Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italy. Show all posts

April 24, 2019

4 of 6 individuals, believed to be tied to a Pink Panther operating cell, head to trail in the jewel heist at the Doge's Palace in Venice.


Following up on the museum jewel heist which occurred during the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" exhibition at the Doge's Palace in Venice in January 2018.   

On January 3, 2018 jewelry worth an estimated €2m (£1.7m) was stolen from a display case at the museum palace of the Doge of Venice during a brazen, broad daylight, robbery which occurred shortly after ten in the morning on the last day of the exhibition. Taken during the theft were a pair of pear-shaped 30.2-carat diamond earrings in a platinum setting along with an equally weighty 10 carat, grade D diamond and ruby pendant brooch.  Both items belonged to His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, who is the first cousin of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.  

According to a report first published on Twitter by Mediaset Journalist Clemente Mimun, the Italian authorities had long suspected that the thieves behind the museum theft might have had inside help and were likely part of a criminal network made up of associates from the former Yugoslavia, sometimes referred to as "the Pink Panthers".  This network, working in small yet coordinated cells, are believed to be responsible for some 200+ robberies spanning 35 countries over the last two decades.  Some thefts, like that at the Doge's palace, have been discreet, 60-second affairs.  Others have been armed robberies or have involved automobiles being rammed into glass storefronts.  In total the thieves are believed to have made off with an estimated €500 million in jewels and gemstones, much of which has never been recovered.

But everyone knows that good police work sometimes requires patience. 

Following months of investigations by the mobile squad of the Venice Police Headquarters and the  Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, working alongside prosecutor Raffaele Incardona, six suspects were ultimately identified by the Italian authorities. Between November 7 and November 8, 2018 five of these men, including four Croatians and one Serb, were taken into custody in Croatia in a coordinated action involving Police Directorates in Zagreb and Istra based upon European arrest warrants issued for the suspect's related to their alleged involvement in the Venice museum theft. 

Five of those named by Italian authorities are believed to have visited the Doge's Palace in Venice on two test-run occasions prior to the actual theft.  Their first visit occurred on December 30, 2018 and their second on the day before the robbery.   Each time the team apparently tried to steal jewelry from the exhibition without success or were practicing in advance of the final event. 

Vinko Tomic
The brains behind the heist is purported to be 60-year-old Vinko Tomic, who goes by several other names, including Vinko Osmakčić and Juro Markelic.  No stranger to crime Tomic has already been connected with other million dollar hits.  Tomic has been implicated in the thefts of $1m worth of diamond watches in Honolulu, the heist of the $1m Millennium Necklace in Las Vegas, the filching of three rings, collectively worth £2m in London, and other high value jewel heists in Hong Kong, Monaco and Switzerland.  

When appearing in court in connection with one prior offense, Tomic made a statement to the presiding judge that he was a war veteran originally from the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina who was wounded in battle in 1995 and who fled, first to Croatia and later to Germany.  There,  unable to find work, he stated he eventually turned to a life of crime, though he managed to provide for his family and put his brother through school. 

For Italian law enforcement their biggest break in the case came as a result of a slip up on the part of the gang's leader.  According to chief prosecutor Bruno Cherchi, the Venice police chief Danilo Gagliardi, and Alessandro Giuliano, director of the Central Operational Service of the Central Anti-crime Directorate of the State Police, who spoke at a press conference on the investigation, officers identified a Facebook photo of Tomic wearing an identical ring to the one he was wearing when captured on CCTV footage at the Doge's Palace in Venice. 

Tomic's alleged accomplices to the Venice jewel theft are listed here:

Zvonko Grgić
Zvonko Grgić (age 43) whose now static Facebook profile lists him as an armed security contractor available for global security around the world. 

Želimir Grbavac
Želimir Grbavac, (age 48), who, according to Croatian news sources appears to have lived a discreet existence, operating an electrician business. 

Vladimir Đurkin (age 48), also Croatian.

and two Serbs, Dragan Mladenović (age 54) and Goran Perović (age 48).

Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were arrested on Wednesday, November 7, 2018 in Zagreb, while Đurkin was brought in for questioning in Istria. Mladenović was initially apprehended near the Serb-Croatian border and detained in Croatian police custody, only to escape while in police custody via a bathroom window on November 8, 2018.  How this happened while he was in police custody has been subject to controversy. 

On the basis of their European arrest warrants, three of the Croatians, Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac were quickly transferred to Italy to stand trial. 

A month and a half after their arrest in Croatia, on December 23, 2019 Tomic, Grgić, and Grbavac made their initial appearance in Italian court before preliminary investigations judge David Calabria and maintained their right to remain silent.  Vinko Tomic was represented by lawyers Guido Simonetti and Simone Zancani.  Zvonko Grgić was represented by lawyer Marina Ottaviani and Želimir Grbavac was represented by lawyer Mariarosa Cozza.  

Fighting his extradition, Vladimir Đurkin was finally transferred to the Italian authorities on February 8, 2019.  The presiding judge has ruled that all four defendants will remain in custody at the prison of Santa Maria Maggiore in Venice pending the outcome of their upcoming trial. 

Serbian Dragan Mladenović and the final identified accomplice, Goran Perović, are believed to be in Serbia where they are untouchable by a European Arrest Warrant, a Convention which governs extradition requests between the 28 member states that make up the European Union (EU).  With no agreement between Italy and Serbia on judicial cooperation, there seems little chance that these two remaining accomplices will be extradited to Italy to stand trial.

And His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani's jewels? 

International insurers Lloyd's of London has indemnified the Al Thani Foundation, as the owner of the stolen brooch and earrings and has payed out a claim of 8 million and 250 thousand dollars making the firm the owners of the jewellery, should they be recovered.  As a result the insurers will likely become a civil party in the future trial of the alleged perpetrators.

Unfortunately the "Treasures of Mughals and Maharajas" have never been found. 

By:  Lynda Albertson

April 16, 2019

A film about the king of counterfeiters, Forger Eric Hebborn

Photo of Eric Hebborn from his Facebook Page. 
By Lynda Albertson. 

Those who study art crime already know about the mysterious death, on a rainy morning in Rome, of the king of counterfeiters, art fraudster Eric Hebborn.   But was his death at the hands of the Mafia, poor drunken coordination, or, a lack of follow-up care at the hospital?  How the famous forger died has long been debated, despite evidence pointing clearly to the latter.  Splashed across art newspapers and major news outlets this weeks, articles are popping up about an upcoming ambitious TV drama that is set to highlight the famous con man and the suspicion of mafia involvement in his 1996 death in Trastevere. 

But just who is Eric Hebborn and how did he die?

Eric Hebborn was a wiley and talented artist, who got his first taste for paintings fraud creating pencil drawings of Augustus John based on a drawing of a child by Andrea Schiavone.  Plying his trade at important London galleries, once exposed he admitted to having created numerous fake works of art, some of which he passed off as Rubens, Breughel, Castiglione, Corot, Mantegna, Piranesi, Schiavone, and even van Dyck.  

Many of the works Hebborn created came from the study of known, extant paintings from famous artists which he then recreated, passing his own art off as preparatory drawings for already known and renowned paintings and artists.  Making a healthy living with his artful deception, Hebborn was ultimately undone when the London art firm Colnaghi realized that the Pierpont Morgan “Cossa” they had purchased from him turned out to be identical to the National Gallery’s “Sperandio”.   With a little more digging it turned out that the “Sperandio” too was obtained from Hebborn. 

At the time of his death in 1996, the by-then-retired con man was considered to be one of the world's most prolific, as well as mouthy, art forgers in history.  Bold even in self-admitted guilt, he expressed no regret for his actions.  

As if to poke the art world in its pompous eye, Hebborn celebrated his prowess by penning Il Manuale del Falsario, an amusing memoir written in Italian shortly before his death.  The book, later translated into English, spelled out for readers, in minute detail, the ways in which he had created works of art forensically indistinguishable from the masterworks of previous centuries.

In describing the motivation for writing the book Hebborn wrote: 

"I wrote this practical manual to satisfy many people eager to learn an art that, apparently, arouses considerable interest: that of forging paintings and drawings. Not a week goes by without a letter or a phone call from someone asking advice on how to create "new ancient works" and it is natural that I cannot answer them all personally. If these pages satisfy the requests of those enthusiasts, I can say that I have achieved my goal". 

Posthumously Hebborn is seen by art crime experts as an artist who failed to gain their own notoriety and who faked art works to ridicule the art world's self-inflated connoisseurship. When first unmasked in 1978 Hebborn was sarcastically quoted as saying “how expert can these experts be if they can’t tell one of my drawings.” And throughout his brief lifetime he seemed to draw unadulterated pleasure at exposing art experts as wishful dunces.  


ARCA Founder Noah Charney, in his book The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of the Master Forgers elaborates that Hebborn delved increasingly into forgery, possibly in revenge specifically against the storied Colnaghi Gallery, believing that the firm had intentionally cheated him by buying his artworks on the cheap only to turn around and sell them for substantially higher figures.  Failing to gain recognition as an artist in his own right, despite winning prizes as a student at the Royal Academy Schools, Hebborn went on to successfully falsify works of art for decades.  By the time his handiwork was finally noticed, he had reportedly created upwards of 1000 artworks in a range of styles and periods from Giovanni Castiglione to David Hockney and sold his fabrications on through world-ranking galleries throughout the 1960s and 1970s. 

The Forger's Death

Image capture of Eric Hebborn from the documentary
Eric Hebborn - Portrait of a Master Forger
Hebborn lived in Italy for more than 30 years, first in the bucolic medieval hilltop village of Anticoli Corrado, to the east of Rome, and toward the end of his life in a loft apartment in Trastevere.  His love life was stormy and his latent alcoholism well known among those who loved and or befriended him. 

Prior to his death, acquaintances acknowledged that his excessive drinking had already lead to at least one blackout, where he is known to have fallen, striking his head hard on an iron table.  With all the tell-tale signs of a high-bottom drunk, Hebborn paid little heed to well-meaning doctors and friends who were worried about his health and his burgeoning alcoholism and who acknowledged with increasing concern, the red patches blotching his face, his poor hygiene and his unkempt beard and attire.

On the night of January 9, 1996 Hebborn reportedly visited a local enoteca near his home, one that he frequented regularly.  The painter sat for a while and is said to have drunk a few glasses of red wine as was often his practice as a regular patron at the establishment.  As he departed, reportedly between 8:30 and 9 pm, he told the proprietor "I'm going to dinner" before walking out into the cool winter's night.   Some say he was with someone that evening though no one has ever come forward to admit who this individual might have been or if this recollection was accurate or not. 

On that January night, the evening was enveloped with rain and in the semi-darkness and downpour, law enforcement hypothesize that the forger may have stumbled on the street or perhaps passed out, overcome by alcohol he had consumed.  Hebborn struck his head hard on the pavement not far from the bronze statue dedicated to the Roman poet Trilussa, which gives his name to the small piazza near where Hebborn was found, along the Tiber river. 

The forger was discovered lying in the rain just after midnight the following morning.  Scruffily dressed in clothing soaked with rainwater and smelling of alcohol and old sweat, he did not appear to have been assaulted in an attempted robbery as his wallet and credit cards were found on his person.  Suspecting him to be a simple drunken street tramp, he was hoisted up with only a cursory look and transported eventually to San Giacomo Hospital to sober up.  

There Hebborn died from internal bleeding without waking up and without a medical examination or treatment as medical staff appeared to have overlooked his fractured skull as his hair was wet from the puddles of rain he was found laying in. 

Eric Hebborn with one of the greatest loves of his life,
the pup Emma. 
Twenty plus years after his post-mortem examination, the forger's life, and the events surrounding his squalid death, which likely occurred simply due to the general indifference of a hospital in Rome, still creates serve as the cinematic backdrop to a sad, but infinitely intriguing, story. 

April 11, 2019

The "Portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti," stolen 32 years ago from Palazzo Chigi, is finally home

Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo with Arch. Francesco Petrucci at Palazzo Chigi
On Wednesday, April 10th, in a formal restitution celebration, Lieutenant Angelo Giovanni Busciglio, Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo, and Deputy Brigadier Filippo Vassallo, of the Carabinieri Nucleus for the Protection of Cultural Heritage - Palermo, were honoured for their recovery efforts during a ceremony held at Palazzo Chigi, in the historic center of Ariccia.

Recovered Portrait if Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti, Palazzo Chigi - 10 April 2019
The unit was directly responsible for the discovery and return of an oil-on-canvas portrait depicting Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti (1649-1718), the wife of marchese Cesare Baldinotti, which once hung in the palace's stanza delle belle and had been stolen from the historic palazzo 32 years ago, along with 20 other works of art.  Portraiture of well bred ladies, those that made up the so-called galleria delle belle or cabinets des dames, were leitmotiv in the furnishing of noble residences during the seventeenth century.

Federico Fellini, immortalized next to
the portrait in Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle".
The painting is attributed to Jacob Ferdinand Voet, a Flemish portrait painter from the Baroque period who is known for his portraits. The artist had an international career, which brought him to both Italy and France where he made portraits for members of elite families and appears to be strikingly similar to another portrait of the Marchioness which likely helped with the unsigned artwork's attribution and identification.  After training in Paris, Voet spent time in Rome, then Florence, and lastly Turin before returning, first to Antwerp in 1684 and later in 1686, to Paris where he was called as a painter of the French court. The Marchioness was the daughter of Felice Angelo Ghezzi, the Duke of Carpignano and Baron Zullino. On April 17, 1667, she married the Marquis Cesare Baldinotti di Pistoia (1636-1728) who was the Duke of Pescorocchiano.

Matching portraits of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti
The painting was located on the art market by Brigadier Chief Antonio Di Garbo of the Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) in Palermo in the sales inventory of an antiques dealer in Palermo.  During a series of investigative procedures, as well as a crosscheck of records within the Carabinieri Leonardo Stolen Art database, and with architect Francesco Petrucci, who is the conservator of works of art at Palazzo Chigi, the law enforcement officer's match was validated and the antiquarian questioned by the Carabinieri.   Giving an implausible answer as to how and where he had acquired the stolen painting and unable to substantiate a legitimate claim to the portrait, the painting was seized in the Autumn of 2018.

Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle" then

During their investigations the Carabinieri squad in Sicily also identified a second individual from Marsala, who along with the antiquarian was referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Palermo where both have been denounced for receiving stolen goods.

Palazzo Chigi's "stanza delle belle" now

As a painter Voet was highly sought after and had numerous followers and imitators, many who copied his style of portraiture of well bred ladies.

February 20, 2019

Egypt-Italy Antiquities Smuggling Case: Detention extended for Raouf Boutros Ghali


As reported on February 14, 2019 Egypt's Prosecutor General, Nabil Sadek, previously ordered 15 days of precautionary custody pending an investigation for Raouf Boutros Ghali for his alleged involvement in the trafficking of 23,000 ancient bronze and silver coins and 195 archaeological finds from Egypt to Italy which were seized by Italian authorities in Salerno in 2017. 

Yesterday, the Egyptian government, via the third chamber of the Cairo Criminal Court, led by Counselor Mohamed Mahmoud El Shorbagy met for a preliminary hearing.  During that judicial session the court decided to extended the defendant's detention for 45 days in order to allow more time for a detailed investigation into the alleged offense.   





February 18, 2019

Arrests made in charges of smuggling Egyptian antiquities in diplomatic bags to Italy


On March 14, 2018 Italy's Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, better known as the Carabinieri T.P.C., informed the Egyptian embassy in Rome that during a routine customs inspection in May 2017, law enforcement officials from the TPC, in collaboration with the officials of the Customs Agency and the local Superintendency, had seized a reported 23,700 archaeological finds, all of which were believed to have come from ancient Egypt. The stash had been discovered inside a diplomatic shipping container, sent through the port of Salerno of the type used to transport household goods.


The Italian authorities shared that information with their Egyptian colleagues, including photos of the seized artefacts and promised to provide further clarification regarding the date and place of shipment, as well as details on the sender and the receiver, as soon as it was possible, when the disclosure wouldn't hamper their ongoing investigation.  To determine the objects' authenticity, the Egyptian authorities formed a specialized committee to examine pictures of the seized objects and to ensure that the artifacts were authentic.  If they were, their next step was to try to understand where they came from.


When the news of the antiquities seizure hit the press wires, little information was released to the public.  It was only stated that the haul came from a shipment of items belonging to an unnamed diplomat.  As tensions grew between the two states, on May 24, 2018, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry made a formal announcement,  denying that the seized container belonged to anyone affiliated with the Egyptian embassy or authorities in Italy.

On May 25, 2018 Shaaban Abdel Gawad, who heads up Egypt's antiquities repatriation department within the Ministry of Antiquities, confirmed that the Egyptian authorities had deemed the artifacts to be authentic but the objects did not appear in any of the country's registries.  This meant that the ancient objects, dating from the Predynastic to the Ptolemaic, as well as the Islamic era, had not been stolen from any known museum collection, and likely were the unrecorded finds of clandestine excavations of archaeological sites in Egypt.

The objects were believed to have come from an area on the edge of the western desert in the Minya province, located in central Egypt, 250 km south of Cairo.  This artifact rich area is known to have ancient catacombs that date back to the late pharaonic period, which spans from 664 to 332 BCE.  The area has also been the subject to plunder and looting, which intensified after the country's revolution in 2011.

This confirmation by the Egyptian authorities put to rest early speculation that these objects might have come from the Sinai region, an area where jihadist groups affiliated to ISIS had spread.  After the artefacts' authenticity was confirmed, the General Prosecutor's Office in Cairo sent letters rogatory to Italy requesting formal assistance in early June 2018.


On June 27, 2018 at the headquarters of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Salerno, Dr. Corrado Lembo and the Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, returned  a total of circa 23,000 ancient bronze and silver coins and 195 archaeological finds, including funerary masks decorated in gold, a sarcophagus, a "Boat of the Dead" with 40 oarsmen, amphorae, pectoral paintings, wooden sculptures, bronzes, and ushabti statuettes.  These items were handed over to Egyptian Ambassador, HE Hesham Badr, Professor Mohamed Ezzat, Senior Coordinator at the International Cooperation Administration of the General Prosecutor's Office, and Professor Moustafa Waziry, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities for the Republic of Egypt.  


On February 14, 2019 Egypt's Prosecutor General, Nabil Sadek, ordered 15 days of precautionary custody pending investigation for Raouf Boutros Ghali for his alleged involvement in the trafficking of the Egyptian artifacts which had been seized in Salerno.  Raouf Boutros Ghali, who holds passports from Italy and San Marino, is the brother of the former Egyptian Minister of Finance, Youssef Botros Ghaly whose served in that role under then President Hosni Mubarak from 2004 to 2011.  He is also the nephew of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996 who died in 2016. The Boutros-Ghali family are Coptic Christians with deep roots in Egypt's old aristocracy.


The prosecutor general in Egypt has also ordered the freezing assets attributed to the former honorary consul of Italy in Luxor, Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal.  Skakal, who now lives in Rome, is believed to have been the unnamed Italian diplomat whose name was attributed to the seized cargo.  Egyptian authorities have also placed financial constraints on the liquidation of assets on Medhat Michel Girgis Salib, and his wife Sahar Zaki Ragheb. Egyptian news articles state that Salib is the owner of a shipping company.






February 13, 2019

Looted artworks returned to Italy via voluntary forfeiture via Christie's auction house in London


In a memorable act of rare collaboration, Italian officials have announced “the first case of such close co-operation between Italy and a private auction house” in which a number of illegally obtained and trafficked antiquities, the proceeds of clandestine excavations between the 1960s and the 1980s, were voluntarily restituted to the Italian authorities. 

In a handover event held at Italy's Embassy in London, twelve antiquities and one document were ceremoniously returned, some of which had been placed up for auction in 2014 and 2015 and which were withdrawn from sale after being determined as questionable.  Attended by Alberto Bonisoli, the Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities,  Raffaele Trombetta, the Italian ambassador to London, Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli of Italy's Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, the CEO of Christie's Guillaume Cerutti and the auction house's Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Brooks, this event represents a much needed step forward in art market's cooperation with the Italian authorities and a welcomes step towards collaboratively working with one another towards the restitution of looted objects.

The antiquities returned are: 


A marble fragment whose theft from a sarcophagus from the Catacombs of St Callixtus, on the Appian Way in Rome was reported in 1982. 


A 6th -5th century BCE Etruscan terracotta antefix used to capthe terminus of covering tiles on ancient roofs.

Its original provenance when listed in sale 10372 as Lot 102 was "Property from a London Collection
Provenance:   Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 273, when acquired by the present owner."


Five (5) 4th century BCE Apulian Gnathian-ware plates.


A 350-330 BCE red-figure Apulian hydria believed to be attributed to a follower of the Snub-Nose or Varrese painter.

Its original provenance when listed in sale 10372 as Lot 108 was "Property from a London Collection


A 2nd century CE Roman capitol.


A Roman marble relief depicting a Satyr with Maenad stolen from the gardens of Villa Borghese in 1985.


A 14th century promissory folio from an illuminated manuscript by the Doge Andrea Dandolo and the ducal councilors.


A 4th century BCE red-figure Faliscan stamnos vase used to store liquids.

At the ceremony, attendees underscored that the art market's ethical codes need enhancement and that greater due diligence is needed to ensure the legitimacy of objects before accepting them for sale.  With over 1 million two hundred thousand stolen objects and about 700 thousand images of stolen and looted art, the Carabinieri's Leonardo database, the largest stolen art database in the world, is a good place to start when auction houses such as Christie's consider accepting them on consignment.

During the event Christie's staff indicated that the antiquities had been acquired in the past in good faith.   Three of these however did not pass the smell test in 2014 and 2015 when they originally accepted for consignment and were placed up for auction.   All three were later withdrawn when they were identified as having passed through the hands of well known Italian dealers who have consistently been linked to trafficked antiquities.  Without the required, verifiable title, export documentation or collection history these objects had no place on the legitimate art market. 


Auction houses are not the only parties that need to be diligent when evaluating antiquities, especially when considering objects which appear to have emerged on the open market without substantiated collection histories.

Ancient art collectors should realise that their buying power and unharnessed demand for archaeological material, absent transparent ethical acquisition documentation, serves to incentivise those facing economic hardship to participate in, or tacitly condone, the looting of archaeological sites, by which illicit material enters the licit market.

If collectors in market buying nations such as the United States and UK refused to purchase undocumented artifacts, then the supply chain incentives for looting historic sites, which by proxy funds criminal enterprise, diminish.

By:  Lynda Albertson

February 1, 2019

Christos Tsirogiannis returns to Amelia to this summer to teach "Unravelling the Hidden Market of Illicit Antiquities: Lessons from Greece and Italy” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 14 2019, in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s professors will be interviewed. In this one, I am speaking with Christos Tsirogiannis, one of the world’s few forensic archaeologists.

Can you tell us something about your background and work?

 I studied Archaeology and History of Art at the University of Athens, then worked for several years at the Greek Ministry of Culture in various sectors including excavations as well as in the repatriations of stolen antiquities from US museums and private collections. I also worked for several years on a voluntary basis with the Greek police art squad. In late 2008 I was invited to Cambridge University to start my PhD on the international illicit antiquities network, which I completed in 2013. Since then, I have developed and broadened my research on antiquities trafficking networks through a postdoc position at the University of Glasgow, an honorary position at Suffolk, and most recently as visiting Associate Professor at the University of Aarhus.

My specialism is best described as a new form of 'forensic archaeology'; rather than excavating and analysing (e.g.) human remains, I carry out forensic-level analyses of archaeological objects and of photographic and documentary archives (from antiquities dealers) of modern trades in archaeological material to determine their true provenance.  From these I am able to reconstruct objects' collecting histories also from traces found e.g. online and in publication records. 

In carrying out this work I assist police and judicial authorities in many countries around the world regarding cases of antiquities trafficking.   Often in these I find a certain hypocrisy in the art market - which claims 'client confidentiality' - as the motive for not revealing the names of sellers and buyers, but which in many cases also serves as a cover up, off the names of convicted traffickers whose hands objects an object may have passed through, omitting problematic aspects of the collecting history in presenting objects for sale, all the while claiming to have done 'due diligence'.

What do you feel is the most relevant of your courses?

I introducee ARCA participants to a range of issues in the international illicit antiquities market, highlighting due diligence, legal aspects and challenges in provenance research. The course has profound ethical and practical implications for anyone dealing with the art market in any capacity.

What do you hope participants will get out of the courses?

Primarily, inspiration. To work in the cultural heritage sector, but, with that, an understanding of the hypocrisy within the art market, academia and state authorities in dealing with the trafficking of our heritage, and (consequently) a sense of ethical responsibility when entering this field.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom?

Each teaching day contains two interactive lectures in which, through case studies, I focus on a particular area of the international illicit antiquities market. There are plenty of visuals and opportunities for participant research and participation (in fact this is a part of their final grade).

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your courses, is there anything you learn from them in class?

Every professor needs the fresh view of younger minds who come with straightforward questions which often highlight an aspect or a sector that has not previously been thoroughly examined in the scholarship. Several times, those ARCA participants have gone on to produce valuable academic contributions to this emerging interdisciplinary field. My course also attracts people who have prior professional experience in the antiquities market, as well as lawyers, policemen, artists and museum professionals.


In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to students? 

Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini (2007, 2nd edition) The Medici Conspiracy -the 'bible of the field'.


What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique?

It is the only postgraduate residential course that covers all aspects of art crimes with courses taught by experts in their field. Amelia is a very special setting - I myself look forward every year to the ten days I spend there,

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why?

Fake terracotta shabti-mould.
Image Credit: British Museum
I would have to prioritize the course taught by ARCA's founder, Noah Charney, because one aspect of my own research is forgeries in the antiquities market and in collections.

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria?

I have greatly enjoyed trips to the amazing setting of Civita di Bagnoregio and to the Etruscan cemetery of Orvieto, from where I have identified stolen antiquities... but Amelia itself has many hidden ancient and medieval gems as well as amazing pizza places (and ice-cream, says my wife)!

Are there any funny or interesting things you experienced in Italy, outside of class 

In my first teaching year we accompanied the students on the excursion to Banditaccia, the Etruscan Necropolis in Cerveteri, and every year we spend time in Rome each side of my ARCA course. Rome is a museum in itself and I have dear friends and colleagues there - Maurizio Pellegrini, Daniela Rizzo, Paolo Georgio Ferri and Cecilia Todeschini, who are all my heroes in my research area and now feel like family.

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June

I attended it first in 2013 as I was awarded ARCA's prize for Art Protection and Security. Since then the conference has doubled in size and become a world-leading innovator in facilitating important discussions between academics and practitioners in the protection of cultural heritage. Both the courses and the conference owe their current impact and unique international reach to the amazing work of Lynda Albertson (ARCA CEO).

For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at: 

education@artcrimeresearch.org

Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

January 30, 2019

Save the Date: June 21-23, 2019 ARCA's 10th Annual Art Crime Conference


Conference Date:  
June 21-23, 2019
Abstract Submittal Deadline:  
March 30, 2019
Location: Amelia, Italy

Celebrating a decade of academic conferences, ARCA will host its 10th summer interdisciplinary art crime conference the weekend of June 21-23, 2019. 

Known as the Amelia Conference, the Association's weekend-long event aims to facilitate a critical appraisal of art crimes and the protection of art and cultural heritage and brings together researchers and academics, police, and individuals from many of the allied professions that interact with the art market, coming together to discuss issues of common concern. 

The Amelia Conference is held annually in the historic city of Amelia, in the heart of Italy's Umbria region where ARCA also plays host to its Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection and a joint ARCA-HARP Provenance Training course, “Provenance and the challenges of recovering looted assets.”

ARCA welcomes speaking proposals from individuals in relevant fields, including law, criminal justice, security, art history, conservation, archaeology, or museum security and risk management on the topical sessions listed here. We invite individuals interested in presenting to submit their topic of choice along with a presentation title, a concise 400-word abstract, a brief professional biography and a recent CV to the conference organizers at:

italy.conference [at] artcrimeresearch.org

Accepted presenters will be asked to limit their presentations to 15-20 minutes, and will be grouped together in thematically-organized panels in order to allow time for brief questions from the audience and fellow panelists.  

Registration

For more details on this event please watch the conference information page on the ARCA website where the list of accepted speakers will be posted by April 07, 2019

To register for this event, please go to our eventbrite page located here.

We hope to see many of you in Amelia in June!

January 18, 2019

Dick Ellis returns to Amelia this summer to teach “The High Stakes World of Art Policing, Protection and Investigation” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis

In 2019, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 14, in the heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s professors will be interviewed. In this one, I am speaking with Dick Ellis.



Can you tell us something about your background?

I served as a detective in London for 30 years and re-formed the art and antiques squad within the Organised Crime Group at New Scotland Yard. I spent over ten years investigating art crime on an international level and carried out investigations in many different countries including Egypt, China and the USA. These investigations included running covert operations such as that which recovered "The Scream" in 1994 as well as seizing and returning over over 6,000 antiquities to China and disrupting an entire trafficking group in Egypt, the UK and USA. Since my retirement from the police I have continued to work in the same field, operating on behalf of the private sector. This has resulted in some important recoveries such as two paintings by Picasso stolen in Switzerland whilst on loan from a German museum, which I recovered in Serbia and an important work by Lempicka stolen in The Netherlands in 2009, which I recovered in Amsterdam in 2016. This picture was sold for a world record price at auction in New York in November 2018.

 What do you feel is the most relevant aspect of your course?

I always think that the presentations on Why Steal Art and Who Steals Art are perhaps the most important, but I am always surprised that the participants find "The Rules of the Game" lecture, setting out the effect that jurisdiction and differing legal systems have on an investigation to be really interesting.

The Scream - recovered in 1994

What do you hope participants will get out of the courses? 

I hope that the participants will get a real understanding not only of how law enforcement operate in the field of art crime but also who and why art is targeted in the first place. Most importantly though I hope they will see that there are opportunities within the private sector to impact on art crime and that you do not have to join a police force to work in this field.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom? 

Every day starts with the opportunity to discuss what we have already learnt and to answer any questions that the participants may wish to ask resulting from the previous day's lectures. I will then begin lecturing from my schedule but encourage questions to be asked during the lectures so that we can have a real dialogue going about the topic. This interaction with the participants is important as I believe it keeps them interested in the topic and their participations are something that I both encourage and mark them on.

While each year the participants in ARCA’s program are very enthusiastic about your courses, is there anything you learn from them in class? 

I constantly learn from the participants as a result of the interaction in class and from the presentations that they give at the end of my course on an art crime investigation of their choice. I learn about crimes I may not previously have heard about, changes in law and procedures from the participants own countries and the increasing use of technologies that are constantly being developed.

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

Most movies provide an entertaining story around art crimes so I do not recommend any to the participants, besides I am not much of a film buff, but I still think that "The Irish Game" by Matthew Hart is an important book about art crime. It focuses on perhaps the most thoroughly investigated series of art crimes from which it is possible to analyse the who, why and what went wrong of art theft. The Medici Conspiracy is of course also a must read in respect of antiquities theft whilst books such as "A Forgers Tale" by Shaun Greenhalgh provide an interesting insight into the world of forgery.

The Medici Conspiracy

Uniqueness of Course 

For me each new group of participants provides me with the opportunity to learn from them and to hear about developments or issues from their own part of the world. For the participant I think my course offers a unique and in depth view of art crime and its investigation from one of the most experienced practitioners in the field, who has worked internationally both in law enforcement and in the private sector. When considering this point in the context of the whole ARCA course, I can not think where else this level of experience and expertise can be found in one place on a single course.

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why?

Hard to pick one but I think I would like to follow Dick Drent's security course. Apart from being highly relevant to my own work the participants always really enjoy the course and visiting a museum to check out their security sounds like fun.

What to do in Amelia and Italy?

I would encourage every participants to throw themselves into the unique opportunities that present themselves in Amelia and the surrounding towns and cities during the summer months. The medieval festivals are fantastic and welcome participant participation and are a great way to meet and be accepted by the locals. I have attended music festivals, and feasts throughout Umbria and the wine is one of Italy's hidden treasures. This is all in addition to visiting as many of the sites as possible be they archaeological, religious or architectural. Italy has a lot to offer and I would recommend that participants embrace it as broadly as they are able.

Are there any interesting things you experienced in Italy, outside class? 

A personal favourite and recent discovery of my own is the Museum of Wine at Torgiano - with a tasting room next door!

Inside the Museum of Wine at Torgiano

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June? 

The conference is now on the calendar for an increasing number of international experts and specialist lawyers. It goes from strength to strength (thanks to everyone affiliated with ARCA's efforts) and provides both a forum for current topics and a great centre for networking.

What else?

ARCA's having provided modules in the UNESCO training programme in Beirut in 2018 it is clear sign that we have an increasingly important role to play in providing training and expertise to allied professionals that is relevant to the field of cultural heritage protection, especially to those working in countries affected by war and conflict who have important concerns as it relates to the trafficking of cultural heritage. We have recently signed a consultative agreement with the British Museum to provide this type of training in tandem with the development of their new antiquities in circulation database. I think this is in recognition of the increasing role that ARCA and its participants have gone on to play in this field of expertise.

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For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org

Edgar Tijhuis at the ARCA Library

Edgar Tijhuis is Academic Director at ARCA and visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection. Since 2009, Edgar Tijhuis has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

November 28, 2018

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 - ,,,, No comments

Recovered: "Portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti" stolen 32 years ago from Palazzo Chigi

Image Credit:  Carabinieri TPC
The team of the Carabinieri del Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) in Palermo, under the command of Magg. Luigi Mancuso, has proven once again that patience makes perfect when it comes to the recovery of stolen art.  While the squad has not yet recovered the Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence, the Caravaggio masterpiece stolen in 1969, they have recovered a painting from the 1600s stolen thirty-two years ago.  

The painting, an oil on canvas, is a portrait of Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti (1649-1718), wife of marchese Cesare Baldinotti, and was taken from Palazzo Chigi, a historic building in the historic center of Ariccia, in the province of Rome. The artwork was identified during a series of investigations as well as a crosscheck of records within the Carabinieri Leonardo Stolen Art database and was found to be part of the inventory of an antiques dealer in Palermo. 

Questioned by law enforcement, the antiquarian gave an implausible answer as to how and where he had acquired the works and when pressed for proof of ownership was unable to substantiate legitimate his ownership or how how he came to be in possession of the oil painting.  

During their investigations the Carabinieri squad in Sicily also identified a second individual, from Marsala, who along with the antiquarian has been referred to the Public Prosecutor's Office at the Court of Palermo for receiving stolen goods.


While the press release from the Carabinieri have not listed the name of the artist who painted the portrait the oil painting appears strikingly similar to another portrait of the Marchioness Marta Ghezzi Baldinotti attributed to Jacob Ferdinand Voet, a Flemish portrait painter from the Baroque period who is known for his portraits. He had an international career, which brought him to Italy and France where he made portraits for an elite.

Image Credit:
Screen Capture Sotheby's website
29 Nov 2018
After training in Paris, he spent much time in Rome, then Florence and Turin, before returning, first to Antwerp in 1684 and later in 1686, to Paris as a painter of the French court. The Marchioness was the daughter of Felice Angelo Ghezzi, the Duke of Carpignano and Baron Zullino. On April 17, 1667, she married the Marquis Cesare Baldinotti di Pistoia (1636-1728) who was the Duke of Pescorocchiano.

That version, which once belonged to architect, interior decorator and garden designer Giles Newby Vincent, was purchased by the architect in Paris in 2006 for €26,400, who then put the artwork up for auction in London at Bonham's in 2014 for between £20,000 and £30,000 but the painting went unsold. In 2016, it sold at auction in Paris at Sotheby's for €20,000.

Image Credit: Screen Capture Bonham's website 28 Nov 2018
As a painter Voet was highly sought after and had numerous followers and imitators, many who copied his style of portraiture of well bred ladies, those that made up the so-called galleria delle belle or cabinets des dames, which was  leitmotiv in the furnishing of noble residences during the seventeenth century when the artist was still alive.