October 11, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "Getting Governments to Cooperate Against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience" by Asif Efrat

In the Fall 2012 electronic issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Asif Efrat writes on "Getting Governments to Cooperate against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience":
Why would countries that had long resisted the efforts against archaeological plunder reverse course and join these efforts?  The article solves this puzzle by examining the American and British decisions to join the 1970 UNESCO Convention.  Initially skeptical of UNESCO's endeavors, the United States and Britain changed their policies and came to support the international efforts in the early 1970s and early 2000s, respectively.  I argue that the two countries' policy shifts had similar causes.  First, archaeologists advocacy made policymakers aware of the damage caused by the illicit antiquities trade and the art world's complicity.  Second, public scandals exposed unethical behavior in the American and British art markets and demonstrated the need for regulation.  Third, the U. S. and British governments established domestic consensus in favor of regulation through advisory panels that included the major stakeholders: archaeologists, dealers, and museums.  Yet because of divergent bureaucratic attitudes, the U. S. government has ultimately been more vigorous in its efforts against the illicit antiquities trade than has the British government.
Dr. Efrat is Assistant Professor of Governmnet at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel.  He received his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University and has taught at Cornell Law School.  His book Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder: International Cooperation against Illicit Trade has been published by Oxford University Press.

Here's a link to the ARCA website and more information about subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

October 10, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "Estimating the Volume of Counterfeit U.S. Currency in Circulation Worldwide: Data and Extrapolation" by Ruth Judson and Richard Porter

In the Fall 2012 electronic edition of The Journal of Art Crime, authors Ruth Judson and Richard Porter  write of "Estimating the Volume of Counterfeit U.S. Currency in Circulation Worldwide: Data and Extrapolation":
The incidence of currency counterfeiting and the possible total stock of counterfeits in circulation are popular topics of speculation and discussion in the press and are of substantial practical interest to the U. S. Treasury and the U. S. Secret Service.  This paper assembles data from Federal Reserve and U. S. Secret Service sources and presents a range of estimates for the number of counterfeits in circulation. In addition, the paper presents figures on counterfeit passing activity by denomination, location, and method of production.  The paper has two main conclusions: first, the stock of counterfeits in the world as a whole is likely on the order of 1 or fewer per 10,000 genuine notes in both piece and value terms; second, losses to the U. S. public from the most commonly used note, the $20, are relatively small, and are miniscule when counterfeit notes of reasonable quality are considered.
Dr. Judson is an economist in the Division of International Finance at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D. C.  She holds an A. B. in Russian Civilization from the University of Chicago and a PhD in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Her research and policy work is wide-ranging, and has addressed topics in cross-country growth, panel data estimation methods, monetary policy implementation, the monetary aggregates, and the measurement and analysis of U. S. dollar usage outside the United States, and, most recently, cross-border capital flows.  Along with Richard Porter, she received a certificate of appreciation in special recognition of efforts and superior contributions for the International Currency Audit Program (ICAP) to the law enforcement responsibilities of the United States Secret Service in 2000.  The analysis in this article grew out of work on the ICAP.

Richard Porter is a vice president and senior research advisor, payments in the economic research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.  Before joining the Bank, Porter served as an economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for over three decades, most recently as a senior adviser in the Division of Monetary Affairs.  Prior to that, Porter was an assistant professor of economics at Ohio State University.

Here's a link to the ARCA website and information about subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - No comments

Possible Federal Plea Deal for Leads on Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist?

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA


Last February a reputed Genovese soldier Robert Gentile and his alleged long-time associate Andrew Parente were charged with trafficking prescription painkillers in Hartford, CT.  While searching Gentile’s Manchester home investigators found a cache of handcuffs, guns, explosives, a silencer and brass knuckles along with $22,000 in cash hidden inside a grandfather clock.

During that time Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham reported that federal investigators had listened through telephone taps to conversations in which Gentile and Parente discussed their alleged drug business,  at one point implicating another reputed ganster, Anthony Volpe who the two felt was encroaching on their sales of Oxycontin.  Volpe, who died in 2010, was reported to be affiliated with the Genovese crime family who once controlled the gambling and extortion rackets that the group ran in Greater Hartford which included a network of hidden gambling parlors in the city's South End. 
Stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1990



Not nice men, by any standards, Gentile was also suspected of having some involvement with the long unsolved heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  The theft netted the thieves a Manet, five drawings by Degas, three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, making it the biggest museum art theft in history:  a theft so substantial that a $5 million reward has been offered for the recovery of the art, valued at more than $500 million. 

While Gentile, a reportedly made member of the Mafia, has long denied having any knowledge of the theft or of the locations of the paintings, Boston Herald journalist Laurel Sweet reported that it now seems that Parente may have decided it was worth his while to speak if a plea deal could be arranged. He was scheduled to go on trial October 9th for conspiracy to sell drugs and for the sale of oxycodone.  If a plea agreement is truly in the works and he does have useful information about the person's behind the museum theft 22 years ago or the location of the paintings, investigators may have some interesting leads to follow up on. 

Then again, it may be one Mafioso’s way of sandbagging another through implication and innuendo, as this case has involved other leads that have gone nowhere in the past and at 75, Andrew Parente probably isn’t thrilled with the idea of spending his golden years in prison.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - ,,, No comments

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: "The Role of the Police in the Co-Production of Art Security in London" by John Kerr

In the Fall 2012 electronic edition of The Journal of Art Crime, criminologist John Kerr examines the role of the police in the co-production of art security in London in an article:
It draws on empirical research conducted on the under researched security network for art in the capital. In light of ‘new policing’ theses (McLaughlin 2007), the article investigates how the theory of nodal governance (Johnston and Shearing, 2003) can operate in an actual policing arena. With other government nodes and private stakeholders producing much of the art security, this article argues that a nodal governance framework is beneficial to the public police as it allows them to take an important role in the policing when they are best suited to doing so, and a lesser role in other areas when and where other nodes have greater capacity.
John Kerr is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Roehampton in London.  Until 2012, he was based at City University, London, and also lectured at London South Bank University.

Here's a link to the ARCa website and information about subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime.

October 8, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Issue 8: Fall 2012

The Journal of Art Crime is edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA Publications twice a year. The electronic version of the journal is available through a subscription. The eighth issue of The Journal of Art Crime for Fall 2012 includes academic articles, regular columns, editorial essays, and reviews in addition to a "Q&A with Joshua Knelman" by Noah Charney, a Summary of Papers Presented at the 2012 ARCA Conference on the Study of Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, and a list of the 2012 ARCA Awards.

Academic articles: John Kerr on "The Role of the Police in the Co-production of Art Security in London"; Ruth Judson and Richard Porter on "Estimating the Volume of Counterfeit U. S. Currency in Circulation Worldwide: Data and Extrapolation"; Asif Efrat on "Getting Governments to Cooperate against Looting: Insights from the American and British Experience"; Johanna Devlin on "Repatriation via the Art Market: A New Type of Recovery, New Trends Coming from China"; Penelope Jackson on "Planning Revenge: Art Crime and Charles Frederick Goldie"; and Dr. W. (Bill) Wei on "Fingerprinting Objects for the Control of Illegal Trafficking".

Regular Columns: in Context Matters, David Gill writes on "Fragmented Pots, Attributions and the Role of the Academic" and in Lessons from the History of Art Crime, Noah Charney writes on "Counterfeit Money".

Editorial Essays: John Daab on "The Lord Byron Forged Letter: Where's the Questioned Document Analysis (QDE)?"; Aaron Haines on "The Hattusa Sphinx and Turkish Antiquities Repatriation Efforts"; and Mario Buhagiar on "The Sword in the Museum: On Whether La Vallette's Sword and Dagger, Currently Housed in the Louvre, Should be Returned to Malta".
  
Catherine Schofield Sezgin reviews Andrew Shea's documentary film "Portrait of Wally"; Edmund de Waal's book "The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance"; and Anne-Marie O'Connor's book, "The Lady in Gold: Extraordinary Tale of the Klimt Paintings".

In October we'll run subsequent posts on the blog with more information about each submission.

October 5, 2012

Intriguing Headlines Tout Second Mona Lisa But What Do the Experts Opine?

Isleworth Mona Lisa (Wiki)
'La Joconde' (1503-1506) has mostly hung in the Louvre (INV. 779) since Francois I acquired it in 1518.  Last week The Mona Lisa Foundation reintroduced the 'Isleworth Mona Lisa' which had not been seen in public for more than 40 years and declared that it was an earlier unfinished portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo by da Vinci.

Jamie Keaton for the Associated Press (published online here in Business Week) reported on the unveiling of the Isleworth Mona Lisa in Geneva on September 28.  Keaton points out the Alessandro Vezzosi (see below) 'declined to line up behind the foundation's claim that it was truly a "Mona Lisa" predecessor painted by da Vinci.  Here, on the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci's website, Professor Vezzosi clarifies that research on  the "Isleworth Mona Lisa" will continue.

The Mona Lisa Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Zurich, has on its website a 22-minute video that walks the viewer through its claim, using historical documentation (including writings of 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari), connoisseurship, critical comparisons and physical and scientific examinations.  Participants in the video include Professor Alessandro Vezzosi, Director of the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci; Professor John F. Asmus, Research Physicist at the University of California in San Diego; Stanley B. Feldman, and art historian and principal author of "Mona Lisa - Leonardo's Earlier Version".  The video asks if it is possible that there was another Mona Lisa and if so, what could have happened to it? It is claimed that Giorgio Vasari and Agostino Vespucci mention a painting left unfinished.  In the early 20th century, Hugh Blaker, curator of The Holburne Museum  in Bath, believed in the two Mona Lisa painting theory and spent a decade looking for the unfinished version until he found it "in the Somerset home of an English nobleman" "who's family had owned the painting for nearly 150 years."  Blaker brought it to his London studio in Isleworth, then shipped it to the United States where it hung in the private offices of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, according to the video.  Then in 1922, Blaker sent the Isleworth Mona Lisa to Italy for the opinion of experts there.  In 1926, Baker's stepfather, John Eyre, published "The Two Mona Lisas."  Henry F. Pulitzer, over a period of 26 years, liquidated his Kensington estate and part of his art collection to purchase the Isleworth Mona Lisa.  In 1979, after Pulitzer's death, the painting was locked up in a Swiss Bank vault "where it would remain for more than four decades."  "Can science at least succeed where connoisseurship has failed [in establishing the painting's authenticity]?" In 2004, the Isleworth Mona Lisa was removed from its security vault and "entrusted to world renowned art auctioneer David Feldman" (Vice President of the Mona Lisa Foundation).  "Over the next 12 years, the painting went through every test" including examination by Professor Asmus who has also examined the Louvre Mona Lisa who saying "Leonardo's hand" is evident in some aspects of the Isleworth Mona Lisa.

In ABC New's "Second Mona Lisa Unveiled for First Time in 40 Years", Mathew Rosenbaum quotes Martin Kemp, Oxford University professor and da Vinci expert, as proclaiming the Isleworth Mona Lisa a "well-made early copy".  [Professor Kemp outlines his opinion in more detail on his blog here where he refutes the 'evidence' of a second Mona Lisa and identifies the poor qualities of the painting: "Everything points to the Isleworth painting being a copy.  There is a comparable copy -- island and all -- in the National Museum in Oslo."]

On ABC's Good Morning America and World News segment, Alexander Nagel, Professor of Fine Arts for NYU, says that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is "suspect" as it is painted on canvas and Leonardo painted on wood.

"A Second Mona Lisa? We've known about it for 100 Years" is the headline for the blog post by Joe Medeiros, director of the documentary, "The Missing Piece: Vincenzo Peruggia and the Unthinkable Theft of the Mona Lisa".  This painting is nothing new, according to Medeiros and reprints the article from The New York Times on February 5, 1914: Another Mona Lisa Found in London? Expert Accepts It as a Version Painted by Leonardo "In No Sense A Copy".  According to this article, a version of the Mona Lisa painting turned up in the possession of a Mr. Eyre, an author and novelist living in Isleworth.  P. G. Konody, a Special Correspondence for The New York Times, writes that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is 'of such superb quality that it more than holds its own when compared to the much restored and repainted Louvre masterpiece':
But there are more potent reasons to attach the greatest importance to the new discovery.  There is, in the collection of old master drawings at the Louvre an original pen drawing by Raphael, which is reproduced in Muntz's great work on Leonardo, and which is generally admitted to be a memory sketch by Raphael of Leonardo's "Mona Lisa."  Now this memory sketch is framed at both sides by two columns of which no trace is to be found in the Paris "Mona Lisa." These columns appear in the identical place in the Isleworth picture and are of immense value to the harmonious balance of the composition. 
In the notice sent out to the press it is stated that these columns are mentioned by Vasari, which is as little in accordance with facts as most of the other statements made.  Thus, one of the points quoted in favor of the authenticity of the picture is one of Leonardo's letters to Marshal de Chaumont.  In this letter occurs the passage: "E portar con mecho due quadri di due Notro Donne di varie grandezze le qual son fatte pel cristianissimo notro re."  While most art historians have misread this to mean that Leonardo took with him "two pictures of Our Lady, of different sizes," the writer of the widely circulated notice says that the existence of two versions of the "Mona Lisa" is proved by Leonardo himself referring to two portraits.  A literal translation of the quoted passage would however run as follows: "And take with me two portraits of two of our ladies, of different sizes, which have been painted for our most Christian King", the letter thus reflecting clearly to two different ladies and not to two versions of the same. 
However, no specious arguments are needed for the Isleworth picture, the quality of which may speak for itself.  And a close investigation of the picture leaves the firm conviction that, though not altogether from the hand of Leonardo da Vinci himself, it emanates most certainly from his studio and was very largely worked up by the master himself.  The hands, with their careful and somewhat hard drawing and terra cotta coloring, suggest at once the name of Leonardo's pupil, Marco d'Oggionno, whereas the inimitably soft and lovely painting of the head and bust, the exquisite subtlety of the expression, the golden glow of the general coloring, can be due only to Leonardo.  The face shows none of the defects of the Louvre picture, which are probably due to clumsy repainting. 
The present owner of the picture acquired his treasure only about a year ago.  He found it hidden in a Somerset mansion where it had been for a century and a half, and whither it had been brought from Italy.
It's an intriguing subject involving a genius and a famous painting that grabbed headlines a century ago and continues to this day.

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

"Rembrandt" painting seized by Croydon police four months ago declared a fake (Scotland Yard confirmed to Croydon Advertiser)

Reporter Gareth Davies, in an exclusive article, reported the arrest of a businessman 'in possesion of what is believed to be a stolen Rembrandt painting' in June (This Croydon Today, UK, 'Stolen Rembrandt' painting seized in Croydon police raid, June 22, 2012):
The oil on canvas, believed to be worth more than £2 million, was recovered during a special police operation in Croydon High Street on Monday last week. A man in his sixties was arrested and taken to Croydon Police Station. Scotland Yard said the arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Detectives refused to comment on whether a painting by Dutch master Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was among the items seized during the operation. But a source told the Advertiser: "The way the officers were handling the painting and keeping it safe, they clearly believed it was a Rembrandt." It is understood the painting has been sent away to experts to be authenticated. The arrested businessman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lives in Surrey.
Tom Gardner for the Daily Mail asked: "Has 'stolen Rembrandt worth £2million' been found in CROYDON? Businessman arrested after police raid as art experts try to verify painting" (June 22, 2012):
Police were seen treating the potentially precious object with extreme caution as they removed the work from the building in south London following the raid on Monday June 11. Now experts have been called in to examine the work of art to establish if the work recovered, really is a Rembrandt masterpiece. Scotland Yard, who are being tight-lipped about which one of the 205 currently missing works by the Dutch master, also arrested a businessman in his sixties. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's specialist crime directorate made the discovery during a long-running investigation aimed at recovering assets from criminals.
Gardner interviewed Dick Ellis, an ARCA Trustee and lecturer:
Security expert Richard Ellis, who has worked with the Met Police's specialist Art and Antiques squad, said: 'If this is a genuine Rembrandt oil painting, I think £2million would be a massive undervaluation. 
'If you were to put one before an auction today it would fetch between £30million and £50million. 
Mr Ellis, who last year was part of the team which recovered two paintings by Pablo Picasso stolen from a Swiss exhibition in 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, added: 'To sell a real Rembrandt on the open market would be really, really difficult. 
'Any buyer undertaking their due diligence would look at the catalogues of Rembrandts and it wouldn't take them very long to see it was stolen.' 
'Stealing to order is fiction. They may get stolen and used as a form of currency or as collateral. 
'The media would publish the valuation at the time of the theft and the criminal would work on the basis that it would be worth to them anywhere between three and ten per cent, because that's what it can get passed across on the black market. 
'It acts as a sort of international currency.'
In October, less than four months after the initial report, "GarethD2011" reported for the "Croydon Advertiser" that the "Rembrandt masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake" (October 4, 2012):
A REMBRANDT masterpiece seized in Croydon was a fake, the Advertiser can reveal. Businessman Shaun Stopford-Claremont, 62, was arrested in possession of the painting during a special police operation in Croydon High Street in June. The painting was then sent to top art experts to be authenticated. If a genuine work of the Dutch master it could have been worth as much as £50 million. But this week Scotland Yard confirmed to the Advertiser the painting is a forgery. Mr Stopford-Claremont, of Redhill, Surrey, has since been re-bailed until December 11. His arrest was part of an ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigation by officers from the Met's specialist crime directorate. Police would not initially confirm the painting was among a number of items seized.

October 3, 2012

One Step up the Looting Pyramid

by Lynda Albertson, Chief Executive Officer, ARCA

To some individuals, the scandal surrounding the Met’s 1972 purchase of the Euphronios krater and similarly shady procurements by some US and European museums seems like old news.  For others, like Italy’s Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Alfosina Russo Tegliente and the Villa Giulia’s scientific experts Daniela Rizzo and Marizio Pelligrini, the watershed accord signed in February 2006 between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Italian government, which returned this spectacular vase to Italy, was just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Returned to Rome in 2008 after a protracted return-plus-loans agreement, the Euphronios krater, with its delicate images of the dying Lycian king, Sarpedon, leader of the Trojans' allies and offspring of the god Zeus and the mortal Laodamia, has become the poster-child example of bad museum acquisition practices.


I visited the Musei Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia on the opening day of their new exhibition, I Preditori dell’Arte e Il Patrimonio Ritrovato…le Storia del Recupero (The Predators of Art and Rediscovered Heritage - The History of Recovery), running in Rome from September 29th through December 15, 2012.

I didn’t come to see the Euphronios krater.   Near perfect in its restoration, it is housed in a discreetly simple glass case, approachable on four sides, located on the second floor of the villa in a section reserved geographically for artifacts from Cerveteri.

I didn’t come to see the Fifth-century BC Attic red-figure kylix, a cup also signed by Euphronios as potter and painted by Onesimos with scenes of the Trojan War.  This fragmented cup sits in its own glass case, alongside the krater.  It too was surrendered by a US museum -- the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1999.

I came to see the new exhibit, one that follows the “long and silent journey” to use the words of the curators, of not just these two objects but approximately ninety others on exhibition at the museum, which have been returned to Italy, due in a large part to the doggedly difficult work of Daniela Rizzo and Marizio Pelligrini, Villa Giulia’s scientific experts.  Their work and the work of the staff of the Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Italy’s public prosecutors, and the Italian Carabinieri along with collaboration from the Swiss judiciary helped reconstruct the chain that created a buyer’s market for looting of archaeological sites, in Italy and elsewhere. This exhibition is the fruit of their labor and underscores the material and intellectual consequences of contemporary collecting.

Tracing the collection life of these objects, from tomborolo to trafficante (tomb raider to trafficker) the exhibit shows not only the route these objects took before arriving in some of the world’s finest museums but also examines some of the methods used by traffickers to launder looted antiquities through the world’s most important auction houses.   


Included in the exhibition is an Etruscan antefix in the form of a Maenad and Silenos dancing.  An anteflix is an upright ornament used by builders along the eaves of a tiled roof to conceal tile joints. This particular anteflex, pictured on a now famous Medici polaroid, was acquired by Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman through Robin Symes and then acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1996.

Once it even graced the cover of an exhibition catalog highlighting the Fleischman’s collection.  The presence of the anteflix in The Villa Giulia exhibit serves to illustrate how museums, private collectors and auction houses have allowed themselves to be links in the looting chain.

To many of the exhibit attendees in Rome, seeing this simple household decoration as part of this exhibition is equal parts joyous victory and painful reminder.  As I mentioned in the start of this article, having these objects come home is just the tip of the iceburg, or to use Daniela Rizzo’s words who spoke with the visitors about her work, “the first step of the Pyramid”.

When the Italian Carabinieri raided Giacomo Medici’s warehouse in the Geneva Freeport they recovered 3,800 objects and more than 4,000 photographs of objects that had previously passed through Medici’s hands. (Watson and Todeschini 2007, 19-24, 48-79, 363-83).  The recovered items in this exhibition represent only a small fraction of the objects looted by just one organization of traffickers.  Imagine how many more are out there.

Some museums, through cooperative agreements with Italy and or law enforcement organizations in their own countries, readily relinquish artifacts whose origins can be traced back to the looters through the documentation of the Medici and Becchina dossiers.  Others take more insistent prodding.

It wasn’t until June 20th of this year that the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio issued a press release stating that an agreement had finally been made with the Toledo Museum of Art in conjunction with a Federal Verified Complaint in Forfeiture to return a 510 B.C. Etruscan black-figure kalpis attributed to the Micali painter or his workshop.  This despite being presented with a copy of an incriminating polaroid, seized from Medici during the 1995 raid showing the still mud-encrusted pot and another polaroid from a separate raid in Basel 2002 proving that  the kalpis had also passed through the hands of Gianfranco Becchina.

One more step up the pyramid.  One more long and necessary step.


Photos contributed by Soprintendente per I Beni Archaelogici dell’Etruria meridionale, Musei Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia

October 2, 2012

California State Mining and Mineral Museum Closed for Repairs After Robbery; Inventory to Determine Value of Theft

Tourists often overlook Mariposa on their way to Yosemite Valley, but last week the small historic town in Northern California created headlines last week when thieves reportedly stole millions of dollars of gold from the California State Mining and Mineral Museum located on the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.

The museum, operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, issued a press release October 1 informing the public that the institution celebrating the 19th century Gold Rush will be closed "for repairs following the robbery" and that an inventory would determine the number and value of the items stolen.
In the robbery, a number of display cases, doors and other items were damaged by the approximately two suspects who entered the museum and stole an undetermined amount of precious minerals.  It is the goal of State Parks to make the repairs quickly in order to reopen the museum to the public as soon as possible. 
There were two State Parks' employees at the museum at the time of the robbery.  Neither was injured and while both remain shaken from the experience, both report they are doing fine. 
An inventory of the stolen items will be getting underway this week.  Until it is completed, State Parks will not have a listing of what was taken or the dollar amount of the items.
Jim Ballinger, Editor of the Mariposa (Weekly) Gazette, reported September 27 that the museum had been robbed by 4 o'clock Friday afternoon.  According to witnesses cited by Ballinger, two men wearing black clothing and night vision goggles and armed with pick-axes 'herded park rangers to one  area of the museum and headed into the vault' but the alarm sounded, the vault door began to close and the men were denied entry.  Law enforcement arrived 'within minutes' but the suspects escaped.

ABC News' reported that evening (here's a link to the video) and its source for the theft of millions of dollars was from a concerned board member of the museum, although the reporter, Rick Montanez, noted that the museum's treasure, the Fricot "Nugget" had not been stolen.  The Fricot "Nugget" is a 13.8 crystallized gold specimen found in the American River in 1864.

Friday night, almost six hours after the theft, Jacob Rayburn for The Fresno Bee also quoted a California State Parks spokesman that an estimated $2 million worth of gold nuggets and precious gems had been stolen.

Diana Marcum for The Los Angeles Times reported the day after the theft that up to $2 million in gold and gems may have been taken from the museum, but also noted that the Fricot Nugget was still in its iron safe in a vaulted room.  Ms. Marcum also reports that until recently the collection had been planned for storage until it was discovered that the Parks Department had $54 million it had not reported to budget officials.

The collection of more than 13,000 objects relating to the mining of gold and rare minerals in California began in 1880 and moved from San Francisco to Mariposa in 1983.  The museum became a state park in 1999.

The lead agency for this investigation is the Central Division Investigative Services Unit (ISU) of the California Highway Patrol.

October 1, 2012

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


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

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

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

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