June 5, 2011

Continued Short History of the Four Bronze Horses in Venice (Part Three)

Four Horses in St. Mark's Basilica in Venice 
by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Lecturer

But principal among the riches plundered were the Four Horses.

They are most likely of Roman origin, although some argue for an older, Greek origin.

Originally accompanied by a quadriga, or chariot, they were displayed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, having arrived there centuries before, from Rome.

A recent reconstruction of the starting boxes for the Hippodrome’s chariot races shows one possible location of the horses.

They are made largely of copper, with tin added, which suggests a Roman rather than Hellenistic origin, although Chamberlain categorically states that they are of Greek origin. They may have once stood on the Arch of Trajan in Rome.

The collars were added in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitate their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice.

The fate of the quadriga is unknown, but the leader of the Venetians during the Fourth Crusade, the Doge Dandolo, arranged for the four horses to be installed on the pediment above the entry to the Byzantine-style St Marks’ Basilica, the Cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, in 1254.

The Basilica had been consecrated in 1094, and the consciously Byzantine style of the building reflected both the favoured status Venice had long enjoyed in its dealings with the Byzantine Empire – Venice was given the title “favourite daughter of Byzantium” in 1000 by Basil II - but also the Venetians’ “pride in possessing an edifice which shared the same magnificent architectural design as the ancient basilicas of the twelve Apostles and of St Sophia in Constantinople for the Doge’s church and for their patron saint’s mausoleum.”

The choice of the Horses as the principal symbolic booty was deliberate:
“The Horses were part of the spoils allotted to the Venetians – about a third of the rich booty accumulated by the Crusaders and gathered together in the three churches in Constantinople – and were already designated as such before the decisive attack took place. ... The choice of the Horses of San Marco already in 1204 and their transfer to Venice can now be seen as undoubtedly a conscious act to witness the triumph of the Republic – an idea conceived by [Doge] Enrico Dandolo who knew Constantinople extremely well since he had been the Venetian ambassador at the court of the Byzantine emperor. ... The ambition to have inherited the glory of Rome, which had indeed been nurtured by many other ancient cities during the Middle Ages, was to be commemorated in Venice with a monument which was both an expression of triumph and of the Roman spirit. No such combination seems loftier and more solemn to us than the Horses of San Marco which formerly watched majestically over the city of Constantinople.”
The horses are secular, with no or little religious connotations – why then were they displayed on a Church? Taylor notes that the Church had, throughout the so-called Dark Ages – the period of the Middle Ages from around the fall of Rome in the 5th century, through to the creation and flowering of the Italian republics, a vital role to play in preserving art and culture and the Renaissance:

“It was, moreover, the responsibility of the Church to see that during the dark night of barbarism the lamp of classical learning was not totally extinguished. The Christian communism of the Middle Ages had put an end to private wealth, and Europe was not to see a bourgeoisie again until the formation of the Italian republics. Only the hereditary rulers and the prelates of the Church were in a position to patronize the arts.”

Tomorrow read the final post in this series on the Four Horses.

June 4, 2011

More on the History of the Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, Venice (Part II)

Eugène Delacroix, The Taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders (April 12, 1204),
Salon of 1841, Entered the Musée du Louvre in 1885

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Lecturer

The Fourth Crusade in its Venetian transports arrived off Constantinople in late June 1203. The siege occupied many months, but finally the ‘Latins’ entered the city on April 13, 1204.

As Wilhelm Treue comments in his book, Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest (John Day, New York, 1961):
“Old men, women, and children, carrying crosses and holy images, went to meet the victorious troops, but there was no restraining their lust for blood and plunder; they were Crusaders no longer; they were plunderers such as Europe had never known till that day. Whoever stood in their way was killed..... the forty richest cities on earth could not equal the riches which Byzantium now lost to her conquerors. All this was now distributed throughout Europe and added unimaginable riches to the legacy of antiquity and the medieval Eastern Empire. Venice benefited chiefly, but the whole of Europe as far as the British Isles and Scandinavia, wherever relations and friends of any crusader were to be found, shared in this amazing windfall. Every Crusader of any rank found himself in possession of a fortune on April 13, 1204. ... An eclipse, taken to be a sign on the wrath of God, put an end to the looting on April 16.”
Speros Vryonis in Byzantium and Europe (Harcourt Brace, 1967) gives a vivid account of the sack of Constantinople by the Frankish and Venetian Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, and comments:
The estrangement of East and West, which had proceeded over the centuries, culminated in the horrible massacre that accompanied the conquest of Constantinople. The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Crusading movement thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention.
Thus occurred uncontrolled looting of what was then the grandest and richest city in Europe, the repository of many centuries of art and culture.

The Tetrarchs, Venice
Before turning to consider the travels of the Four Horses, they were of course not the only things taken from that city. Also ending up in Venice were the Tetrarchs, built into a corner of the Basilica of San Marco, adjacent to the Porta della Carta.

In addition, Francis Henry Taylor notes in his 1948 book, The Taste of Angels, that the marble facing and incrustation was prised off the exterior of Hagia Sophia and used as ballast in the Venetian ships before being used to continue the decoration of the basilica.

Overall, the looting was so widespread, Fernando Báez writes in his book, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Day Iraq (Atlas & Co, 2008):
“ ... that almost all the churches of Europe came to have treasure or relics from Constantinople. According to the historian Steven Runciman, ‘the sack of Constantinople has not parallel in history ... There was never a greater crime against humanity than the Fourth Crusade.”

June 3, 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011 - , No comments

WSJ Reports on "Artists and Assistants: The Art Assembly Line

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

One of my friends on Facebook posted this article and I would hate for anyone interested in the art market, authenticity, and provenance to miss the article, "Artists and Assistants: The Art Assembly Line" in the Wall Street Journal. From what I understand, big name artists sell artworks based on the talents of lesser known or unknown assistants. One artist said that if customers ask, they will tell them about the assistants. One painter changed galleries when the dealer objected. Fascinating subject -- if I recall correctly, Rembrandt's studio produced art at different levels -- paintings solely by Rembrandt sold at a higher price and those by the Rembrandt workshop sold at a lower price. The change now seems to be that some artists and art dealers see no reason for a price difference.

Friday, June 03, 2011 - No comments

Judge Arthur Tompkins on The Four Horses of the Basilica San Marco, Venice: A Short History (Part I)

The Byzantine Empire before the Crusades
by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Lecturer

Constantinople, or Byzantium, had been founded by Constantine I in 330 (F Baez, A Universal History of the Destruction of Books, English Translation by A MacAdam, Atlas & Co, New York, 2008, page 94):
“It became the capital of the Byzantium Empire, where the traditions of Greece and Rome were maintained. ... [T]he world is indebted to Constantinople for the possibility of reading authors who would otherwise by nothing more than names. Without its contribution to the transmission of ancient texts, we would probably not have the works of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, Thucydides, or Archimedes – to name just a few.”
Constantine the Great, or to give him his full name, Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, was the first Christian Roman Empire, and ruled either jointly or alone from 306 until his death in 337. He had turned the Greek colony at Byzantium into an imperial residence, renaming it Constantinople. Subsequently it became the capital of the Empire in 476 CE, thus triggering the entry of Rome "into its thousand years of medieval slumber" (Francis Henry Taylor, The Taste of Angels, Atlantic Little, Brown, Boston, 1948).

The Fourth Crusade saw what might be termed one of the great detours in world military history. Pope Innocent III had become Pope in 1198, and immediately started to preach for a Fourth Crusade.

One of the churches in which it is claimed by some writers that he proclaimed the crusade, the Chiesa Sant'Andrea, stands in the central piazza in Orvieto.

The Third Crusade had failed abjectly, and in Western Europe there was little stomach for another go at the Muslims, now firmly in control of the Levant, including Jerusalem and much of the adjacent territory.  

But, despite that, the Fourth Crusade finally got underway in October 1202. A largely French Army, but crucially also comprising a significant Venetian contingent, set out from Venice for Cairo in Egypt, intending to invest Jerusalem overland through Egypt.

Fewer crusaders (memorably described by Michael Palin as “wandering psychopaths with really sharp swords ...”) than expected had turned up in Venice, whose merchants and bankers had expended a large amount of money and effort preparing for a much larger army - much like, nowadays, a city will spend up large preparing for the Olympics, to the bemusement and often resentment of local taxpayers. Venice expected a significant return on its investment.

Venice insisted on payment up front of the princely sum of 85,000 silver marks , which the crusaders only partially managed by beggaring themselves. The result was that when the crusade sailed, the Venetians were feeling decidedly out of pocket. A displaced prince of Constantinople, Alexius Angelis, seized the opportunity presented by the presence of a large but strapped-for-cash army, and offered money, transport, knights, and control of the Greek Orthodox Church if the Crusaders would but place him back on the Byzantine throne in Constantinople.

So the Crusade detoured to Constantinople.

The sack of Constantinople was not, it seemed, initially part of the deal. After an attack on a trade rival of Venice’s, Zara on the east coast of the Adriatic , carried out despite express prohibition by the Pope, Venice offered the Crusaders winter residence in Zara. In effect, Venice was taking "profit wherever it could be found" (Taylor, page 40).

Another source for this material is Wilhelm Treue's Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest (Translated from the German by Basil Creighton, The John Day Company, New York, 1961)

June 2, 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011 - , No comments

ARCA 2011 Student Tanya Lervik Eyes the Insurance Companies and Art Crime

ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Tanya: I have a generalist background with a B.A. in French from the University of Wyoming and an M.B.A. from Thunderbird School of Global Management. While studying, I did stints as an exchange student for a year in France and a summer in China. Also, for the past fourteen years, I’ve had the great good fortune to travel fairly extensively in Europe and Asia with some of the world’s finest orchestral and choral musicians as part of my work with specialty tour operator, Classical Movements. Because of my long-term interest in art and culture, whenever possible I’ve taken advantage of opportunities to visit many museums along the way. My interest in studying art crime has developed over the years, but was first sparked while taking American Society of Appraisers courses on art and antiques appraisals. The topic came up in the context of establishing the provenance and value of objects, and had so many fascinating facets to consider that I was hooked! ARCA’s program seemed like a natural extension of this interest I’ve been pursuing on my own for years.
ARCA Blog: The program culminates in the writing of a publishable article. What area of art crime or cultural protection would you like to research?
Tanya: Though one might think art theft is a fairly narrow topic, in fact there are so many interesting aspects to this question that it could be hard to choose. However, I’m leaning toward finding a topic that focuses on the role of insurance industry in the arts and antiquities market because so many different factors come into play – establishing authenticity, provenance, evaluating risks of theft and damage, investigating losses, and seeking retrieval of lost or stolen items. Also, fortunately, the world seems to be increasingly aware of the problem of art looted during periods of war as well as through the opportunistic antiquities looting endemic in so many countries. I’m interested to know if and how the insurance industry may be responding to this trend.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Tanya: I’m attracted to beauty throughout the world and throughout the ages. What I find most interesting is what happens when there is an exchange of ideas between cultures or eras - how has Asian art affected European art and vice versa, for example. My brain is wired to look for cross-disciplinary links as well. Italy is one country I’ve yet to explore, so I’m very excited to be spending an extended period in this historically important cradle of artistic ingenuity.

June 1, 2011

LAPD Art Theft Detail Update and Security Recommendations

LAPD Downtown Los Angeles/Photo by Sezgin
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Recently the ARCA Blog followed up on a few stories with Detective Don Hrycyk at the Los Angeles Police Department Art Theft Detail. In April, this blog had reported on the recovery of the first Superman comic book which had been stolen from the residence of actor Nicolas Cage in 2000. We emailed Detective Hrycyk for an update on the case.

"No, there is nothing I can talk about regarding the Superman comic," Detective Hrycyk wrote back. "However, the case does illustrate the importance of having good photos and documentation of cultural property, especially mass produced items such as a comic or book. There needs to be some way to positively identify a victim's property later. This can be as simple as adding several pencil dots in obscure locations known only to the owner or documenting stray aberrations, discoloration, or damage that will make the item unique and identifiable later.”

Los Angeles' City Hall/Photo by Sezgin
The LAPD Art Theft Detail has a website which describes completed and current cases. One particular Crime Alert asked for information on information requested on the whereabouts from people who have been victimized by of Daniel Lahoda, who's business practices had been questioned. We also asked Detective Hrycyk about an update.

"The investigation regarding Daniel Lahoda is on-going," Detective Hrycyk wrote. "This case illustrates how someone who represents himself as a champion for street artists can actually be taking advantage of the same artists and collectors at the same time. It also shows how a person's criminal conduct can remain hidden for many years until someone is able to connect the dots."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 - No comments

Update on German Forgery Scandal and Its Hollywood Reach

In November the ARCA Blog covered a Germany forgery scandal which has been accused of falsifying provenance and paintings. Today, two other online news sources, Spiegel Online (German Art Forgery Scandal Reaches Hollywood), and Art Info (A Wild and Crazy Art Scame) updated readers on the scandal which has now reached Hollywood in the collection of comedian and author Steve Martin. No mention of a movie deal, though, yet.

May 31, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - , No comments

ARCA 2011 Student Angela Kumar Returns to Amelia to Study History of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

ARCA Blog: What is your academic background and how did you come to commit to a summer in Umbria studying art crime?
Angela: At Florida Atlantic University, I earned a Bachelor of Art History degree with a minor in French and interned for the University Galleries, as well as a local art gallery for which I continued working after graduating. After taking time off to start a family, I intended to return to pursue a master's degree in Liberal Studies followed by a PhD in Comparative Studies only to find that both programs had been eliminated due to budget cuts. Unsure what my next step should be, I remembered reading The Art Thief, by ARCA founder Noah Charney, and recalled there being a website for more information (artcrime.info). I was thrilled to learn about ARCA and the new Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies that was being offered. This part of the history of art was not something that was ever covered in my undergraduate courses. The interdisciplinary approach, the intensive summer-long format and the beautiful, historic location in Umbria all made for an opportunity that I (and my young family) could not pass up.
ARCA Blog: The program culminates in the writing of a publishable article. What area of art crime or cultural protection would you like to research?
Angela: Because it was so lacking in my undergraduate coursework, I would love to develop a survey course in the History of Art Crime for our local university. Certainly, creating an awareness for those already passionate about studying art and its history would contribute to the future prevention of these crimes. Aside from that, I have always been interested in aesthetics and would love to explore how some of these principles might apply to the study of art crime, especially where art institutions, collectors and the art market are concerned. However, I am keeping an open mind. I know very little about criminology, cultural heritage protection laws or security and may decide on a new direction as the course progresses.
ARCA Blog: Do you have a current fascination with an artist or period of art?
Angela: Having studied Art History, I have a great appreciation for all periods of art and the contributions made by the respective artists to our understanding of past cultures and to artistic development. That said, I am very interested in where art is headed and what new developments might be made. Therefore, I am particularly excited about Contemporary Art.
ARCA Blog: Have you traveled or lived in Italy and what would you like to do there when you are not attending lectures?
Angela: I have previously visited Rome, Florence and Venice and had the opportunity to visit Amelia briefly last year. I am looking forward to sharing these great cities with my children and to exploring as many new places as we are able.

May 30, 2011

Turkish Journalist Özgen Acar Forwards Petition to Restore Funding to American Overseas Research Centers

Steep Hellenistic amphitheatre at Pergamun sat 10,000 people/Photo credit: Catherine Schofield Sezgin

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last summer I met with Özgen Acar, a journalist based in Ankara, who has been covering the looting of archaeological sites and the sale of illicit antiquities from Turkey for decades (See "Troubled Waters" by Acar in Archaeology and "Chasing the Lydian Hoard" by Sharon Waxman at Smithsonian.com). He's incredibly busy but made time to hear about the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). A few minutes into our meeting, he answered the telephone and after a few moments, told that caller that he would be available to talk in about an hour. "That was Peg Goldberg," he told us. "I haven't spoken to her in years and I'm wondering why she is calling now."

He thought it might have to do with a book she was writing, but I never did find out why the defendant in AUTOCEPHALOUS GREEK-ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS and THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, Plaintiffs-Appellees, vs.GOLDBERG AND FELDMAN FINE ARTS, INC., and PEG GOLDBERG, Defendants-Appellants contacted Acar, but occasionally Acar sends out emails and this one is a request to sign the petition to restore AORC funding:
Hi folks: As you may have heard, the U.S. Department of Education has
cut many programs that support international research and study,
including the grant that supports ARIT operations in Turkey. This is a
serious situation for our programs and financial status. The Council of
American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) has put together a petition
to restore funding to the Department of Education Title VI AORC Program.
We are trying to gather as many signatures as possible to help show the
impact AORCs have had on the American and global academic community when
we fight to restore funding for FY2012. Please share this link with your
and your Centers' contacts. Please also encourage people to include
comments on their experience and connection with AORCs.
You may also be interested in reading about these programs at the American Research Institute in Turkey.

May 29, 2011

ARCA Blog Interviews Jason Felch, co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite"

Getty Goddess now home/
Chasing Aphrodite
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

ARCA Blog: How did you feel, being so close to this story, seeing "Aphrodite" being returned to her homeland? Did you understand more about the statute by visiting the area she came from?
Jason: We were thrilled to be able to attend the inauguration of the Getty goddess in her new home in Aidone, Sicily. For both Ralph and me, the trip -- which coincided with the release of Chasing Aphrodite -- really brought a feeling of closure to our own "chase," which began more than six years ago. Seeing the goddess -- can't really call her Aphrodite anymore -- in Sicily brought up some bittersweet feelings. The archaeological museum there sees about 17,000 visitors a year, far fewer than the 400,000 than visit the Getty Villa. Sicilian officials are hoping the goddess' return will change that, but certainly fewer people will see her now, and LA has lost an important masterpiece. That said, it was VERY powerful to see the statue in her new context, a stone's throw from Morgantina, the Greek ruins from where she was looted in the late 1970s. Surrounded by eerily similar figures depicting the fertility goddesses Persephone and Demeter, the statue takes on a startling new meaning.
ARCA Blog: What do you think we can expect from the Getty's new chief, James Cuno, author of "Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage?" What do you think the Getty is saying here with the appointment of Cuno?
Jason: The Getty made a very curious choice with Jim Cuno. On the one hand, he's an obvious candidate and a widely respected figure in the museum world. But on the issue he is most passionate and outspoken about, he is on the opposite end of the reformed Getty, which really has been leading reform efforts on the antiquities issue. In recent years, particularly after Phillip de Montebello stepped down at the Met, Cuno has been the leading voice for a position that has fewer and fewer supporters. Why would the progressive Getty chose such a regressive leader? From speaking with Cuno and several board members involved in the decision, it sounds like he was selected for everything except his views on antiquities collecting. Neil Rudenstein, who as President of Harvard was Cuno's boss for a time, said he personally disagrees with Cuno on that issue but thinks he'll nevertheless make a good chief executive of the Trust. Cuno himself has said he'll honor (and keep) the Getty's acquisition policy, which bars acquisitions of antiquities unless they have clear provenance dating to 1970. So we'll have to wait and see. Will the Italians curb the generosity of their loans? Will the Getty find ways to wiggle around its strict policy? Or by hiring Cuno, has the Getty cleverly "co-opted" one of the biggest opponents to to reform in this area? Time will tell. Meantime, I'd watch closely to see who Cuno chooses as the Getty's new museum director...and who that person chooses as the museum's antiquities curator.
ARCA Blog: Since I remember her even at the old Getty Villa in Malibu, I was a bit sorry to see "Aphrodite" leave Southern California. Did you become attached to her while you were researching your book?
Jason: Frankly, I never found the goddess to be the most beautiful of the objects at the Getty. In my view, she is far more important than she is beautiful, and that importance was largely squandered during her 22 years at the Getty -- she was almost entirely ignored by the scholarly community, thanks in large part to her scandalous past. Now that she's back in Sicily, I hope to see a new wave of scholarship that tries to restore her context and meaning. I feel more wistful about some of the other masterpieces the Getty returned -- the amazing griffons that adorn the cover of our book, the golden funerary wreath that may have rested on the head of a relative of Alexander the Great. Those are objects I'll miss seeing regularly. 
Reception in Aidone, Italy 
ARCA Blog: When you were in Italy, did you wonder if anyone in the crowd had made money from selling "Aphrodite" to the Getty? How well were you able to explain this transaction in your book?
Jason: Yes, there is plenty of irony here. In effect, the goddess has been returned to those who looted her, broke her into pieces and smuggled her out of the country for profit. Aidone is a very small town, and I was told that several of the locals who attended the ceremonies used to be clandestini -- the Sicilian term for looters. In reporting the book, we were able to recreate some of the illicit journey the goddess took from Morgantina to the Getty -- where it was found; how it was broken and smuggled out of the country to Chiasso, Switzerland; how it was shopped around (for a far lower price!) before the Getty bought it for $18 million in 1988. But much of that account is based on whispers and confidential law enforcement sources. There are conflicting aspects of the account, and the full story remains to be told. I'm hoping more details will emerge now that the statue is back home and the statute of limitations has expired on any criminal charges. In particular, it would be very important to know the precise find spot, which could then be formally excavated. But secrets have a way of staying secret in Sicily. We may never know the full truth.
Jason Felch will be signing the non-fiction book he co-authored with Ralph Frammolino, "Chasing Aphrodite, The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum", at 7 p.m. on May 31 at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

You may read more about the trip home for the Getty goddess here on the website of Chasing Aphrodite.