessions in the collection when she proved that the title to each of the exhibits lie elsewhere.

Rhona Macbeth the Director of MFA Painting Conservation directed our class on a private laboratory tour of her on-going conservation of the painting "Allegory of Justice" dated 1636, by Gerrit van Honthorst (Dutch, 1590–1656) on loan from the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The scale of this painting is such that the MFA uses a towering painting tube to transport the huge canvas within the Museum. 

"Allegory of Justice", 1636, Gerrit van Honthorst
This photograph of some of the members of our class with Ms. Macbeth gives a sense of the scale of the canvas, which was pieced together by the artist to present a larger than life portrait of Elisabeth, Electress Palatine and (briefly) queen of Bohemia (August 19, 1596 – February 13, 1662). She was born Lady Elizabeth Stuart, the eldest daughter to King James VI of Scotland and his Queen consort Anne of Denmark. She was thus sister to Charles I of England. With the demise of the Stuart dynasty in 1714, her direct descendants, the Hanoverian rulers, succeeded to the British throne.  In 1613, she married Frederick V, then Elector of the Palatinate, and took up her place in the court at Heidelberg. In 1619, Frederick was offered and accepted the crown of Bohemia, but his rule was brief, and Elizabeth became known as the "Winter Queen". She was also sometimes called "Queen of Hearts" because of her popularity.  Driven into exile, the couple took up residence in The Hague, and Frederick and their son drowned in 1632. Elizabeth remained in Holland even after her son, Charles I Louis, regained his father's electorship in 1648. Following the Restoration of the British monarchy, she traveled to London to visit her nephew, King Charles II, and died while there. Her daughter (illustrated in the paining as a winged figure flying above the scene, was known later as Sophia of Hanover. Her grandson became George I of the United Kingdom, thus making all her direct descendants heir to the British throne.  Honthorst depicts Elizabeth crushing Neptune, who is shown with his trident, under the bladed wheels of her carriage as her husband and son beckon from death to she and their surviving children.
Detail from "Allegory of Justice"

Our class also spoke with conservators who were preparing the severed head from the 2nd century A.D. cult statue of Juno for casting, and the conservation of the Etruscan couple sarcophagus of Larth Tetnies and Tanchvil Tarnai (approximately dated 3rd to 4th century B.C.E0.

After lunch at the MFA, we proceeded to Vose Gallery in Boston where we were met by Beth Vose, the director of the oldest family owned gallery in the United States. Ms. Vose gave our class a presentation concerning the history of collecting of the Vose Gallery, which first opened as an artist supply shop, and has been actively operated by descendents for six generations. Ms. Vose explained the role of the private gallery as collection consultants and the due diligence as they perform their acquisition and conservation of American paintings and sculpture from the northeast.

October 6, 2011

Top Half of Turkey's Herakles Sent from Boston's MFA to Istanbul in Prime Minister's Private Jet

Özgen Acar publishes an article in one of Turkey's largest newspapers on a subject he's covered for decades.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The rumors began last July that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts had agreed to return the top half of 'Weary Herakles' to Turkey, but the official announcement did not come until September and within a few days the Roman marble was enroute to Turkey on the Prime Minister's private jet.

Geoff Edgers, reporter for Boston's Globe, reported from Antalya on July 17th in "Making 'Herakles' whole after all these years" that after 20 years of denials the Boston museum would return the top half of the 1,800 year-old statue to Turkey.  Malcolm Bell, a University of Virginia professor quoted in the article, was also mentioned in "Chasing Aphrodite," the nonfiction book by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino.  Dr. Bell was director of the archaeological site in Morgantina in Sicily from where the 'Aphrodite' statue recently returned from the Getty.

The person who emailed me the link to Edgers' online article was Özgen Acar, the Turkish journalist who has chased down the Lydian Hoard and the Weary Herakles for decades (as featured in Sharon Waxman's book Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World).

I had met Mr. Acar in Ankara in July 2010 and he had given me copies of many of his articles, including "Turkey's War on the Illicit Antiquities Trade" (Archaeology, March/April 1995) and "The Turkish Connection: An Investigative Report on the Smuggling of Classical Antiquities" (Connoisseur, 1990). I asked Mr. Acar via email then for his response which was swift and passionate:
I’m very happy to learn that, following my discovery of the stolen Weary Heracles and related articles in 1990, yet another part of Turkey's historical heritage will be returned to Turkey. 
When my story was first published by Connoisseur Magazine, Cornelius Vermeule III [curator at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts], had made fun of me in his interview in the New York Times
He had said, "How can a statue have two navels?" 
He also said, that there were many Roman copies of the same type of Weary Heracles.
He added that the upper section was in the market in the mid 1950’s.
He lied twice.
 A) He had come to see the bottom piece in Antalya as a tourist; he knew the both pieces very well.
 B) He knew that the upper part had been brought to the Shelby White and Leon Levy couple in the early 1980’s.
I am not an archeologist but an investigative journalist. As the result of my investigation for many years, “The Lydian Hoard” (King Croesus Treasure), “The Elmali Hoard” (The Hoard of the Century) and many treasures were returned to Turkey.
Foreign collectors and museum officials have to respect the historical, cultural and religious heritage of every country. They belong, not only to Turkey, but to all mankind. History is beautiful where it belongs.
Mr. Acar has written about the theft of illicit antiquities out of Turkey for decades, identifying routes, naming individuals involved in the transactions, and how items were shipped and sold, including tying operators with Robert Hecht, an American antiquities dealer on trial in Italy on charges of conspiring to traffic in looted artifacts (associated with the sale of the Euphronios krater to the Met which was returned to Italy in 2009).

In 1995, Acar wrote of the archaeological museum in Antalya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast which had on display the lower half of the statue of Herakles -- "the upper half is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" ("Turkey's War on the Illicit Antiquities Trade").  The museum also included a 'reassembled sarcophagus' which had had a piece returned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu 'when Turkish archaeologists identified it as stolen'.  Another sarcophagus had been displayed at the Brooklyn Museum until it was returned to Turkey in 1994.

'Weary Herakles', which Acar wrote about in the same article in Archaeology magazine in 1995, is dated 170-192 AD and 'shows the tired hero leaning on his club.' The upper half of the statue was jointly owned by Leon Levy and Shelby White, New York collectors, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This is what Acar wrote then:
"In 1980 Jale Inan, director of excavations at the ancient city of Perge, northeast of Antalya, heard rumors that something important had been stolen from the site.  Later that summer, while excavating a Roman villa, Inan discovered the bottom half of the Herakles statue, as well as several other sculptures that were complete.  By 1981 the top half of the Herakles had been acquired by Levy, who gave a half-interest in the sculpture to the Boston museum.  The statue was displayed at the Metropolitan from late 1990 through early 1991 in an exhibition of White and Levy's collection titled Glories of the Past.  Turkey learned of the Levy-White Herakles from the exhibition catalogue (for which Boston's curator Cornelius Vermeule had written an entry on the statue) and from a photograph that was faxed to the Antalya Museum.  Articles in Connoisseur magazine and The New York Times showed the upper and lower halves of the statue photographically rejoined."
Although the two halves were shown to fit as early as 1995, the burden of proof was placed on Turkey to prove that the top half of Herakles had been stolen.

If you would like to read more about the return of Herakles to Turkey, you may find articles in English written here and here in Hürryet Daily News.

September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011 - , No comments

Evidence of changing attitudes: The Art Loss Register recovers valuable medallion on behalf of the Castle Friedenstein Foundation in Gotha Germany

When SJ Phillips, a jewellery and art dealer, offered to sell a rare 17th century gold medallion to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts museum the institute contacted the Art Loss Register who confirmed that the item was on it's database of stolen works, and once contacted with this information, the seller offered to return the item to it's pre-World War II owners. You may read the press release on the Art Loss Register's website here.

June 28, 2011

The Boston Globe Reports "MFA makes amends in probable plundering: Artwork believed stolen by Nazis"

Eglon van der Neer, "Portrait of a Man and Woman"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

One of our readers directed the ARCA blog to a headline June 27th in the online Boston Globe edition: "MFA makes amends in probable plundering, Artwork believed stolen by the Nazis."

Geoff Edgers for The Boston Globe reports that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will pay an "undisclosed sum" to the heir of Walter Westfeld, a Jewish art dealer, to keep the 17th century painting, "Portrait of a Man and Woman" (1665-1667) by Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703).

Edgers writes:
The 29-by-27-inch work, which depicts a wealthy couple sitting in their living room, was purchased from a New York dealer in 1941 for $7,500. In recent years, similar van der Neers have sold at auction for as much $550,000.
The MFA's curator for provenance, Victoria S. Reed, researched the painting's history.  Again, Edgers from The Boston Globe:

There was no way to track the direct path of the painting from Germany in the 1930s to New York. But it was very unlikely that Westfeld had sold his painting voluntarily.
Reed learned that Westfeld had run a gallery in Elberfeld (now Wuppertal), Germany, until the Nazis shut it down in 1936. He continued to operate secretly as a dealer, but in 1938 he was arrested, and he was sent to Auschwitz in 1943.
You may find more information about the provenance of this painting and others on the MFA's website here.

You may also find interesting article by Kate Deimling in, "Suspecting It Harbors a Nazi-Looted Painting, MFA Boston Preemptively Pays Settlement", which points out that Victoria S. Reed is the first full-time "curator for provenance" although credit should be given to the Los Angeles County Museum who in 2000 hired a full-time provenance researcher, Dr. Amy Walsh (Dr. Walsh is now Curator of European paintings at LACMA).