February 12, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: Bronze Germanicus Home in Museo Archeologico di Amelia

By Catherine Schofield Sezgin

Of the most important and complete bronze statues of the first century A.D. ever found in Italy resides in Amelia.

In 1963, outside the walls of Amelia’s historic center, a group of workers digging a mill found the broken remains of a first century bronze statue. Over the town’s objections, the fragments were transferred to Perugia, restored, and then decades later returned to Amelia to an archaeological museum built to display the bronze of Germanicus Julius Caesar.

Francesca Rossi, an Amelian and daughter of Luciano Rossi of Punto Di Vino, a local wine bistro, recalled seeing the restored head of Germanicus on display in the old town hall when she was a little girl. “I fell in love with him,” she said. “I told my mother I wanted to marry him.”

The charisma of the bronze head likely belonged to a statue created to commemorate the early death of one of the Roman Empire’s most beloved commanders. Germanicus, adopted younger son of Julius Augustus, would have followed his brother Tiberius as Roman emperor if he had not been poisoned in Antioch.

Austrialian-born writer Stephen Dando-Collins claims in his book “Blood of the Caesars: How the Murder of Germanicus Led to the Fall of Rome” (John Wiley and Sons, 2008), that the death of Germanicus in A. D. 19 predated the fall of the Roman Empire. But Germanicus’ fame catapulted his son Caligula and his grandson Nero to the throne. It was his wife Agrippina the Elder, the granddaughter of Augustus, who used her husband’s good name and affection of the people of the Roman Empire to further her family’s political ambitions. Yet, it was Germanicus’ lack of political ambition, his unwillingness to use his popularity to unseat Tiberius, that may have motivated his wife and her reputed lover and one of Rome’s greatest philosophers, Seneca, to poison her husband, according to Dando-Collins’ book.

Ruthless women characterized Germanicus’ family. His paternal grandmother had been six months pregnant when she divorced her husband and married his political rival, the future Roman Emperor, bestowing upon her great wealth and ultimately the title of Roman deity. Women used marriage and motherhood as the only available political tools. Although his grandmother’s mother had been the daughter of a magistrate, her father was from two patrician families, Gens Julia and Gens Claudia, of Ancient Rome.

At the age of 14, Livia Drusilla married her cousin Tiberius Claudius Nero, an ally of Mark Antony and Julius Caesar. For years she lived in exile before a peace agreement between Antony and Octavian in 40 BC allowed her family to return to Rome. Apparently, Octavian, her husband’s rival, fell in love with the pregnant 20-year-old Livia, divorced his wife Scribonia the day after she gave birth to her daughter Julia, and then married Germanicus’ paternal grandmother. Three months later, Livia gave birth to Germanicus’ father, Drusus. She allowed her first husband to raise her sons until his death and then they went to live with their mother and her husband who was elevated to Augustus, first Roman Emperor.

Germanicus’ maternal grandmother was Augustus’ sister, Octavia, and his maternal grandfather was Augustus' rival Mark Antony. When Antony took up with Cleopatra, then committed suicide, one of the nine children he left behind was Germanicus’ mother, Antonia the Younger. Thus, Germanicus’ grandparents were the second wife of the first Roman Emperor, the sister of the first Roman Emperor, and two political rivals of the first Roman Emperor.

Germanicus’ wife, Agrippina the Elder, was the granddaughter of the First Roman Emperor through his daughter Julia who had been abandoned by her father Octavian when he married Germanicus’ maternal grandmother Livia. Agrippina’s father, of course, was Agrippa, a political ally of Julia’s father. After her father died, her mother married Tiberius Caesar, Germanicus’ uncle and the ruler to succeed Augustus.

Germanicus, adopted by Tiberius at the will of Augustus, was patiently waiting his turn when his wife, the direct descendant of Augustus, grew impatient and plotted to poison her husband at the age of 34 so as to undermine Tiberius and raise her son to the imperial throne.

When the pieces of a bronze statue were dug up outside the city walls along the “Via Ortana”, probably the ancient road that follows the route of the Via Amerina, likely on the grounds for the old campus for ancient games and gymnastic competitions. (Archaeological Museum of Amelia, website). The statue was erected in honor of Amelia and in memory of Germanicus, also known as Nero Claudius Drusus, born in 15 BC. Germanicus, the son of a famed and beloved commander who succeeded in the Germany territories and also died young, on his horse, also earned adulation of the Roman people.

The bronze fragments were reconstructed with the use of steel frame that was anchored to a wooden structure to support the basis for the bronze fragments.

The statue, more than two meters tall, is of a “Young Germanicus” triumphant as a victorious general, with armor and the arm resting on a spear, the head turned to the right, in the direction of the raised arm.

The artistic decoration of his armor shows the scene of the attack of Achilles in Troy, perhaps linking this memory with Germanicus’ military operations in the East.

The archaeological museum is located in the Boccarini Palazzo built between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1410, it was the seat of the papal government whose jurisdiction included Amelia, Orvieto, and Terni.

Museo Archeologico di Amelia
Piazza Augusto Vera, 10 - Amelia (Tr)

February 10, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Essayist Christopher A. Marinello from the Art Loss Register "On Fakes"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Christopher A. Marinello discusses the Art Loss Register’s response to the proliferation of forgeries in the art market in an editorial essay titled “On Fakes”.

Christopher A. Marinello had been a litigator in the criminal and civil courts in New York for more than 20 years before joining the Art Loss Register (ALR) as General Counsel. Chris has represented galleries, dealers, artists and collectors and is currently managing all U. S. and worldwide art recovery cases for the London-based Art Loss Register, the largest international database of stolen, missing and looted artwork used by law enforcement agencies, the insurance industry, the art market, museums, and private collectors who can commission pre-sale due diligence checks and fine art recovery services. Chris serves as the ALR’s chief negotiator and has mediated and settled countless art related disputes as well as several high profile Holocaust Restitution claims. He is often asked by law enforcement to take part in clandestine art recovery operations and has participated in numerous international conferences on stolen art. Chris has taught Law & Ethics in the Art Market at New York University SCPS, Seton Hall University and Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Masters Degree Program and is a member of Advisory council of the Appraisers Association of America and Inland Marine Underwriter’s Association.

ARCA blog: In your essay, you say that fake and fraudulent artwork being sold in the market place is at the top of the agenda for dealers and collectors. The Art Loss Register has compiled a Fakes Database. How long has this service been in place and how would you describe the size of the Fakes Database?
Mr. Marinello: "The sheer number of fake and fraudulent works is astounding. We are currently compiling records and resources from law enforcement worldwide as well as dealer associations, collector groups, artist authentication boards and committees as well as other sources. We have been working on this project for several years now and fully expect the numbers to overtake those for stolen art."
ARCA blog: You write that The Art Loss Register is open to technological advances in location devices and authentication methods but still relies upon the “keen eye of an educated expert and the diligent provenance research performed by trained art historians.” Do you see any changes in how connoisseurship is being applied today?
Mr. Marinello: "Today’s art historians are certainly taking advantage of advances in technology. The point I want to make is that despite these advances, there is no substitute for a well trained art historian. Computers cannot replicate the skill necessary to perform proper due diligence and provenance research. I applaud the ARCA program for educating the already well educated and stressing the importance of academic analysis."
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

Photo: Raphaelllo Sanzio's "Portrait of A Young Man." Mr. Marinello was asked to provide an image for this blog post and he chose Raphael's painting, formerly exhibited at the Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, Poland, and missing since 1945 when it was stolen by the Nazis, making it one of the most important paintings lost during the war.

February 9, 2011

Amelia, Umbria: An Eyewitness Account Recalls the Allied Bombing of Amelia in 1944

By Francesca Rossi, Guest Contributor

During the World War II, people in Amelia felt quite safe from the fighting because there was no reason for them to suppose Amelia would be considered a military target. But they were wrong. On the 25th of January in 1944, on a beautiful winter day in Amelia, no one could have predicted what would happen that morning, especially not Umberto Cerasi who at the time was just a young boy. In his book “Amelia – Un anno di storia dal 25 luglio 1943 al 13 giugno 1944: ricordi, testimonianze, documenti”, Mr. Cerasi tells us also about that day (translated from the Italian):
“I remember that morning because I was there and because you can’t forget those kind of facts. I was an apprentice at a typography studio nearby the Public Gardens and I was working when I heard the sound of the warning siren located on the top of the Cathedral bell tower. I started to run, trying to find a shelter, but I could already hear the rumble of the B-29 and when I looked up, I saw the training aircraft above me. There was a weird twinkle under the fuselage: cluster bombs were being dropped over us!”

“The bombs exploded on the ancient polygonal walls and again on Via Cavour hitting the elementary girl’s school, the church of Saint Elisabetta, the house of the parish, a house owned by Mr. Ammaniti, and other nearby houses. It was a massacre! An unknown number of people were severely injured and twenty-six people died including the Director of Education Ms. Iole Orsini, twelve little girls and three nuns. It was terrible!”
“When the explosions stopped, I could hear only people crying. So I came back home, actually hoping to still find my home and terrified not to find my family anymore. Fortunately there it was, and so was my mother and my father. Then I reached Via Cavour, the most damaged area, and as I approached the area I could realize the magnitude of the tragedy: parents holding in their arms the little girls who had been in the school, with tattered clothes and faces covered in white dust. There were a lot of people in front of heaps of rubble from where dead bodies were beginning to be extracted. I was just a kid but I could realize my presence was a hindrance, so I went away with my eyes full of tears and my heart pounding in my chest."
No one ever knew the real reason for this act of war: there are different hypotheses but the most probable is that it was just a tragic mistake in the attempt to hit the bridge on the nearby Rio Grande. What we know is that on January 25, 1944, all those innocent people died and since then, every year, everyone in Amelia attends Mass in the church of Santa Lucia, built on the ruins of Santa Elisabetta, to commemorate the 26 victims:

Orsini Iole, 40 years old: Director of Education
Bertini Quinta, 25 years old – Sister (nun and religious educator)
Bolli Teresa, 74 years old- Sister
Martini Jolanda, 23 years old – Sister
Paolocci Fiorella, 10 years old – schoolgirl
Ciancuto Graziella, 10 years old – schoolgirl
Silvani Paola, 6 years old – schoolgirl
Fiorucci Maria Teresa, 12 years old – schoolgirl
Barcherini Graziella, 7 years old – schoolgirl
Lanfaloni Consiglia, 10 years old – schoolgirl
Proietti Rosella, 6 years old – schoolgirl
Suadoni Geltrude, 11 years old – schoolgirl
Proietti Palmira, 10 years old – schoolgirl
Botarelli Maria, 12 years old – schoolgirl
Corvi Fedina, 8 years old – schoolgirl
Marzoli Rossana, 4 years old – schoolgirl
Servi Nazzareno, 67 years old – worker
Esposito Pasquale, 28 years old – worker
Grisci David, 68 years old – farmer
Castellani Emilia, 54 years old – housewife
Tinarelli Castorino, 36 years old – worker
Grilli Enzo, 13 years old – apprentice
Quadraccia Ferrero, 14 years old – apprentice
Margheriti Gregorio, 64 years old – shoemaker
Fabrizi Agenore, 39 years old – farmer
Olivieri Palmira, 77 years old - housewife

(Source: “AMELIA – UN ANNO DI STORIA DAL 25 LUGLIO 1943 AL 13 GIUGNO 1944: ricordi, testimonianze, documenti” di Umberto Cerasi)

Francesca Rossi will be writing about the history and culture of Amelia as a guest writer for the ARCA blog. Ms. Rossi graduated from the Universit√° degli Studi di Siena in Arezzo with a degree in biomedical laboratory techniques. She is an interior designer and responsible for the identify brand for an interior design studio in Amelia. Although born in Terni, Francesca was raised in Amelia, the summer base for ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.

Amelia, Umbria: Rosa Venerini's Schools and a WWII Tragic Bombing

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

February 9 is the anniversary of the birthday of the 17th century educator who has a school named after her in Amelia. A statue of Rose Venerini on a walkway of a small school in Amelia commemorates the founder of public schools for Italian girls more than 350 years ago. Rose opened forty schools from 1685 to 1728, including one at the foot of the Campidoglio, the smallest and most famous of Rome’s Seven Hills. The motto of the Maestre Pie Venerini is “Educate to save.” Nearby a plaque memorializes the Allied bombing of this school on January 25, 1944, which killed students, teachers, and residents of a nearby house. The Allies missed an ammunitions factor in nearby Terni, and that morning, innocent people died. The bomb also destroyed the church of Santa Elisabetta. Parishioners constructed a new church, Santa Lucia, on the site in 1956.

The Journal of Art Crime: Essayist Simon Cole on Connoisseurship

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In one of ARCA’s three scholarly responses to David Grann’s “The Mark of a Masterpiece,” published in The New Yorker in July 2010, Simon A. Cole penned an editorial essay, “Connoisseurship All the Way Down: Art Authentication, Forgery, Fingerprint Identification, Expert Knowledge” in the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Fall 2010).

Simon A. Cole is Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Criminology, Law, and Society at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification (Harvard University Press, 2001) and Truth Machine: The Contentious History of DNA Fingerprinting (University of Chicago Press, 2008, with Michael Lynch, Ruth McNally & Kathleen Jourdan). His work has been published in numerous criminology journals, Art Journal, and Suspect (MIT Press, 2005), the 10th issue of the design award winning series Alphabet City. He is co-editor of the journal Theoretical Criminology.

ARCA blog: Professor Cole, if you were given a Caravaggio painting to authenticate, would you trust an art historian or a forensic art expert? Would your preference for the type of expert change if the painting was a 20th century Van Gogh or a 21st century Jackson Pollock?
Professor Cole: I don’t think the point I was making would change based on the period of the painting. But the point I was making was that we can’t really know whom to trust! Certainly, there is an appeal to thinking “science” is preferable to “I know it when I see it” connoisseurship. But, there’s also an appeal to thinking that only an art historian can evaluate all the evidence in all its complexity. And, much of forensic science turns out to essentially be “I know it when I see it” as well (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong).
ARCA blog: In your essay, you compare art “connoisseurship” with the art – not the science – of identifying fingerprints. Would you have the same level of doubt about the authenticity of a painting’s creator based on the identification of a fingerprint as you would the guilt or innocent of a murderer identified by a “fingerprint expert”?
Professor Cole: Yes! In both cases, the fingerprint attribution would be a valuable piece of evidence. But one would also have to consider the possibility that the attribution is erroneous, which it could be due to a variety of causes (such as fraud, unintentional error, and the possibility of another individuals with very similar friction ridge detail). One would then have to consider this evidence in conjunction with all the other relevant evidence.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011 - ,,, No comments

Dr. Tom Flynn Talks to ARCA about his most recent blog post concerning the French auction house scandal and the future of the art market

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

ARCA lecturer, art historian, and journalist Dr. Tom Flynn out of England published his first post of the year on "artknows" about the French auction house scandal and his recent trip to Paris. Always passionate and outspoken, Dr. Flynn graciously answered via email my question about how this scandal will play against the future of the French art market.
Dr. Flynn: French commentators say the process of reform following the Drouot/Savoyard portering scandal has already begun, with investigations in train and potential criminal prosecutions on the horizon. Meanwhile, a new logistics company has been recruited to handle the Drouot's portering, transport and storage services previously conducted by the disgraced cols rouges. Quite how those illegal processes were allowed to take root deep inside in the country's ancient auction nerve centre, and continue unchecked for decades, remains the great unanswered question.

But let's not forget that the international art market has always been amenable to corruption at every level. Look at the Italian antiquities scandal uncovered by Peter Watson. Look at the Sotheby's and Christie's price-fixing scandal. Fakes and forgeries and manufactured provenances abound. Blind eyes are everywhere.

Beyond the Drouot, the French auction scene is still undergoing the slow process of rationalisation following the opening of the auction market to Sotheby's, Christie's and other non-French companies in 2001. That will take time to shake out, but some might argue that it was too little too late and that France long ago lost the battle of the gavels, while London and New York exploited the freedom and latitude of their own unregulated markets. Some analysts claim that Paris is no longer even in third place after London and New York and that Beijing is now the third largest art market centre and expanding at a rate of knots.

That said, new Parisian auction business ventures such as Artcurial, which have taken advantage of external investment made available following the partial relaxation of government regulations, are providing the sort of competition the French art auction market badly needs. Meanwhile, French dealers and collectors are tapping into an increasingly global market, buying and selling in the most commercially favourable centres, whether it be New York, London or Beijing.

The Drouot scandal notwithstanding, Paris still has a lot going for it in the art market stakes. It's a beautiful city with an ancient artistic heritage and a noble tradition of art commerce. Fashionable international contemporary art dealerships are opening all the time in the city's chic quarters around the Marais and in the Avenue Matignon. If it can deal rapidly and effectively with the cols rouges scandal and the recent, highly publicized allegations against the Wildenstein dealership, then perhaps it will turn the page and once again compete on the world stage. The next several months will be critical.
Photo: Colette Marvin and Tom Flynn recently toured art auction houses in Paris.

February 8, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Columnist Donn Zaretsky on "Art Law and Policy"

Lucas Cranach the Elder
"Adam" and "Eve"
The Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA

In his column in The Journal of Art Crime, “Art Law and Policy”, attorney Donn Zaretsky continues the discussion on the case, Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, 578 F.3d 1016 (9th Cir. 2009) with California’s passage of Assembly bill 2765 which extended the limitations period for stolen art claims from three to six years from discovery and clarifies that “discovery” means actual discovery.

Donn Zaretsky is an art law specialist at the firm John Silberman Associates. Zaretsky publishes the Art Law Blog at http://theartlawblog.blogspot.com/.

To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

February 7, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Editor-in-Chief and Columnist Noah Charney on "Lessons from the History of Art Crime

Photo by Urska Charney

In his column, "Lessons from the History of Art Crime", Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney examines the methods of authentication under the title "The Art World Wants to Be Deceived: Issues in Authentication and Inauthentication" in the fourth issue of The Journal of Art Crime.

Professor Charney writes about the three ways to authenticate art: connoisseurship, scientific analysis, and provenance. Although connoisseurship used to be the primary method of authenticating art, Charney writes, the new phenomenon of scientific analysis can be used by shade characters in shining armor. Provenance, the documented history of an object, has been on the rise in the past two decades but it relies on historical documents that rarely survive intact over the centuries. In the end, Charney recommends some combination of scientific analysis and provenance provides the strongest argument for authenticity, although the art world still relies on expertise which is still unregulated.

Noah Charney is the Founder and President of ARCA. Recently a Visiting Lecturer at Yale University, he is currently Adjunct Professor of Art History at the American University of Rome. He is the editor of ARCA's first book, Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009).

To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

February 6, 2011

The Detroit Institute of Arts' exhibit, "Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries", Posts Videos on YouTube to Augment Its Painting and Sculpture Exhibit

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

The Detroit Institute of Arts' "Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries" spotlights museum assets of questionable authenticity and provenance. The ARCA blog gives you links to the exhibition's videos on YouTube, the media coverage, and an interview with the show's curator.

The museum posts riveting weekly videos on YouTube elaborating on work behind the exhibition. In the first video, DIA’s Director Graham W. J. Beal introduces the exhibit’s curator, Associate Curator of European Paintings Salvador Salort-Pons, who he says has special archival research skills, and the museum’s science lab -- one of the few in the country -- run by a research scientist who provides information about materials used in art.

In the second video, “Portrait of a Young Woman” discusses a painting brought into the collection in 1936 that was once exhibited in a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit and when recently examined by x-ray was shown to have pigments of zinc and chromium which were not available until the 19th century.

The third video, "Rembrandt's Son", shows the analysis of “Titus,” a 19th century Rembrandt forgery who’s canvas weave seen through x-ray showed a 19th century manufactured quality.

The fourth video is about "The Head of a King", once considered an ancient artifact and now clearly re-labeled as a 20th century copy.

In CNN’s online article by Laura Allsop, "Spot the fake: The art world's pricey problem with forgery," Noah Charney, ARCA’s founder and President, explains that forgers are frustrated or thwarted artists:
"Most of them that we know of were initially trying to be artists themselves, their original creative works were dismissed at some point in the early part of their career."
"So the primary motivation for most art forgers really is sort of passive-aggressive revenge, with financial motivation taking a very much secondary role," he continued.
While most forgers are artists, he said, some are art conservators too, so they are skilled at getting around the scientific techniques used to verify an artwork. And not only do they produce counterfeit artworks; they can also produce convincing counterfeit documents verifying their bogus works. With these skills, forgers and forgeries can sometimes go undetected for years, making it difficult to say whether or not the numbers of forgeries are rising.
The New York Times reported in an article by Eve M. Kahn, “Keeping It Real: A Show Made of Fakes”, when the exhibit opened with examples of the institution's misattributions:
“An English country-road scene with a fake Monet signature is now known to be the work of the landscape painter Alfred East. A granite head of an Egyptian king has turned out to be a Berlin carver’s 1920s handiwork. An ebony table thought to have belonged to the Medicis is actually an 1840s Florentine copy.”
Writer Emily Sharpe reviews the exhibit for The Art Newspaper and reports on how art- historical research solved the "mystery" of the misattributed Monet.

On her blog, Real Clear Arts, for the Art Journal, columnist Judith H. Dobrzynski reviews the exhibit from afar, provides insightful commentary and links to local coverage of the exhibit.

The Seattle Times provides coverage of the exhibit by David Runk of the Associated Press in the article "Detroit museum exhibit to examine fakes, forgeries" which discusses the history of "Still Life with Carnations" once hoped to be a painting by Vincent van Gogh.

Via email, curator Dr. Salvador Salort-Pons responded to a few questions posed by the ARCA blog.
ARCA blog: Dr. Salort-Pons, the director of DIA said in the first video that you have special archival research skills. Could you elaborate on the kind of work you do in authenticating or discrediting these artworks?
Dr. Salort-Pons: More than authenticate or discredit a work of art, a curator tries to understand its true nature. We attempt to answer questions such as: What is it? When and how it was created? Who did it? What does it represent? Why is it important in an art historical context? Who owned it in the past? In the process of answering these questions and others we may find new information that reveal that the work we are investigating is not what we thought it was 50 or 100 years ago. I am continuously updating and revising the information about the DIA’s painting collection. It is part of my job.

There are, in my opinion, at least three approaches (curator, conservator and scientist) when we investigate a work of art. The curator’s approach includes two types of work: 1. The art historical research, which is the work performed in archives and libraries and it is oriented to find historical and scholarly documentation related to the artwork. 2. The connoisseurship research, which is based on the curators experience in looking at works of art especially in the flesh but also through photographs. It is, many times, an intuitive approach and it requires some degree of a natural sensibility and a trained eye. In short, a work of art speaks to a connoisseur in terms of style, authorship, authenticity, et cetera. The other two approaches relate to the work of conservators and scientists. They perform different tests on the artwork in order to understand its physical characteristics, construction, and elemental composition of materials among other things. When researching a work of art in depth the inputs of the curator, conservator and scientist are equally important.
ARCA blog: This exhibit shows the museum audience the process of research and authentication. In the past some museums have hidden fakes and forgeries, or misattributions, in storage and refused to elaborate about the process. What kind of response have you received from curators at other institutions?
Dr. Salort-Pons: The response has been highly positive from my colleagues. In the past there was some concern that the discovery and publication of a forgery in a collection might damage the reputation of a museum. As one of my colleagues emailed me recently “Times have changed, and we are all more enlightened about these things now”. Just look back into history and see that the great accomplishments in any field have been achieved through intelligent hard-work that involved good decisions but also some errors. Nobody can dispute that the DIA possesses one of the best art collections in North America and that it is a world-class museum. Yes, after 125 of acquiring art extremely well we transparently acknowledge that we have made some mistakes and that it is part of the process of the DIA’s successful collecting history. Our fakes and forgeries -- some of them connected to fascinating stories -- are just a microscopic fraction of the overall museum’s holdings. The DIA’s worldwide known masterpieces are permanently installed in the galleries.
ARCA blog: Do you think this exhibit has any kind of influence on the type of paintings that might be donated by supporters? Have you or your museum been concerned about any kind of resistance from contributors?
Dr. Salort-Pons: I would answer “no” to both questions. Some of our forgeries are quite sophisticated and came to the DIA when technologies and art historical knowledge were not as advanced as they are today. The DIA is a highly professional institution that includes a group of outstanding curators, conservators and scientists. We have the art historical expertise, and we are equipped with one of the best conservation labs in the country. Furthermore, our collection committee follow clear and strict guidelines that guarantee, among other things, that any artwork accessioned is of high quality and of interest for the DIA as well as, of course, authentic. I believe that supporters and contributors of our museum are aware of this. Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries is a good example of how competent the DIA's staff is and that our museum is a top institution in terms research and technology.
Detroit Institute of Arts' exhibit, Fakes, Forgeries, and Mysteries, is open through April 10, 2011. It's an excellent reason to visit Detroit. However, a friend of mine recently visited the museum and said, after reading about the exhibit, that she would like to return to see Fakes, Forgeries and Mysteries but admitted that in numerous trips to the DIA over two months, she found the main collection so interesting that she hadn't left time for the special exhibits. So it seems that Dr. Salort-Pons is correct, an exhibit in the museum admitting to the uncertainty in the art market won't diminish museum revenues.

February 5, 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011 - ,, No comments

An Update on Egypt

Zahi Hawass argues today that the "Sphinx is sad"
More details are emerging from Egypt, and they are often conflicting. Some firsthand reports of the situation last weekend are emerging, as members of foreign archaeological teams return home. Lee Rosenbaum has been forwarded a firsthand account from a French archaeologist that describes looting last weekend.

Larry Rothfield notes that the report would suggest a much quicker response than the U.S. military was able to muster in Iraq:

It is notable that robbers began appearing very soon after the police abandoned their posts; that the military response at first was to make a show of force with a tank, but that that was inadequate to cow the looters; that the army did a good job protecting the Museum and magazines at Saqqara; and that the sites were secured on the third day after the start of looting. All in all, that is not a bad record. Let's remember that it took the US military six days to get around to arriving at the Iraq Museum to secure it, that almost nothing was ever done by the US military to protect Iraq's archaeological sites, and that as late as this fall, Iraq still had not reconstituted a functioning archaeological police, with only 50 out of 5,000 in place.
 Zahi Hawass is also providing regular updates on his blog. More after the jump.