Showing posts with label Napoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Napoli. Show all posts

August 13, 2013

Stefano Alessandrini on "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In "The Thieving Director: the Horrifying Theft of Thousands of Books, and the Thief who was Paid to Protect Them", Stefano Alessandrini discusses the theft of ancient manuscripts and books in Napoli:
The extraordinary Girolamini Library of Naples is home to almost 160,000 ancient manuscripts and books and opened its doors to the public in 1586. Built alongside the Church and Convent of the Girolamini, the library served as the convent’s Oratory and is believed to be one of the richest libraries in Southern Italy.
 
The collection, which includes many rare editions dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, is centered on Christian theology, philosophy, sacred music, and the history of Europe and the Catholic Church. After the massive Irpinia earthquake, which struck Campania in 1980 the church, gallery and library were closed. The collection, off limit to anyone except scholars, suffered a lengthy period of neglect, and it is believed that many volumes disappeared. It is presently owned by the Italian State.
 
On 12 September 2011 two manuscripts from the Girolamini Library and a 14th century Missal from the Archdiocese of Bari, were returned to Italy after a protracted legal dispute and eventual settlement with Sotheby’s auction house in London and the manuscript’s last owners, who believed they had purchased the documents in good faith. This custodian event took place at the Italian Embassy in London in the presence of Italy’s Deputy Attorney General of the State Maurizio, Fiorilli, the federal prosecutor who also successfully pushed for the return of looted artifacts from the J. Paul Getty Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and other American Museums.
Stefano Alessandrini is a prominent leader of Italy's Archaeological Group, and adviser to the Ministry of Culture and the Advocate General of Italy on the recovery of looted antiquities.
  
This article is continued in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. The Journal is available electronically and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. The Associate Editor, Marc Balcells (ARCA '11), is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

August 9, 2013

Report from ARCA in Amelia: More on the Pompeii field class, Napoli, and courses by Valerie Higgins and Dick Ellis

Painting of Amelia
 by A. M. C Knutsson
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

Extremely early on Sunday morning a large proportion of the ARCA class gathered outside the town walls of Amelia to wait for the bus that would take them to Pompeii. 

Other members of the class had taken a train two days earlier to enjoy at the great sights of Naples. High on everyone’s agenda seemed to be the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli; Caravaggio’s spectacular ‘The Seven Acts of Mercy’ at the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia; Napoli Sottoterranea (underground); and above all a pizza from one of the three classic Neapolitan pizzerias: Da Michele, Di Matteo and Sorbillo.

The class caught up with these students at the gates of Pompeii at around 11 a.m. After a much needed cup of coffee, the reunited class entered the site and met up with Crispin Corrado, ARCA’s academic director and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Classical Archaeology at The University of California, Rome Study Center. Dr. Corrado led the students around the site, successfully keeping everyone distracted from the desert heat. She explained how the inhabitants of Pompeii had been living at the time of Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 AD and the history of the site since its discovery in 1748 by Spanish Engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre. Later in the afternoon we visited the villa at Oplontis situated in the heart of the Mafia district, but a beautiful spot regardless. After this we all hopped back on the coach to return to Amelia. It was perhaps both the most beautiful and the most exhausting day yet.

Walking in Pompeii
Monday morning saw the arrival of the first British lecturer of the week, Valerie Higgins, the Associate Professor and Chair of Archaeology and Classics at the American University of Rome. Dr. Higgins teaches courses in Roman archaeology and history; ancient art; archaeological method and theory; funerary archaeology and human remains. Her personal research focuses on the role of archaeology in contemporary society covering aspects such as trafficking of antiquities; contemporary approaches to human remains; heritage in conflict situations; and the role of heritage in contemporary Rome. Her ARCA course, Antiquities and Identity, touched upon many of these topics. The primary focus of Day One was to assess how far the current issues of repatriation and disputed legal ownership are the result of the archaeology practices of the past and how contemporary attitudes to heritage are consequently changing, bringing new challenges to the field. To fully understand this problem, we were required to know a little more about the history of the field and this began with a lecture on the growth of antiquarianism and collecting from the time of Raphael. 

With a limited number of archeology trained students this summer, everyone was captivated by Day Two’s lectures in which Dr. Higgins explained the different archeological methods. A run through of the controversial debates that surround archeology in today’s climate was the heart of discussions during Wednesday’s lectures.

Mark & Laura renew vows at Palazzo Farrattini
Midway through this intense series of lectures, ARCA students and staff joined their classmate Mark and his wife of five years, Laura, at a ceremony to renew their marital vows at sunset in the beautiful garden at Palazzo Farrattini. It was a fantastic event and a welcome opportunity to relax and forget the murky world of art crime.

After lunch on Wednesday, Richard "Dick" Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiquities Squad and current Director of Art Management Group, began the last course of the program, Art Policing and Investigation. Mr. Ellis brings an unparalleled level of expertise and field experience to the ARCA classroom. In his first class, Mr. Ellis directed the non-law enforcement figures in the room through the structure of police services around the world and their differing contributions towards the protection and recovery of stolen art.


The following two mornings, through a series of case studies, often ones that Mr. Ellis was closely involved in, the class learned the common reasons why art is targeted by criminals. We also understood, through such case studies, how large a role the global art market plays in aiding these criminals. The myth that art is stolen by the order of Thomas Crown-figures was immediately dismissed, and any sense of glamour evaporated as we were instantly made aware of the rather more sinister figures that govern the illicit art trade.

May 18, 2012

REVISITING BOOKS: An Earthquake Shatters Expectations in The Caravaggio Conspiracy

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog editor

Peter Watson writes in The Caravaggio Conspiracy that in 1980 when he was trying to negotiate the purchase of Caravaggio's Palermo Nativity that going to southern Italy with a 'briefcase full of cash' was considered dangerous. Watson wrote:
This was the time in Italy when kidnapping was increasing alarmingly.  In fact the risk of kidnap was so great that even going to Naples simply as a businessman was not without danger.  The proportion of foreign visitors to the city had slumped from 50 percent of hotel business to less than 10 percent.  Furthermore, a report had shown that murders by the Mafia at that time accounted for 29 percent of all killings, as opposed to 13 percent a decade before.
Watson was offered the painting in London by a member of the gang art detective Rodolfo Siviero had suspected of stealing the Palermo Nativity.  Watson received a phone call from Italy that he could have the Caravaggio painting for 150 million Italian lire or $150,000 American dollars.  The journalist booked three nights at the Excelsior in Naples to conduct the transaction.

In nearby Laviano, Watson was presented with two photographs of the painting:
It looked terrible.  It was very dark, darker than I had imagined it could look.  Bits appeared to have flaked off near the heads of the onlookers on the right of the painting and there was a patch, of damp or oil or whatever, in the right foreground covering the ankle and hand of St. Lawrence.  Worst of all there was a ragged crack, about a third of the way up, bisecting the Virgin's hands and penetrating St. Lawrence's shoulder.  That seemed consonant with the canvas having been rolled for some time, possibly immediately after it had been stolen.
Watson is told that the painting is in Sicily but that it can be brought to Naples in a few days.  Then a deadly and destructive earthquake leveled Laviano. Watson was unable to contact with his negotiators and any hope of purchasing the stolen painting vanished.