Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rome. Show all posts

October 17, 2017

Rome: A lab which will help the force to detect and unmask fakes and forgeries.

Given the growing phenomenon in counterfeit cultural heritage, Italy's Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and Rome's Roma Tre University have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment a “Laboratorio del Falso,” a lab which will help the force to detect and unmask fakes and forgeries and aimed at teaching and scientific research related to cultural heritage. 

In 2017 the Carabinieri seized, 783 fake objects compared to only 57 fabrications in 2016. As ever-more-elaborate forgeries hit the market, more research is needed to differentiate between what is genuine and what is counterfeit.

Signed by Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of the World Cultural and Prof. Mario De Nonno, Director of the Department of Humanities of the University of Roma Tre the goal of the agreement and the laboratory's development is to help enhance scholarly insight and in so doing, work to alleviate the proliferation of inauthentic works in the art market. 

Motivated by the ease with which historical and visual evidence is manipulated by con artists preying on collectors, the adopted partnership will carry out studies on the artists most prone to counterfeiting and will examine and develop techniques, procedures, and systems to allow better identification of the genuine thereby helping to shine the spotlight on what is real, rather than what is a deception.

In conjunction with this initiative Italy's MiBact and the Ministry of Economic Development will present 15 lectures in different Italian cities on the problem and recognition of art forgeries, titled "L'arte non vera non può essere arte" (Art that is not authentic, isn't art".  The events will be held in the cities where the Carabinieri TPC have their regional offices and will conclude with a special event at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, (National Gallery of Modern Art --GNAM where there will be an exhibition of copies of counterfeit works of art previously confiscated by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The dates and locations of these events include:

Ancona - October 4, 2017, 9:00 am 
Auditorium della Mole Vanvitelliana
For information: tel. 071.201322

Perugia - October 11, 2017, 5:30 pm
Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria
For information: tel. 0754.4194

Palermo - October 18, 2017, 9:00 am
Palazzo Belmonte Riso of the  Museo Regionale d’Arte Contemporanea
For information: tel. 091.422825

Udine - October 27, 2017, 6:00 pm
Palazzo Garzolini Toppo Wassermann at the Scuola Superiore dell’Universita' di Udine
For information: tel. 0432.504904

Cosenza - November 8, 2017, 10:00 am
Palazzo Arnone, Giorgio Leone Hall at the Polo Museale della Abria
For information: tel. 0984.795540

Turin - November 10, 2017, 9:30 am
Vivaldi Auditorium at the Biblioteca Nazionale
For information: tel. 011.5217715

Cagliari - November 15-16, 2017, 9:30 am
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari
For information: tel. 070.307808

Genoa - November 16, 2017, 11:00 am
Archivio di Stato di Genova
For information: tel. 010.5955488

Monza - November 16, 2017, 9:30 am
Villa Reale
For information: tel. 039.2303997

Naples - November 20, 2017, 10:00 am
Palazzo Reale
For information: tel. 081.5568291

Venice - November 22, 2017, 10:00 am
Universita' degli Studi Ca’ Foscari - "Mario Baratto Conference Hall"
For information: tel. 041.5222054

Bari - November 22, 9:00 am
Castello Svevo
For information: tel. 080.5213038

Florence - November 28, 2017, 9:30 am
the Teatro del Rondo' di Bacco  of the Palazzo Pitti
For information and accreditation: tel. 055.295330

Bologna - November 29, 2017, 10:00 am
Monticelli Hall at the Comando Legione Carabinieri “Emilia Romagna” 
For information and accreditation: tel. 051.261385

Rome - December 5, 2017, 
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna
Details Forthcoming

September 30, 2016

May 19, 1998 - Museum Theft, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome

On May 19, 1998 Rome's prestigious Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna was robbed just after the 10 pm closing time. Armed with guns, three thieves entered the museum just before closing time. Moving about the galleries barefoot and having donned gloves and balaclavas to hide their identities, the thieves then stormed the control room.

There they gagged two of the three female guards and forced a third to disable the museum's security system and hand over its accompanying CCTV footage. They then locked all three security staff in a bathroom before proceeding to the Impressionist hall.  

Once in the painting's gallery, they bypassed paintings by Edgar Degas and Gustav Klimt and stole three specific paintings:

L'Arlésienne, 1889 (one of five versions)
by Vincent Van Gogh  (unsigned)
oil on canvas, 60x50 cm
Completed in  Saint-Rémy

Le Jardinier, October 1889
by Vincent Van Gogh (unsigned)
oil on canvas, 61 x 50 cm
Completed in  Saint-Rémy


Cabanon de Jourdan, 1906
by Paul Cézanne
oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm
The last artwork completed by the artist before his death in Aix-en-Provence

From start to finish the art theft lasted only 15 minutes. 

From the beginning of their investigation art crime detectives in Italy suspected that there had to be an insider working with the thieves; someone who had firsthand knowledge of who would be working in the museum that evening and possibly familiarity with the museums security apparatus. 

Law enforcement officers with the Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and the Squadra Mobile di Roma began their investigation by conducting a prolonged examination of all 160 individuals who worked at the museum.  They needed to narrow down who might be inclined to collaborate with criminals or who might benefit from the proceeds to be made from stolen art. 

Tentative suspects were kept under surveillance and as the squad honed in on each of their culprits, phones were tapped.  Police bided their time for more than a month listening and analysing information as they gathered evidence on who and how many people were involved and most importantly, just where the paintings might have been stashed. 

While they waited, they learned that some of the suspects had met one another serving time in a Brussels prison, one of them for a violent robbery of a postal truck. This further helped to paint a clear picture that the group was not beyond the use of violence.  

Proceeding carefully officers were sure that the theft was not merely an opportunistic crime by an impulsive group but a crime carried out by a individuals who knew one another well and who weren't afraid of getting their hands dirty.

As days passed the thieves faced difficulties finding a buyer.  The criminals began to get irritable and at one point started fighting amongst themselves.  In one instance one of the suspects was so sloppy that he openly complained during a tapped phone conversation that he knew the police were on to them. 

As the band of criminals began to fray law enforcement knew they had to move quickly before they completely unravelled and did something desperate.  The investigators' intel also revealed that the paintings had been split up. Van Gogh's Le Jardinier and Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan had been brought back to Rome after the purported sale fell through, while L'Arlésienne was left behind in Turin possibly as collateral for the one criminal not originally from Rome.   

But where? 

After 48 days, investigators decided they had sufficient evidence to identify probable locations for the three paintings and the ability to make simultaneous arrests of all accomplices at the same time.  This was done to ensure that no one got away and that no one could shift the artworks to a new hiding spot or destroy them to avoid prosecution. 

On July 5, 1998 officers moved in and arrested 8 suspects, some with a small arsenal of firearms. The motley team was a hodgepodge of run-of-the-mill criminals including a husband and wife team, one of whom was the insider at the museum.  Others in the band seemed the type only Hollywood characters are made of. 

During a raid of one apartment in the periphery of Rome Van Gogh's Le Jardinier and Cézanne's Cabanon de Jourdan were recovered in good condition One painting had been crudely packaged in a cardboard box and hidden under a bed. The other had been wrapped in a blanket and stuffed in a closet.

L'Arlésienne was recovered in an apartment in Turin along with 6 weapons, including a machine gun. 

The criminals convicted and their sentences imposed

Oeneus Ximenes - considered the mastermind of the theft received a sentence of 8 years imprisonment
Roberto Petruzzi - received a sentence of 8 years imprisonment
Stefania Viglongo - the museum insider received a sentence of 8 years imprisonment
Maurizio Possetto - received a sentence of 7 years imprisonment 
Claudio Trevisan - received 6 years and 4months imprisonment 
Anna Rita Sinti (daughter of Alexander Sinti and the suprisingly young partner of Ximenes) - received 4.5 years imprisonment
Alessandro Sinti - (father of Anna Rita Sinti) - received 3 years and 4 months imprisonment.  
Alfonso Di Febio (husband of Viglongo) - received 2 years and 8 months imprisonment.

By Lynda Albertson 

September 22, 2016

Why you should go see the exhibition "L’Arma per l’Arte e la Legalità" if you are in Rome

Why you should go see the exhibition "L’Arma per l’Arte e la Legalità" if you are in Rome between now and October 30, 2016.

First there is a 1919 sketch by Amedeo Modigliani, Jeune femme attablée au café stolen from the tony Parisian residence of a private collector in 1995.   It was recovered in Rome this past summer thanks to the watchful eyes of investigative officers of the Ufficio Comando – Sezione Elaborazione who work with the Carabinieri's specialized art crime database, Leonardo. Reviewing upcoming auctions, the team spotted the artist's drawing blatantly up for sale with a hefty €500,000 starting bid.

Then there are four of the 17 recovered artworks stolen November 19, 2015 from the Verona Civic Museum of Castelvecchio in northern Italy as well as some of the more impressive antiquities from Operation ‘Antiche Dimore’ conducted in 2016.  This seizure recovered 45 shipping crates of ancient art worth an estimated € 9 million intended for the English market, Japanese and American antiquities markets. The objects date from the seventh century BCE through to the second century CE and originate from clandestine excavations conducted over the past thirty years in Southern Etruria.

But if you think big time tomb raider busts only involve the much talked about powerhouse dealers like Robin Symes and Giacomo Medici, think again.  This exhibition also has a kylix attributed to the Greek painter of Andokides, an ancient Athenian vase painter who was active from 530 to approximately 515 BCE.  This gorgeous drinking vessel was recovered in Munich of this year as part of an extensive police investigation involving 27 suspects who worked in an organised network forming all the links in the illicit looting chain from grave robbers to fences to middlemen transporters stretching from Southern Etruria all the way up to Germany.

The exhibit also showcases the tools of the Tombarolo. Grave robbers of the third millennium merge modern grave robbing technology, using metal detectors, battery-operated headlamps and headphones with still functional old fashioned ones like the spillone and badile (a long flexible metal rod and shovel).  With these weapons they plow antiquities-rich fields searching, and all too often finding, lost treasures hidden for centuries.

The metal rod hasn't changed much over the years.  It is a simple pole used to probe the ground.  When the rod is hammered or twisted into the ground and comes in contact with an air pocket or something solid, looters dig a test hole knowing that below there is likely to be an environment created by man such as a chamber tomb.  Ancient tombs are known to possibly contain sarcophagi, vessels of all kinds, jewelery, and coins make them attractive for looting. Undocumented, the freshly dug illicit antiquities then flow into the licit market, and through laundering often become the "property of a Swiss gentlemen".

As the largest exhibition of stolen art in the world, the 200+ objects in this Rome exhibition are impressive.  The fact that we can see them is thanks to the unprecedented collaboration between MiBACT, the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism, the National Gallery of Ancient Art of Rome - Palazzo Barberini, the University of Roma Tre (Department of Humanities) and the hardworking Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale.  

To bring art crimes to the public's attention the collaborators have enriched the exhibition space with educational panels, made by the University of Roma Tre to help visitors gain a better understanding of the damage caused by the illicit trafficking.  These panels also explain in detail the process of investigations and recoveries, as well as the importance of protecting art in advance of it going missing.

If you ever wanted irrefutable proof that a large, well trained police force can have an impact on art crimes, this exhibition both visually and emotionally hands you that evidence wrapped in a painfully vivid, artistic bow.

Want to whet your appetite to what you will see on display?  Take a look at this video taken at the exhibition's opening and see if you spot other works that you know. 

This free exhibition runs through 30 October 2016 in Rome at:
Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica di Roma
Palazzo Barberini
Via delle Quattro Fontane 13 – Roma
Opening hours 10-18
(Closed on Mondays)

February 16, 2016

The UN's Blue Helmets for Culture Initiative Has Been Signed in Rome

During the joint UNESCO - Italy press conference in Rome this morning a new task force has been formalized to create an international training center for the Blue Helmets for Culture (Italian: 'Caschi Blu' della Cultura).  This body of officers will be tasked with the protections of the world's cultural patrimony.   The agreement was signed at the city of Rome's Baths of Diocletian in the presence of the Mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino, Italy's Foreign Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini and the director general of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.

 Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna,
Journalist, Il Tempo and
Working with a mixed composition of specialized personnel including approximately 30 civilian experts (historians, scholars, restorers of the Central Institute of Restoration in Rome and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence) and 30 officers from Italy's art crime squad, the Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale the training center will be based in Turin and called "ITRECH" (International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage).  

Earlier this week Bokova stated that “the establishment of a Task Force bringing together cultural heritage experts and the Italian Carabinieri force specialized in the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property will enhance our capacity to respond to future emergencies.”

The project will be located at the city of Turin's Campus of the United Nations and will serve to build capacity by assessing cultural heritage risks and quantifying damage.  It will also work to develop action plans as well as towards providing technical supervision and training to local national staff of countries in conflict. 

The Blue Helmets for Culture Unit will also assist in the transfer of movable heritage to safe zones  when and where possible and will work to strengthen the fight against looting and illicit trafficking of antiquities. The overarching goal of the initiative is to protect cultural and religious pluralism within a framework of international action to combat terrorism.

Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale Task Force
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and
The Turin training site, located at Viale dei Maestri del Lavoro 10, in Turin, Italy is already an international training campus for other International and UN groups such as UNICRI - United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the ITCILO, the Italian training arm of the International Labour Organization (ILO),  and the UNSSC – United Nations System Staff College.

By:  Lynda Albertson, CEO, ARCA

(International Training and Research Center of Economies of Culture and World Heritage) 
Italy's Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and
Celebrating the signing of the Blue Helmets for Culture Accord
Image Credit: Giuseppe Grifeo Di Partanna 
Journalist, Il Tempo and

December 8, 2014

Thief Returns Medardo Rosso's Bambino Malato (Sick Child) (1893-95) Stolen From the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna

by Lynda Albertson

This weekend ARCA reported that Medardo Rosso's Bambino Malato (Sick Child) (1893-95) had been stolen from the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna on December 5, 2014. 

In an unusually brazen theft, the thief entered the museum during opening hours on Friday and walked off with the small bronze bust of a child, leaving the premises without drawing the attention of any of the staff or security personnel on duty. 

Whether out of fear of being recognized on surveillance camera footage or a rare attack of guilty conscience, the thief or an accomplice returned to the museum and at some point after the first security sweeps, placed the bronze artwork in a storage locker used by visitors near the entrance of the museum.  Hopefully this too has been caught on tape, regardless of the thief's change of heart.

Whether allegorical or coincidence, the fact that the thief was able to enter the museum, not once, but twice, carrying an object without being stopped, is not without some significance.
One week ago many of Rome's unemployed archaeologists, librarians, archivists, art historians and conservators symbolically occupied the Pantheon in protest of the lack of paid work or long term contracts for graduates in cultural heritage professions.  Of key concern to the protestors is what they consider to be the exploitation of volunteers, working within the heritage sector with little or no compensation.  These unpaid volunteers are also presently being considered as long term free substitutes for positions once reserved for paid skilled professional, perhaps in answer to the country's never-ending economic recession.  

The protesters were also unhappy about a bilateral agreement between the mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, and ENEL S.p.A. who has agreed to sponsor at least one €100,000 project allowing university students in the United States to examine and catalog hundreds of archaeological objects from excavations conducted in Rome during the 1930's.  The first 249 objects have already been shipped to the University of Missouri, the first beneficiary of the “Hidden Treasure of Rome” project.  Other American institutions, including the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; New York University; Yale and Harvard have also expressed interest in participating in this energy company sponsored project and this is not sitting well with heritage professionals or university students in Rome.

December 6, 2014

Theft at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte (GNAM) in Rome

By Lynda Albertson

Photo Credit - La Repubblica
Italian newspaper La Repubblica has broke a story that a thief, or thieves, have entered the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte (GNAM) yesterday and made off with a bronze sculpture bust titled "Bambino Malato", in English "Sick Child" created by Medardo Rosso.  According to the article's journalist, whose name is not listed, the museum's authorities estimate the value of the stolen artwork at €500,000.

Medardo Rosso was a Post-impressionist Italian sculptor from Turin who trained at Milan's Brera Academy. Many of his artworks center around depictions of everyday life and imagery.   His break with traditional 19th-century sculptural attitudes earned him the reputation of being one of the country's first truly modern sculptors. To learn more about Rosso, there is an interesting academic article by Sharon Hecker that can be downloaded here on the history and ultimate identification of a wax cast of Rosso’s "Enfant malade" and which further describes the artist's mannerisms and artistic considerations as well as the public's awareness of this particular work.
Photo Credit - Il Gironale
Authorities indicate that the theft at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte occurred around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, while the museum was open to the public.  The bust was positioned on a pedestal near the doorway of Room 48, an area of the museum that is used as a exhibition space located within the right wing of the museum. According to Italy's Il Giornale, the room presently holds artworks that form part of a retrospective exhibition which began in November dedicated to the "Secession and Avant-Garde" which covers artworks by artists immediately preceding the First World War. 

Italy's Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo (MiBACT) has indicated that all of GNAM's cameras and alarm systems were fully-functional at the time of the theft and that  Italy's military police for the protection of cultural heritage (TPC), have assumed command of the investigation.  As the investigation continues TPC officers are interviewing museum staff and reviewing CTV camera footage to reconstruct the details surrounding the theft.

The Galleria holds the largest collection of works by nineteenth and twentieth century Italian artists including Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Alberto Burri, Antonio Canova, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Giovanni Farttori, Giacomo Manzu, Amedeo Modigliani and Giorgio Morandi. There are also important works by artists outside of Italy including Calder, Cézanne, Duchamp, Giacometti, Braque, Degas, Wassily Kandinsky, Mondrian, Monet, Jackson Pollock, and Rodin.

For further reading on GNAM's exhibition "Secession and Avant-Garde" please see Italy's MiBACT article translated in English here.

September 9, 2014

Next Provenance Research Training Program workshop to be held December 8-12, 2014 in Rome

[Updated September 22]. The next Provenance Research Training Program workshop will be in Rome from December 8-12, 2014. From the PRTP's website:
The Provenance Research Training Program (PRTP) is a project of the European Shoah Legacy Institute (ESLI) created by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in furtherance of the Holocaust Era Assets Conference held in Prague in 2009 and the resulting Terezin Declaration endorsed by 47 countries. The program focuses on provenance research and related issues concerning Nazi-looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property. It provides advanced training to serve the international community of current and future experts engaged in dealing with issues concerning cultural plunder during the Third Reich, the Holocaust and World War II. Each year the program offers week-long workshops that provide an intensive historical overview of cultural plunder—its evolution and implementation; methodological training, including specialized research in public and private archives; a presentation and discussion of legal concepts and instrumentalities at national and international levels, including political, moral and ethical issues and restitution policies and principles. In addition to facilitating research and providing access to a vast array of information, the program will promote the establishment of international networks of provenance researchers that will bring together experts in all relevant fields and countries.
The next workshop of the Provenance Research Training Program will take place in Rome, Italy, in December 8-12, 2014, in conjunction with the Italian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Provenance Research Training Program provides advanced training in provenance research and related issues concerning Nazi-looted art, Judaica, and other cultural property. Intensive workshops repeated several times a year in different locations across Europe and the Americas provide advanced training for the international community of current and future experts engaged in dealing with issues concerning cultural plunder during the Third Reich, the Holocaust and World War II. Taught by internationally known specialists who have developed their expertise in provenance research and restitution matters since the late 1980’s, each workshop is articulated around research, history, and ethics. The workshop will focus on: Analytical and methodological tools that can serve to apprehend the complexity of the topics under study, to visualize patterns, and to compare these processes and their international impact; The impact of cultural plunder on collection management practices in museums and other cultural institutions; A core understanding of displacements of cultural objects in pre-war Europe, wartime plunder and its impact on collecting practices and the international art market, and postwar efforts to recover looted cultural assets; The ethical implications of cultural plunder during the Nazi era, current international policies, and art trade practices. To apply please go to the online application. The application deadline has been extended to October 1, 2014.

June 26, 2014

Report from ARCA Amelia '14: Inside the lecture hall with criminologist Marc Balcells amongst medieval festivities in Amelia

The end of Marc's class.  Photo by S. Kelley-Bell
By Summer Tappmeyer, ARCA '13 graduate and ‘14 intern

Three weeks of being in Italy has flown by so quickly! We have had such a spectacular time so far, and it’s not even halfway through the program. The third week started off with Marc Balcells’ course: “Breitwiesers, Medicis, Beltracchis, Gurlitts and Other Shady Artsy Characters: A Course on How to Analyze Their Crimes Empirically.” Marc had a few adventures in travel in order to make it to Amelia: coming from New York where he has been teaching at John Jay College of Law, with a brief stopover in Spain to visit family, and then finally settling into the city for the beginning of his course. Despite Marc’s long journey to Amelia, he started off his class with a bang. An ARCA 2011 alumnus, Marc has unique insights into student life. It was a pleasant surprise to have someone who has previously walked in our shoes only a few years ago. 

This criminology course focused on the theoretical framework of the subject, as well as gave insight into the different foundations of the Classical, Positivist, and Critical school of thinking. Marc proved to be a fascinating professor, as he engaged the class in discussions and told us stories using his animated personality to bring those stories to life. One of the greatest aspects of this course is that you do not have to have a criminology background. Marc was adamant about us being able to understand the “nuts and bolts” of the essentials of criminology and was able to simplify information in a way that allowed the students to understand the concepts and theories. Overall, Marc was able to command and capture the attention of his audience, making us all feel incredibly comfortable to engage in scholarly debates throughout the duration of his course.

The Champion of Volterra.
Photo by L. Albertson
The city of Amelia was able to cool off this week, due to the plush amount of rain it received during the third week of our stay. We appreciated the break from the heat, but that did not leave much time for extracurricular activities and a few of our weekly adventures had to be postponed. Most students enjoyed the pitter-patter of rain as they slept at night though, and by the weekend the rain was gone and scheduled activities continued. As soon as Marc’s class ended on Friday, the ARCA 2014 class went across the street to “Park Bar” and savored a refreshing afternoon spritzer. Since this was the professor’s last evening in Amelia, we all gathered around a few tables to learn more about Marc and his experience as a student with ARCA three years ago. Saturday and Sunday consisted of rest and relaxation. A few students went on a shopping spree in Rome, others enjoyed a rare chance to see none other than the Rolling Stones play in Rome at Circo Massimo.

Amelia hosted a medieval crossbow competition Saturday and Sunday for everyone to enjoy. The Balestra Antica da Banco is the national championship and offered everything from costumes to the special seated crossbows. Amelia also celebrated a religious holiday known as Corpus Domini. This celebration included a procession through the town on a bed of flowers.

We are looking forward to welcoming Noah Charney and his new course, "Art Forgers and Thieves", this week.

This weekend the ARCA 2014 Conference will bring together students and professionals in two days of panels on art crimes ranging from Nazi-looted art to stolen antiquities in Cyprus and Cambodia.

July 15, 2013

BBC's Amanda Ruggeri: Exhibit in Rome showing recovered objects of stolen cultural property on display at Castel Sant'Angelo until November 5

Exhibition banner outside Castel Sant'Angelo
(Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
Here's a link to a BBC article by Amanda Ruggeri ("See the story behind the stolen treasures") on the exhibit at the National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome exhibiting objects of stolen cultural property recovered by Italy. Capolavori dell'archaeologia: Recuperi, ritrovamenti, confronti (Masterpieces of archaeology: Recovery, findings, comparisons) will be open until November 5, 2013 (closed every Monday).

Items include large pieces of a 1st Century BC Pompei villa fresco recovered from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu; the head and extremities of a Morgantina acrolith recovered from the University of Virginia's Art Museum; and the Euphronios krater recovered from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Ruggeri writes:
The exhibition, which includes dozens of works of art, serves as a sobering reminder of how widespread and damaging looting in Italy has been. One display points out that when an item is looted, the problem isn’t just that it risks disappearing into the hands of a private collector, winding up abroad or being damaged. (One popular way to transport looted vases, for example, is to deliberately break them into shards and reconstruct them later, as fragments are easier to hide and move.) The irreversible loss is the item’s context. Without knowing where the piece was found, at what depth, or near which other objects, it is all but impossible to fully reconstruct the piece’s history, use and meaning.

October 1, 2012

"Art Predators and The Rediscovered Heritage ... the story of recovery" at the National Etruscan Museum in Rome's Villa Giulia shows archaeological fruits of 20 year investigation

Here's a link to a video showing an exhibit, "Art Predators and The Rediscovered Heritage .. the story of recovery",  at the National Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia in Rome (September 29 through December 15, 2012) of recovered stolen antiquity objects recovered by Italy's Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale), the Justice Department, and archaeologists in an investigation lasting more than two decades.

The Villa Giulia-Museo Nazionale Etrusco is located north of the Piazza del Popolo in the western outskirts of the Villa Borghese (a really long walk from the Galleria Borghese as I once found out).

These hundreds of works of art were stolen by grave robbers in clandestine excavations in Etruria, Puglia, Sicily and Calabria (Google Translation of article by Irene Buscemi, "Predatori d'arte e patrimonio ritrovato in mostra a Roma", September 30, 2012, Il Fatto Quotidiano).  These amphora, kylix (pottery drinking cups) and bronzes were illegally sold in the 1970s and 1980s by merchants and traffickers to famous foreign museums (Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The Metropolitan in New York, and institutions in Australia and Japan).  Two archaeologists, Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini, assisted in the project and curated the exhibit.  Many of these objects were seized from a warehouse in the Free Port of Geneva in 1995 (for more information you may refer to "The Medici Conspiracy" (Public Affairs, 2006) by historian Peter Watson and Italian journalist Cecilia Todeschini).  The Carabinieri used polaroid photographs, charts, and documents found in this investigation to recreate the illicit trade that funneled objects through art collectors and auctions houses such as Sotheby's in London.

Here's a link to the exhibit at the Villa Giulia.  The exhibitors explain here that for the first time the National Etruscan Museum of the Villa Giulia is presenting some archaeological materials chosen from among 3,000 artifacts seized in 1995 by the Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Projection from the Free Port of Geneva and returned to Italy after a long legal battle based upon documents found in the raid that allowed the Carabinieri and prosecutors to reconstruct the trafficking routes and illegal excavations.  In this illegal operation, objects were illegal dug up out of the ground, moved from Italy to Switzerland, cleaned and then provided paperwork to market the objects to international museums:
The exhibition aims to raise awareness of the general public the hard work done in recent years by the Judiciary, flanked by Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection, with the Guardia di Finanza and the archaeologists of the Superintendent [Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria meridionale], which has led to some important results, perceived not only through a high number of artifacts recovered, by especially in the significant drop in illegal excavations at the archaeological sites of Cerveteri, Vulci, and Tarquinia, once the subject of real raids [translated with the help of Google].

April 16, 2012

Irish Artist Michelle Rogers Secures Release of 14 Paintings Seized by Police at Gallery Suspected of Tax Fraud and Money Laundering

Michelle Rogers' Lampuedusa (200 x 300 cm)
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Fourteen paintings by Irish artist Michelle Rogers seized by police in a raid of a gallery in Rome two years ago were finally released to the artist in March.

Rogers' paintings were held in police custody when a gallery's inventory was taken as part of a police investigation into tax fraud and money laundering.

"The court believed that the paintings belonged to the gallery owner and my fight over the last two years was to get them to realize that the paintings belonged to me," Rogers explained.  "Eventually, after a lot of work by my lawyer and requests from my embassy in Rome, the courts accepted that the art work was mine."

The more than one dozen paintings ranged from 100 x 80 cm to 200 x 300cm.

Michelle Rogers, who also lives part-time in Rome, traveled to Bosnia in 1993 and exhibited works reflecting on the theme of the 9/11 attacks in North America.  Lampeudusa, according to her website, "explores the plight and flight of immigrants of Italy."

Wanted in Rome reported (Return of Michelle Rogers paintings in Rome) that the 14 paintings by Rogers had been exhibited at the Aequalias Contemporary Art Gallery on via Margutta when they were seized in an investigation of the owner, Massimo Micucci, suspected of tax fraud and money laundering for Silvio Scaglia, the billionaire owner of Italian telecommunications company Fastweb.

March 26, 2012

List of artworks recovered by the Carabinieri TPC in Rome in March 2012 -- 41 years after they were reported stolen from a private residence in the same district

Guido Reni's Judith and Holofernes
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog editor

Earlier this month, the Carabinieri's del Reparto Operativo Tutela Patrimonio Culturale di Roma (TPC, Division for the Protection of Cultural Heritage) recovered 37 paintings that had been stolen from a private residence in 1971. The artworks hadn't left Rome's Parioli neighborhood from where they had been stolen.  Apparently, a couple had purchased 37 of the paintings twenty years ago in a private sale.  When the husband died, the 50-year-old widow placed four of the paintings in an auction sales catalogue.  In a routine operation, a Carabinieri officer had matched those images to the TPC's stolen art database which contains more than 3 million stolen artworks.  Eleven paintings stolen in 1971 were found in the woman's home in Rome and another 26 works in another home located outside the city.

The Carabinieri TPC provided a list of the most important recovered paintings (translated here):

A pair of paintings of oil on canvas attributed to Luca Giordano, rural landscapes, 49x76 cm;

Peter Paul Rubens' Christ on the Cross
Oil on canvas, Giuseppe Ruoppolo (1631-1710), still life with fruit, 50x38 cm;

Oil on canvas, Philipp Peter Roos/Rosa da Tivoli (1657-1706),  Three putti playing with a goat, 97x134 cm;

Oil on canvas, Andrea Meldolla/Lo Schiavone (1510-1563), Venus and Love, 98x123 cm;

Oil on canvas, Salvator Rosa (1615-1673), lake landscape with soldiers, 36x70 cm;

A pair of oil on canvas paintings, Antonio Diziani (1737-1797), country market, 40x60 cm;

Oil on canvas, Giulio Carpioni (1613-1678), Bacco and Arianna, 63x53 cm;

Oil on canvas, school of Paolo Caliari/Il Veronese (1528-1588), Scene with Saints, martyrs and angels, 75x62 cm;

Oil on canvas, Guido Reni (1575-1642), Judith and Holofernes, 39x30 cm;

Van Dyck's Portrait of a Knight
Oil on canvas, Pietro Longhi (1702-1785), carnival scene, 33x40 cm;

Oil on canvas, Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Christ on the cross, 47x27 cm;

Oil on canvas, Antoon Van Dyck (1599-1641), Portrait of a Knight, 36x28 cm;

Oil on canvas, Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), Portrait of a Lady, 40x33 cm;

Tempera on wood panel with gold background, Berlinghiero Berlinghieri (late 12th century - 1236), Madonna with Child, 69x39 cm;

Tempera on wood panel with gold background, school of PisaMadonna with Child, 52x40 cm;

Nicolas Poussin's Baptism of Christ
Oil on canvas, Pieter Van Laer (1599-1642), rural scene with ladies and knights, 52x66 cm;

Oil on canvas, Giovan Battista Recco (1615-1660), still life with fish, 53x70 cm;

Oil on canvas, school of Caravaggio, depicting still life with fruit, 40x66 cm.

Oil on canvas, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665, Baptism of Christ, 50x66 cm; and

Tempera on wood panel, Taddeo Gaddi (1290-1366), Crucifixion, 55x23 cm.

March 25, 2012

Would you have recognized these paintings as stolen if they had been in the home of a friend?

The Carabinieri TPC listed the images of the paintings recovered earlier this month from a home in Rome's Parioli district because these are the paintings which were stolen from another house in the same neighborhood more than 40 years ago.  A Carabinieri officer recognized the images in an auction sales catalogue in a routine check against the TPC's stolen art database of more than 3 million artworks.  Thirty-seven paintings were recovered.