Showing posts with label recovery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recovery. Show all posts

December 2, 2016

Recovered: Marble head of Julia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus

x
Massimo Maresca, Commander, Archaeology section of the operational department of the Carabinieri TPC, Pietro Savarino, Amsterdam Police and Justice Officer Willem Nijkerk
The second century CE marble head of Julia Domna, wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, the founder of the Severan dynasty, which was stolen from the Museo del Canopo at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli in 2012, is now coming home. 

The bust was identified in Amsterdam in May 2015 as having been part of the permanent collections at Hadrian's villa, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, just as it was about to be put up for consignment at Christies auction house in the Netherlands. Suspicious of the very recognizable bust, and the very unrecognizable couple selling it, who seemingly had not prior history as collectors of pricey ancient art, the auction house contacted Dutch authorities and the Italian Carabinieri del Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale - sezione Archeologia to report their concerns.  This was truly a proactive step forward in due diligence as the object was not represented in the stolen art databases. 

Working in collaboration with the Dutch police and the Italian authorities, the auction house informed the would-be consignors that they had declined to list the sculpture and Christies returned the marble head to their would-be sellers.  This allowed the legal authorities the opportunity to formally charge two Dutch citizens on suspicion of theft and receiving stolen property.  

As the investigation continued, the object was ultimately relinquished without the need for letters rogatory, which are the customary means of obtaining judicial assistance from overseas authorities in the absence of a treaty or other agreement.

Speaking at the Dutch press conference held in the offices of the Amsterdam public prosecutor Major Massimo Maresca, who led the Italian carabinieri a team said, "Each stolen piece of art that comes back to our museums is like a wound that has healed." Maresca also personally thanked the Amsterdam police for their collaboration.



The sculpture has now been relinquished to the Italian authorities, where it will be held in judicial custody at the disposal of the Public Prosecutor of Rome until such time as any criminal and civil court proceedings have been completed.  At the conclusion of the legal case, the Julia Domna bust, with her fabulous hairdo, will then be returned to Villa Adriana, where it will be displayed in the antiquarium.

While various websites have begun estimating the commercial value of the bust at €500,000 it should be remembered that public objects, especially one depicting the Empress of the Roman Empire from 170 to 217 CE, are not for sale in Italy and should not be expressed in terms of financial value.  Their loss, when stolen is a historic and cultural loss that is heavier than any monetary amount.  

Lastly, we would be remiss for saying thanks also to the employees of Christie's Amsterdam office for their due diligence and prompt notification to authorities that they had been offered an object with collecting irregularities. Bravi tutti. 

November 7, 2016

Repatriation: 14th century illuminated manuscript


After reviewing photographic documentation provided by Italian authorities, the Cleveland Museum of Art has voluntarily transferred a 14th-century manuscript folio (leaf) from an Italian Antiphonary to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division for its eventual return to Tuscany. 

An antiphonary is a book intended for use by a liturgical choir.  This particular looted page was sliced out of a seven-page songbook that originally belonged to the Church of Saints Ippolito and Biagio of Castelfiorentino.  Its sister pages are preserved at the Museum of Santa Verdiana south west of Florence. The page is believed to have been removed from the antiphonary sometime between 1933 and 1952 when the work was purchased by the museum. 

The antifonary, measures 44.3 x 35.2 cm and is believed to have been created by an artist known as the Master of Dominican Effigies, an important illuminator whose exact name, until now, is unknown.  The illuminated parchment hymnal was produced sometime between 1335 and 1345.  The foglio page being returned has illustrations in ink and tempera and is embellished with gold leafing. 

According to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the foglio was attributed to another illustrator at the time of its purchase.  Curators at the museum became suspicious when a second attributable page from the same antiphonary came up for sale on the Swiss art market. US and Italian law enforcement authorities were notified and an investigation was initiated which has led to this eventual return. 

Collecting single leaves from Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts while quite in vogue, are activities collectors should approach with a lot of caution and healthy doses of due diligence.  While there has been a historic tradition of biblioclasts, or book breakers — someone who breaks up books and manuscripts for the illustrations or illuminations, there are also way too many instances of more recent thefts commited by individuals with access to little used historic texts who have helped themselves to more than a page or two, creating collection histories to cover their tracks.  

Pier Luigi Cimma and Franca Gatto, two professors who participated in a 1990 inventory of Italian church archives were known to have cut pages from several manuscripts, most of which they sold to a bookseller in Turin, Italy. Thanks to the city of Monza's squad from the Nucleo dei Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, several of these were recovered from Sotheby’s in London. 

November 4, 2016

Anatomy of a Confession - How much are two stolen Van Gogh's worth to an alleged Naples drug kingpin?

In recent developments on the Van Gogh recovery in Italy case, the newspaper La Repubblica has announced that Italian prosecutors have been contacted by the office of Sylvain Bellenger, Director of the Museo di Capodimonte about the possibility of holding an exhibition in Naples of the two Vincent Van Gogh paintings recovered during an asset seizure warrant executed in the Bay of Naples involving alleged-drug kingpin Raffaele Imperiale.  


At present, both paintings are being held under high security as evidence in the criminal case against 14 indicted defendants, 12 in custody and two with outstanding extradition warrants. How long the paintings will remain in Italy while the lengthy court case proceeds remains unclear. 


Since ARCA reported on the initial stages of the Van Gogh paintings recovery, witness testimony and written statements have now been made public which shed more light onto what law enforcement officers and prosecutors know about this cocaine syndicate's "acquisition" of the stolen Van Gogh artworks. 

One time partner and indicted associate Mario Cerrone informed Italian authorities that Raffaele Imperiale purchased the paintings with illicit proceeds from the Amato-Pagano clan's coffers. The Amato-Pagano clan, is a organized crime network once affiliated with the Secondigliano-based Di Lauro clan. This organized crime group is known to have supplied the Bay of Naples area with a steady stream of cocaine distributed by dealers working with the Camorra crime syndicate.

In testimony given as state's evidence, Cerrone indicated that Imperiale purchased the two stolen Van Gogh paintings shortly after the time of their theft in the Netherlands, sometime between the Autumn of 2002 and the first months of 2003. Considering the purchases as investment, Imperiale probably believed he could launder clan funds buying the paintings, then resell the Van Goghs for more than his initial purchase price once the case had grown cold.  Cerrone estimated that the Amato-Pagano clan accumulated USD $15 million annually in illegal crime proceeds meaning that the paintings were a significant investment. 

As most of ARCA's regular blog readers understand, selling stolen masterpieces on the licit art market is virtually impossible. From this we can hypothesize that Imperiale may have held onto the paintings following the arrest of the two thieves in the Netherlands, while planning how to use the artworks as a bargaining chip in replacement for illicit revenue.  

Given the artworks inestimable value, the paintings could have been used as collateral for the purchase of drugs, weapons, counterfeit goods or other clan-needed commodities, or for reducing the amount of liquid capital the clan would need to transfer during any given transaction making them a good substitute for reducing the clans exposure and risk.  As a final alternative, the paintings represented a bargaining tool with prosecutors for if and when members of the clan who knew about them, were arrested. 

Ironically, Raffaele Imperiale himself has now added more information to the puzzle by writing a six page written statement/confession/memoir which he sent from Dubai to the Naples prosecutors, Vincenza Marra, Stefania Castaldi and Maurizio De Marco, who along with the deputy prosecutor Filippo Beatrice and the prosecutor of the National Anti-Mafia Directorate Maria Vittoria De Simone coordinated the investigations conducted by law enforcement.  In his statement, the unrepentant Imperiale informed prosecutors that he has selected two lawyers to represent him, Maurizio Frizzi and Giovanni Ricco. Both Genovese attorneys have relationships with the Amato-Pagano clan.

In addition to naming his lawyers, and perhaps in consideration of lighter sentencing if convicted, Imperiale's statement went on to outline various aspects of his organization's illicit operation.  A direct quote from the clan leader's autobiographical confession, in which he implicates himself in organized crime and drug trafficking, is translated here:







Left - Raffaele Amato 
Top Right- Paolo de Lauro 
Middle Right - Mario Cerrone 
Bottom Right - Cesare Pagano



Imperiale went on to say that he had decided to collaborate with justice by giving his seized "treasure" to the state.  Some of the seized property include thirteen terraced villas in Terracina as well as twelve villas in Giugliano, five of which are ironically, subleased out to NATO under a shell corporation.  In addition to the real estate Imperial also plans to leave the Italian state a fleet of expensive cars  "to be allocated to law enforcement agencies for the fight against organized crime."

When speaking in relation to the stolen Van Gogh paintings, Imperiale indicated that he had purchased (without explaining from whom) "some goods", not simply the two Van Gogh paintings, paying five installments of one million euros each for a total of €10 million for both paintings.   

Sketch of Raffaele Imperiale in Dubai
Imperiale is currently still a fugitive, believed to be living in an undisclosed location in Dubai.  To date, the United Arab has responded negatively to requests for extradition, citing repeated technicalities in paperwork emanating from the Italian court system.

By: Lynda Albertson














November 1, 2016

Recovery - Medieval Manuscript: "Matricula et Statuta paratici fabrorum ferrariorum"


Italian authorities announced last week that they have recovered a stolen Medieval manuscript, titled Pallastrelli 43 or Matricula et Statuta paratici fabrorum ferrariorum, a historical document related to the economic exchange and work of blacksmiths from the city of Piacenza. 

The calf-skin parchment, which dates from the fifteenth century and is made up of 34 finely-detailed vellum pages inscribed in neatly-written red and black ink, was carefully bound between two wooden manuscript boards that serve to form the front and back covers of the book. Spotted on an online auction website for €600, an honorary inspector in Lazio reported his identifications to the the city of Piacenza's archive authorities, who in turn contacted the Carabinieri that one of the library's manuscripts had been spotted.  

The stolen manuscript was one of 145 texts, dating from the 14th to the 17th century, that were stolen in 1985 from the Biblioteca Passerini-Landi in Piacenza during a period when the library had to be shuttered for restoration and renovation work.  The theft is believed to have occurred sometime during repair works on the roof of Palazzo San Pietro which had been damaged due to heavy snows over the winter. 

When the theft was discovered, each of the well-inventoried books were reconciled and a list compiled was given to the the Carabinieri where they were listed in the unit's stolen art Leonardo database system. Between 1986 and 2013 a total of 72 volumes were recovered due to the watchful eyes of investigators and those familiar with the collection. Some volumes were recovered in Germany, some in Switzerland and some in Italy.  A portion of the stolen manuscripts were traced to auction house catalogues in Europe which is why these are heavily monitored by the Italian authorities. 

Then alas, the trail apparently went cold, that is until October 2016.

The Biblioteca Passerini-Landi was created in 1791 to house the merger of the Royal Library, established by Ferdinand of Bourbon with books donated by the Jesuits, along with the collection of the Library Passerini. The Library contains a distinguished collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, any of which, still circulating in the illicit market would be highly prized by antiquarian collectors.  
Note:  Library identifiers have been removed
In addition to the Biblioteca Passerini-Landi, other important libraries, such as the Girolamini Library in Naples, the Library of the Abbey of Montecassino, the Biblioteca dei Servi di Milano, the National Library of Sweden, the Danish Royal Library in Copenhagen and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris have each suffered thefts that serve to sustain the illicit market in stolen books and manuscripts.

During the city's press conference Captain Francesco Provenza of the Comando dei Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (TPC) of Monza reminded the audience that "the market for archival literary heritage might be a niche market but it is a flourishing one." He further stated that "some collectors are willing to pay huge sums for these works. Even the supply chain is well-established: the thief, if he doesn't list the work for sale on his own, already knows what channels are out there for finding potential customers." 

Italian authorities have charged three individuals living outside Milan for complicity, for helping or encouraging another individual to commit a crime in collection with this theft. It is hoped that their identification will open the door a bit wider on where the other half of the stolen Passerini-Landi books and manuscripts are. 

Since 1996, thousands of specialist antiquarian bookdealers worldwide have used the internet to offer rare art books online. Some antiquarian bookdealers are part of larger trade associations, like the Italian Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ILAI), the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) or the International Online Booksellers Association (IOBA). But there are also numerous independent booksellers who sell their books independently or who offer similar association services.

To combat the sale of illicit material, the ILAB maintains a stolen book database that contains a listing of stolen books, manuscripts and maps beginning with thefts that have occurred from June 15, 2010 onward.  With this database buyers can check (for free) to see if a book they have been offered has been reported as stolen.  Some data in their database is available for older thefts, but this data tends to be limited and less comprehensive. 

But even with these safeguards, dealing with members of bookseller-organizations or professional booksellers - rather than private individuals selling secondhand art books on eBay or elsewhere - does not guarantee quality of descriptions, fair trade, or clean provenance, despite the official wrappings of membership.  It merely means that there is an organizational structure where book dealers can be found, oftentimes honest, but sometimes dishonest.  

Rare book connoisseurs need to exercise caution when purchasing ancient manuscripts from dealers and individual sellers, especially when they see an appealing centuries-old book or manuscript that doesn't come with a clear collection history.  They should also raise their eyebrows to books and documents with strategic tears or missing portions of the book's pages as libraries often place stamps at the beginning or the end of a book or manuscript and these tell-tale signs of theft are often torn away so as to allow the seller the opportunity to plead ignorance as to the book's illicit origin. 

Speaking in relation to the Girolamini Library theft, Giovanni Melillo, the then Deputy Prosecutor of the Naples Tribunal, who lead the library theft's prosecution, said at a 2013 presentation I attended at the ISPAC meeting in Courmayeur “The rule ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ is what governs the rare-book market.”

Buyer beware.

By Lynda Albertson   





May 28, 2014

ARTNews' Laurie Hurwitz relates tale of how French Rembrandt thief coveted painting for 15 years (just like the character in Donna Tartt's novel 'Goldfinch'

Child with Soap Bubble by Rembrandt?
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

ARTNews' Laurie Hurwitz describes how one man stole a painting attributed to Rembrandt from a French museum and kept it to admire for 15 years until he sold it to two men who were arrested by police in "French Rembrandt Thief Lives Real-Life Version of 'Goldfinch' Story" (May 28, 2014 online). According to Hurwitz's story as told to her by the thief, the alarm technician was 28 years old when he 'crawled into a large cabinet' right before the municipal museum in Draguignan closed and waited until the noise of the boisterous Bastille Day celebrations covered up his crime of jimmying open the painting's bullet proof case and exiting the building before police could respond to the alarm. The motive? Too have the 'Rembrandt' painting to himself which the thief fancied himself to resemble the model in the painting, Child with Soap Bubble. The irony? Journalist Vincent Noce on reporting the painting's recovery earlier this year noted that the painting may not be by the Dutch master.

May 24, 2014

Martin Kemp on "The Theft, Recovery and Forensic Investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

Oxford's Martin Kemp publishes "The Theft, Recovery and Forensic Investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna and the Yarnwinder" in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime.

Martin Kemp is Emeritus Research Professor in the History of Art at Oxford University. He has written and broadcast extensively on imagery in art and science from the Renaissance to the present day. He speaks on issues of visualization and lateral thinking to a wide range of audiences. Leonardo da Vinci has been the subject of books written by him, including Leonardo (Oxford University Press 2004). He has published on imagery in the sciences of anatomy, natural history and optics, including The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (Yale University Press). He was trained in Natural Sciences and Art History at Cambridge University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. He was British Academy Wolfson Research Professor (1993-98). For more than 25 years he was based in Scotland (University of Glasgow and University of St Andrews). He has held visiting posts in Princeton, New York, North Carolina, Los Angeles and Montreal. He has curated a series of exhibitions on Leonardo and other themes, including “Spectacular Bodies” at the Hayward Gallery in London, “Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design” at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006 and “Seduced: Sex and Art from Antiquity to Now,” Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2007. He was also guest curator for “Circa 1492” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington in 1992.
Abstract 
In 2003, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland. Several years later it was recovered at a Glasgow law firm, and it then underwent forensic analysis. This essay, part academic article and part personal memoir by the world’s leading Leonardo scholar, art historian Martin Kemp, provides a more personal look at the crime and the painting.
On 27 August 2003, I am sitting under an umbrella on the terrace of the Villa Vignamaggio above Greve in Chianti, a villa once owned by the Gherardini family and haunted by the shade of a famous daughter known as Mona Lisa, when Thereza Wells, my former research student and co-author, calls to report the theft of the Duke of Bucceluch’s treasured Leonardo painting, the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, from Drumlanrig Castle in the Scottish borders. The news is as yet hazy. It seems that some men driving a VW Golf GTI had abruptly removed it shortly before the rooms were to close to the public that day. They had overpowered the female custodian and threatened her with a knife. I receive the call when I am in the process of writing a new book on Leonardo for Oxford University Press, which involves, of course, a discussion of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder. A coincidence of the worst kind.
You can finish reading this article in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from Amazon.com. The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.

February 6, 2014

Lipinski Stradivarius, Milwaukee: Highlights from the Milwaukee Police press conference on the theft and recovery of the violin loaned to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

By Lynda Albertson

During today’s noon press conference regarding the theft and recovery of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's Lipinski Stradivarius, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said: “There are good days and there are bad days. Today is a good day.” Barrett then went on to state that the investigation into the recovery of the violin was due in large part to the model cooperation between the Milwaukee Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and the helpful citizens of the city.

Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department indicated that during the course of the investigation officers followed up on various tips phoned in to both the police department’s tip line and others phoned in directly to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

In investigating several possible leads the Milwaukee Police Department and members of the FBI's art squad, including Special Agent David Bass looked into local “taser” buyers in the Milwaukee area.  In the course of their research the self defense products firm Taser International provided information to investigating officers which included the name of one Michigan purchaser, Universal Knowledge Allah, who’s identity proved critical in the arrest and recovery of the Stradivarius.  

Following the execution of five separate search warrants, officers detained three suspects.  Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn described those arrested as two men ages 41 and 36 and one  32 year old woman, who was later described as being the possible driver of the get-away car. 

While two of the subjects brought in for questioning were not directly named during the official law enforcement press conference, the following three individuals were listed by Wisconsin News and Radio Station 620WTMJ as the three individuals brought in by the police for questioning yesterday:  Universal Allah, Salah Jones and Latoya Atlas.  One of these three suspects, Salah Jones, is a 41-year-old Milwaukee resident once linked to the theft of the $25,000 statue "Woman with Fruit" by Nicolas Africano from the Michael Lord Gallery on November 7, 1995.

Conversations with one of the three detainees led to police requesting a sixth search warrant Wednesday night, February 5th for a home located on E. Smith Street on Milwaukee's south east side.  Upon executing the search warrant, the Lipinski Stadivarius was recovered in what appears to be good or excellent condition stored in a suitcase in the house's attic.

The residence where the violin was recovered appears to have been an acquaintance of one of the detained individuals brought in for questioning.   Police did not indicate to reporters that this individual had any involvement in the theft. While no formal charges have yet been filed, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm indicated that charges are likely to be filed against at least one of the suspects as early as Friday. 

No information was available at the press conference regarding whether or not any of the leads in the recovery warranted all or part of the $100,000 reward offered by an anonymous donor for information leading to the safe return of the Lipinski Stradivarius.

Here's a link to the announcement by the Milwaukee Police regarding finding the Lipinski Stradivarius violin.

January 16, 2014

Document Theft at the Maryland Historical Society: The Thief that Gives Back?

by Kirsten Hower

Normally when something is stolen from a cultural institution, the odds of the objects being returned is minimal, and often nothing is returned.  It is nearly unheard of for the objects to be returned…let alone for additional objects to be brought along in the return.  Oddly enough this is the case with museums in Maryland and New York, and document thieves Barry H. Landau and Jason James Savedoff.

Over the course of eight months, Landau and Savedoff stole ten thousand historical documents from cultural institutions such as the New York Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.  One of the documents stolen is a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones, a naval fighter in the American Revolution, dated April 1, 1780 which was stolen from the New York Historical Society.  The thousands of other historical documents included letters and other written pieces by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. 

It was not until July 2011 that both Landau and Savedoff were caught sneaking documents into specially tailored coats at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland.  Had it not been for the vigilant observations of one of the Society’s employees, the two men may never have been caught and the extent of their thefts never uncovered.  However, they were caught and subsequently charged for the thefts resulting in a seven year prison sentence for Landau and a one year prison sentence for Savedoff, who was released this past November.


What is particularly interesting about this case was that once the documents were returned, additional documents were discovered.  The “Baltimore Sun” reported that ten percent of the returned documents do not have traceable origins and are therefore homeless for the time being.  After temporarily staying at the National Archives in College Park, the documents were taken to the Maryland Historical Society in August where they will remain until they are claimed by their rightful owners.

News source:
Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun, "Theft case leaves additional documents at Maryland Historical Society," December 31, 2013

December 11, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Update on the search for the oeuvre of Polish artist Moshe Rynecki by his great-granddaughter

Elizabeth Rynecki has written about her search to identify and recover her great-grandfather's oeuvre of art which Moesche Rynecki hid around Warsaw during World War II before he was believed to have perished in the Majdanek concentration camp in 1943 of which is written:
After the Germans destroyed the Warsaw ghetto in spring 1943, SS and police officials deported between 18,000 and 22,000 survivors of the uprising, including women and children, to Majdanek as forced laborers, along with the equipment of some of the Warsaw ghetto workshops. The SS intended that these prisoners would work for the benefit of a new SS-owned labor deployment concern, East Industries, Inc. (Ostindustrie, GmbH). The surviving documentation is insufficient to determine whether and how many of the Jewish survivors of the Warsaw ghetto were killed upon arrival at Majdanek. As many as 3,000 may eventually have been transferred to the Budzyn forced labor camp. 
Here's an article in the Spring issue of The Journal of Art Crime about the loss of works by Moesche Rynecki: 
At the outbreak of the Second World War, my great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943), took his oeuvre of work (about 800 paintings depicting the Jewish community) and divided them into bundles to be hidden in and around the city of Warsaw, Poland. He gave a list of the locations where works were hidden to his wife, son, and daughter, in hopes that after the war the family would retrieve the bundles....After the war, my great-grandmother Perla and her cousin went to see if any of the bundles of the paintings survived. They weren’t very hopeful because of the enormous devastation in and around Warsaw. They found just a single package in the Pragash district, across the river Vistula. The package was in the cellar of a home. As my grandfather George recalls in his memoir:
The people were away, and the paintings, all on paper or parchment, fairly small, were strewn on the basement floor in the cellar. Some damaged, some cut in half with scenes missing. They seemed to have gone through the same fate as the Jewish people – massacred and destroyed. About 12-15 percent of Jews survived the Holocaust. So did my father’s paintings. One hundred and twenty were found out of a count of close to eight hundred works. (G. Rynecki 94)
Here's a link to her blog which updates her journey and work on the documentary Chasing Portraits: A Family's Quest for Their Lost Heritage. This blog post on Nov. 5 tells about the photos of paintings Ms. Rynecki saw in the Otto Schneid archive at the University of Toronto Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library.

Here's on article published on Oct. 31 in The Canadian Jewish News by Fern Smiley (ARCA Alum) "Search for lost pre-World War II art bears fruit in Toronto". Ms. Smiley wrote:
While it’s possible that much of Moshe’s extant oeuvre has been stolen, this can’t be easily proven. Since Moshe’s work was never recorded or catalogued, it’s impossible to prove whether paintings that surface at auctions, for example, came from the bundles. As an art historian, Rynecki can search for her great-grandfather’s paintings, establish relationships with those who have his pieces, and potentially learn the stories that tie all of those who have experienced the work into a larger narrative.
 In return, she receives gifts, and that night at her talk, Prof. Barry Walfish gave her several more. After the questions ended, he raised his hand and explained to Rynecki and the audience that the University of Toronto Library, where Walfish works as a Judaica specialist, holds handwritten letters of her great-grandfather as well as more than a dozen photographs of his paintings. Among them was a photo of the damaged painting she showed during her talk.
In the rain, after a long lecture, Walfish accompanied Rynecki to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, where he opened two archival boxes from the Otto Schneid archives. Schneid, a European-born Polish painter, sculptor and historian, wrote a book on modern Jewish art in the Diaspora. In his research, he solicited autobiographies and photos of artwork from dozens of Jewish artists in Europe, including Moshe. In 1938, after Germany’s annexation of Austria, the printing of his authoritative book by his Viennese publisher was halted by the Nazis. Schneid fled Poland for Palestine, but never saw his book in print. A Hebrew version that he prepared in Israel and was ready for publication in 1957 also never saw the light of day. The unpublished manuscripts, in German and Hebrew, along with all the background material he collected, were gifted to the Fisher Library by his widow, Miriam, in 2002.
Out of the boxed archives came more than a dozen photos of paintings Rynecki had never seen before, including one called Kabbalist and one haunting death-bed scene of Moshe’s own father, as well as the intact photographic reproduction of his watercolour Prayer, and a handwritten letter in Yiddish from Moshe to Schneid, introducing himself, which begins: “I was born an artist…”- See more at: http://www.cjnews.com/opinions/search-lost-pre-wwii-art-bears-fruit-toronto#sthash.e1LphXXJ.dpuf

November 28, 2013

The Art Newspaper Quotes ARCA's Noah Charney and Dick Ellis in "Recovery rate for stolen art as low as 1.5%"

Melanie Gerlis and Javier Pes for The Art Newspaper quote both ARCA founder Noah Charney and ARCA Lecturer Dick Ellis in today's online article "Recovery rate for stolen art as low as 1.5%":
The rate of recovery and successful prosecution in cases of art theft is startlingly low, with one expert putting it at only 1.5% globally, The Art Newspaper has learned, underlining the challenges of identifying and returning stolen works.  The global cost of crimes linked to art and antiques was recently estimated at £3.7bn a year by the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers. Noah Charney, a professor of art history specialising in art crime and the founder of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, which organised a symposium on the subject at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum this month, says that statistics are hard to come by because police forces seldom distinguish between stolen art and other stolen goods. “A Rembrandt is classified with a CD,” he says.
At the core of the problem is the low importance that most police forces attach to such crimes; the exception is Italy’s Carabinieri, which claims that its force of 350 officers recovers around 30% of lost art. The theft of property in general “has a low priority in Britain and across Europe”, said Dick Ellis, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, at the symposium. In the UK, for example, the Metropolitan Police has just three officers dedicated to art crime (down from 14 around 20 years ago). In the US, the FBI has around 14 agents trained to investigate art crimes, although they do not work on these exclusively. Attempts to pool information on stolen works to create a comprehensive, international database have failed, largely because of a lack of funding.
Without proper public funding, the onus is on private firms, who charge a recovery fee of as much as 30% of a work’s value. Here, there are also areas of contention, particularly surrounding the issue of paying informers for leads on stolen works. This area is a “legal minefield”, said Claire Hutcheon, the head of the Met’s Art and Antiques Unit. “Art cannot be recovered at any cost,” she said.

November 22, 2013

Museum of the History of the Olympic Games: Seven men sentenced in Patras for theft

The ARCAblog asked Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis, who accepted an award at ARCA's Conference last June, for Greek accounts of the conviction of seven men for the robbery of the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games. Dr. Tsirogiannis recommended this link: Anthi Koutsoubou at News 247 and provided a correct translation:
The conviction of seven people, accused of robbery in the museum of Ancient Olympia in February 2012, was decided by a three-member Criminal Court in Patras on Wednesday, November 20. More specifically,  five of the seven who faced charges [each one of them faced different charges] of robbery, theft of antiquities,  attempted sale of stolen antiquities and attempted murder, were jailed. The man who had entered the museum and grabbed the artifacts received 17 years imprisonment, two were sentenced to six years and two others to seven years. Two Bulgarian defendants, were also found guilty, but were given 2 years suspended sentence and were released. 
The ARCAblog asked Dr. Tsirogiannis if this crime was related to any organized crime.
"I think that it was proved that the hit at the museum was an amateurs' job, as it was the way they tried to sell the gold ring [to undercover police in a hotel in Patras]. Although seven of them (two Bulgarians got two years each, suspended), the group can hardly be named as "organised". It seems that they took advantage of the extremely poor guarding of the museum, for financial reasons. Plus, they were heading to a different museum, the main Archaological Museum of Olympia, aiming to steal ancient gold wreaths and a collection of stamps, but were mistaken and hit another museum nearby, a smaller one! How "organised" is that?"
In February, Elinda Labropoulou for CNN reported on the theft and described the Museum of the History of the Olympics as a smaller building located near the main Archaeological Museum of Olympia.

The mastermind of the theft had intended to sell the gold ring for 1.5 million but the price fell to 300,000 euros. 

From this article (translated here from Greek to English): The gold signet ring dating back to the period of the 16th century BC was the most valuable object of the stolen loot. The ring belonged to a ruler of Anthia and was found in the famous royal tomb "Chang 4" at "Rachi" ara in Antheia Greek Kalamata. The ring shows two male athletes about to participate in an event bull-leaping. The ring had been loaned by the Archaeological Museum of Messenia. In the investigation, scientists of the Division of Criminal Investigation sought information on the DNA of two thieves. Security cameras recorded images from the theft, showing inexperienced looters, furiously grabbing at anything of value.

Dr. Tsirogiannis added in an email:
From the very beginning, immediately after the theft, I pointed out that it would be difficult for the thieves to sell these antiquities because they were very well recorded (http://www.channel4.com/news/armed-robbers-loot-ancient-greek-museum), another clue that the thieves did not belong to an "organised" group. Some did not agree with this view at the time (http://paul-barford.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/olympia-theft-getting-rid-of-stuff.html Paul is a good friend), but the arrest of the thieves, the way it took place, the interrogation and the discovery of all the objects, proved my point.
For another source, MSN distributed the article Agence France-Press, "Seven Sentenced over Olympia Robbery in Greece".