July 12, 2014

Daniel Silva's new fictional book "The Heist" begins with a promise to reveal the fate of Caravaggio's "The Nativity" stolen in 1969 from a church in Palermo

Caravaggio's Nativity (Palermo)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Daniel Silva, author of 14 books featuring the art restorer-Israeili assassin Gabriel Alon, features the theft of Caravaggio's Nativity in his new book, The Heist, to be published July 15. The book begins with:
On October 18, 1969, Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence vanished from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily. The Nativity, as it is commonly known, is one of Caravaggio’s last great masterworks, painted in 1609 while he was a fugitive from justice, wanted by papal authorities in Rome for killing a man during a swordfight. For more than four decades, the altarpiece has been the most sought-after stolen painting in the world, and yet its exact whereabouts, even its fate, have remained a mystery. Until now…
In 2009, Judith Harris wrote for the ARCABlog about "breaking news" on the stolen Caravaggio Palmero Nativity that the mafia, who allegedly had stolen the painting, had destroyed the painting through neglect. Another source in 2012 also claimed that the painting had been eaten by pigs.

British author Peter Watson wrote in The Caravaggio Conspiracy that if it weren't for an earthquake he might have been able to recover Caravaggio's Nativity in 1980. Here's a link to Watson's description of Italy's famous art investigator, Rodolfo Siviero.

James Moore, a retired trial lawyer and a student of art history, presented on the theft of Caravaggio's The Nativity from Palermo at the 2013 ARCA Conference in Amelia.

Daniel Silva's 2009 book, The Defector, featured a bakery in Amelia (the Umbrian town north of Rome which hosts ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Preservation).

Tanya Lervik, an ARCA Alum, listened to Daniel Silva speak in Washington D.C. last year on his last Gabriel Allon book, The English Girl.

July 11, 2014

Friday, July 11, 2014 - , No comments

Caravaggio to be interned in memorial park on July 18 in Tuscany; however, do the remains found four years ago belong to the artist?

Caravaggio's Medusa (oil on wood covered
with  canvas) at the Uffizi at least since 1631
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Chiara Longo and Gareth Harris report for The Art Newspaper in "Caravaggio to be buried in Tuscan Memorial Park" that the reputed remains of the 16th century artist found in a church four years ago will be interned on his birthday (July 18) at the cost of €65,000:
Caravaggio's remains will be housed under a monumental arch created by the sculptor Giuseppe Conte, which will be topped with a ceramic basket of fruits inspired by Caravaggio's famous still-lifes. The park will also include colourful and fragrant Mediterranean plants such as jasmine, lavender and rosemary.
Here's a link to information about Caravaggio the artist. And here in 2010 is an article ("Unearthing doubts about Caravaggio's remains") by Elizabetta Provoledo in The New York Times which discusses the authenticity of the claim.

July 10, 2014

Rev. Dr. Marius Zerafa Spoke on "The Theft and Ransom of Caravaggio’s “St. Jerome Writing”, Co-Cathedral of St. John" at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference

Father Marius Zerafa in Amelia before the conference
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Amelia, Umbria -- The Reverend Dr. Marius Zerafa spoke on “The Theft and Ransom of Caravaggio’s St. Jerome Writing from the Co-Cathedral of St. John” at ARCA’s Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference on June 28. Father Zerafa, a Dominican priest and the former Curator and Director of the Malta Museums, spent almost a year negotiating with the thieves to recover the painting taken on New Year's Eve in 1984.

“At times it was easier to deal with the Mafia, than with Ministers and Monsignori …” Father Zerafa said, quoting himself from his book, “Caravaggio – Diaries (Transcribed and edited by Catherine Sinclair Galea, Grimand Company Limited, Malta, 2004).

Father Zerafa and the rescued work
Father Zerafa said that the taped ransom demand was in Maltese and the voice threatened to blow something up: “It was quite frightening.” At first, he told the audience, he did not involve the police but recorded his conversations with the mafia. They sent him five pieces of the painting which had a special kind of relining and a photograph of a coffee pot on top of the painting. After eight months of delaying tactics, Father Zerafa said he informed the police and the phone calls were traced to a show factory. "The painting had gone to Italy, then they brought it back once we told them that we had the money," Father Zerafa said. It was damaged and in need of restoration so he arranged a military plane to take the painting to Rome for repairs. After it was exhibited in Rome, the painting was returned to Malta and Father Zerafa, an admirer of Caravaggio, painted a copy of it.

Father Zerafa with his version of Caravaggio's St. Jerome
Fr. Marius J. Zerafa was born in Vittoriosa, Malta, on 13th October 1929, the son of Joseph Zerafa M.B.E and Maria (nee Boffa), and nephew of Sir Paul Boffa Kt., O.B.E., M.D., Prime Minister of Malta. He started education at the Government Primary School till Class III, when, at the age of 9, he entered the Malta Lyceum. With the encouragement of Dun Gorg Preca he joined the Dominican Order in 1945. He spent three years at the Dominican House of Studies in Rabat and was then sent to “Hawkesyard”, Staffordshire, and later to “Blackfriars”, Oxford (1948-1952). He went to Rome (1952-54) where he obtained his S.Th.B. and Dip.Sc.Soc. He returned to Rome for another two years and obtained his Lectorate and Licentiate in Sacred Theology and a Doctorate in Social Sciences. He also attended the State University in Rome and obtained a Diploma in Art History. Later he also obtained a B.A. Hons. Degree in Art History from the University of London. He also followed courses at the Sorbonne and at the Ecole de Louvre, Paris, (1963 and 1966); at the University of Florence (1965 and 1968); at the Brera, Milan, and at the Fondazione Cini, Venice, (1965). Working on a thesis for the Degree of D.Litt. at Florence University.

Father Zerafa with his copy of the Angelico 'Annunciation'
In 1962 he was elected Associate of the Royal Historical Society, London. He is a member of the Accademia Tiberina and was awarded the French Decoration “Chevalier dans l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, the Russian “Order of Lomonosov” “Insignia of Merit” and the “Union Federation Medal” by the Russian Parliament, and the Florence “Beato Angelico” Medal. He has recently been awarded the Gold Medal and Dipoma by the Malta Society of Arts. He is also Knight of Grace, O.S.J.

Fr Zerafa was awarded Art Scholarships by the Italian Government on the occasion of Malta`s Independence and again in 1968. He visited museums in the United States on an International Visitors Program; worked at the Louvre, Paris, on a Council of Europe Fellowship; had a British Council Grant in 1967 and a German Government Bursary sponsored by Inter Nationes. He was also invited to the Soviet Union as Co-Founder of the Maltese-Soviet Friendship Society.

Fr Zerafa was Secretary and Senior History and Literature Master at St Albert`s College, Valletta, (1954-62); Professor of Social Philosophy and Sacred Art at the Dominican House of Studies, Rabat; Lecturer in Sociology in the Pastoral Course for the Clergy; Examiner in Sociology at the University of Malta; Lecturer in History and Appreciation of Art at the Malta School of Art; Lecturer in Sacred Art at the Major Seminary; at I.N.S.E.R.M.; Lecturer in Art Appreciation at St Edward`s College; Also taught English Literature and Art History at St Teresa monastery, Cospicua. He also lectured regularly, mainly on Art, at the British Council Centre, the Italian Istituto di Cultura, the Alliance Francaise and other cultural centres. For many years he was sub-editor of “Scientia” and Archivist of the Maltese Dominican Province. While studying in Florence, he was encouraged by Prof G LaPira, ex mayor of the City, to set up an Art Centre at S Marco, but had to return to Malta for family reasons.

Fr Zerafa joined the Museums Department in 1970 as Assistant Curator of Fine Arts and was responsible for the setting up of the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta and the Museum of Contemporary Art at St Julian`s. He became Curator of Fine Arts in 1975 and Director of Museums in 1981. He was responsible for the opening of a number of museums in Malta and Gozo. During this period he was involved in the recovery of the painting “St Jerome” by Caravaggio after eight months` personal contact with the thieves.

Fr Zerafa has been invited to lecture at the Smithsonian, Washington; at Fordham University, New York; at the American University, Rome; at the Dominican Curia Generalizia, Rome; at Aspen Museum, Colorado; at the Moscow State University; at the Academy for Contemporary Art, Moscow; at the Academy for Design, Togliattigrad; at the Preti Museum, Taverna; at Budapest Museum, etc. He has taken part in International conferences in Quebec, Tunis, etc and has helped organize art exhibitions in London, Paris, Moscow, Palermo, etc.

He was Chairman of Government and other committees and until his recent resignation was Chairman of the Archdiocesan Commission for Sacred Art. He is a member of the Dominican Commission for Preaching through Art. He is also a member of the Penitentiary at S Maria Maggiore, Rome. Fr Zerafa retired from the Museums Department at the age of 61. He is now lecturer in Sacred Art at the Angelicum University, Rome. He is also “Aquinas Visiting Scholar” at Toronto University, Canada. He lectures at Cultural centres in Malta, and often leads groups of students on cultural tours abroad. He has restored works by Mattia Preti, Favray, and other Masters.

His own paintings and sculptures are to be found in churches and collections in Malta and abroad. An exhibition of his works and projects was held at Gallery G in December 2007.

Publications: “Developments in the doctrine of private property” (Rome, 1945); “The Genesis of Marx`s realist interpretation of History” (Rome, 1962); “Caravaggio Diaries” (Malta, 2004) [Being translated into Italian and Russian]; “Memories” (In preparation). Contributions to the Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Art, Florence: to Thieme Becker, Berlin: and other publications. Recreations: The Arts, reading, travelling. Sports: Walking, Canoeing, Judo.

July 9, 2014

Matisse's "Odalisque in Red Pants" (1925) returned to Venezuela after FBI recovered it in 2012 in Southern Florida

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Officials in Venezuela welcomed the return on Monday (July 7) of the Matisse painting, Odalisque in Red Pants (1925), believed to have been stolen in 2000 when it was substituted with a forgery at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas (Laura Rojas, July 8, The Art Newspaper ("Stolen Matisse painting returned to Venezuela after more than a decade"):
The Art Newspaper reported last October that the US authorities began repatriation proceedings after the work was certified by a Venezuelan authentication committee and later confirmed by the director of the Henri Matisse Archives in Paris, Wanda de Guébriant.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recovered the painting in Southern Florida in July 2012 and arrested Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, Florida, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, Mexico, for transporting and possessing the stolen painting.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, this case was the result of an FBI undercover investigation. According to the allegations in the complaint affidavit, Marcuello negotiated the sale of the Matisse painting, which had been previously stolen from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Caracas (MACCSI)) in Caracas, Venezuela in December 2002. The painting is valued at approximately $3 million. Marcuello allegedly admitted to the undercover agents during a meeting that he knew the painting was stolen and offered to sell the stolen painting for approximately $740,000.00. As part of the negotiations, Marcuello further agreed to have the painting transported by courier to the United States from Mexico, where the painting was being stored. The courier was subsequently identified as co-defendant Ornelas. According to the affidavit, on July 16, 2012, Ornelas arrived at the Miami International Airport from Mexico City, Mexico, hand-carrying a red tube containing the painting. On July 17, 2012, defendants Marcuello and Ornelas met with undercover agents and produced the Matisse painting titled “Odalisque in Red Pants” from inside the red tube. Upon inspection by the undercover agents, the painting appeared consistent with the original Henri Matisse painting reported stolen from the MACCSI museum. At the conclusion of the meeting, Marcuello and Ornelas were arrested.
In January 2013, Marcuello and Ornelas were sentenced to "to 33 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Maria Ornelas was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by three years supervised release. The defendants pled guilty on October 30, 2012 to charges relating to the transportation, possession and attempted sale of the stolen Henri Matisse painting."

The head of the FBI's Art Crime Squad, Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, had discussed this case at Art Recovery International's symposium at NYU in June. You can read more about the FBI's Art Theft Program here in a presentation by Magness-Gardiner.

July 7, 2014

Judith Harris covers ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference in i-ITALY

Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO, and Noah Charney, founder
of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art,
led ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime
Conference in Amelia, Umbria
Judith Harris writes about ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference for i-ITALY in "In Umbria, ARCA puts Art Crime on the Summer Agenda":
For the sixth year in a row experts from sixteen nations convened in the tranquil Umbrian city of Amelia June 27 – 29, for an interdisciplinary conference organized by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA). Among the speakers from as far away as New Zealand and New York were detectives and bookworms, archeologists and art historians, police and intelligence officers, and attorneys and sitting judges. High on the agenda was the protection of the cultural heritage in wartime.
You can finish reading the article here.

July 6, 2014

Sunday, July 06, 2014 - ,, No comments

Jewel Heist Anniversary: The Irish Crown Jewels Stolen from a safe in Dublin Castle on January 6, 1907

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here's an article ("Hunt for stolen crown jewels failed to solve great mystery") filed last year by Ralph Riegel in The Irish Independent about the unsolved theft of Ireland's 'crown jewels' stolen almost a century ago (today's date marks not the date of the actual theft but the date of discovery of the loss).
... The gems were stolen from a safe in Dublin Castle on July 6, 1907, in arguably Ireland's most famous robbery... The gems, valued in 1983 at over IR£2m, have a current value of around €14m. They were donated to Ireland by King William IV in 1830 to be used on ceremonial occasions by the Order of St Patrick. They were stored in a special safe in the library of the Office of Arms in the Bedford Tower of Dublin Castle. However, the safe was not installed in a special strong room because the room was accidentally constructed with too narrow an entrance to allow it to be fitted. The gems were dramatically stolen in 1907 just days before King Edward VII was due to begin a state visit to Dublin. The theft was hugely embarrassing, both for the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Castle authorities, because King Edward was due to invest Lord Castletown as a knight in the Order of St Patrick. Even more embarrassing was the fact that the Dublin detective headquarters was located barely 100 yards away. ...
 From the National Archives is a description of the jewels:
The regalia of the Order of St Patrick – the so-called “Crown Jewels” were kept in the Office of Arms in the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle. The jewels consisted of the insignia of the Grand Master of the Order of St Patrick (the Lord Lieutenant) and the collars and badges of the Knights of St Patrick. The insignia of the Grand Master comprised a star and a badge. The jewels forming the star consisted of Brazilian diamonds with eight star-points with a central shamrock made of emeralds and a cross of rubies in the centre on a background of blue enamel. The badge also had emerald shamrocks and a ruby cross surrounded by blue enamel and rose diamonds and within Brazilian diamonds. The jewels been the property of Queen Charlotte, then of King George IV and finally of King William IV. This king thought that they would form fine ceremonial decorations for the Order of St Patrick and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to wear on ceremonial occasions and so he presented them to the Order in 1830. In 1907, these jewels were valued at £33,000.
You can read the National Archives' "The Theft of the Irish 'Crown Jewels'" for more details.

In 2008, Francis Shackleton Jr.'s name came forward as the prime suspect in the theft.

July 4, 2014

Friday, July 04, 2014 - ,, No comments

Criminal complaint in Germany alleges art advisor defrauded client

Julia Michalska reported July 2 for The Art Newspaper "Fraud investigation into German art advisor widens" that a 24-page criminal complaint alleges that Helge Achenbach 'defrauding the late Aldi-supermarket heir [and Trader Joe's] and art collector Berthold Albrecht of €18m'.

Lisa Contag for ArtInfo reported in "German Art Consultant Helge Achenbach Arrested Due to Fraud Allegations" on June 24th that Achenbach's arrest followed allegations by the state attorney of the city of Eissen for 'overpricing art and vintage cars he purchased for collectors':
German newspapers Bild and Die Welt have reported that fraud allegations were made by the heirs of Berthold Albrecht, one of the founders of the German discount supermarket chain Aldi, who was one of Achenbach’s most important clients until his death in 2012.

July 3, 2014

"The Gurlitt Case -- An Inside View From Christopher A. Marinello, Lawyer and Representative for the Heirs of Paul Rosenberg" presented at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference on June 28

Matisse, Femme Assise,
Paul Rosenberg Archive
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Amelia, Umbria -- Following Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel’s analysis of the legal issues involved in the controversy over the art collection previously in possession of the now deceased Cornelius Gurlitt, Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer and the founder of Art Recovery International, spoke on representing the heirs of Paul Rosenberg in their efforts to recover Henri Matisse’s painting Femme Assise found in Mr. Gurlitt's Munich apartment and looted from Paul Rosenberg by the Nazis in 1940 (see information regarding the Task Force's decision here).

Chris Marinello discussed the company’s new Art Claim Database, which he said aims to become the world’s largest and technologically advanced private database of stolen, looted, and otherwise tainted works of art.  Based in London, Marinello said he has recovered and resolved title disputes involving over $350 million worth of artwork and offers free services to law enforcement, governments, and non-profit museums.

The heirs of Paul Rosenberg are still searching for 59 of the 400 paintings that were looted from the Paul Rosenberg Gallery in Paris which included works by Picasso, Matisse, and Braque, all close friends of the Jewish dealer. [Information on The Paul Rosenberg Archives housed at The Museum of Modern Art in New York is available here. The family business moved from selling antiques in the late 19th century to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.]

Christopher Marinello in Amelia
Marinello's presentation included details of events after news of the Gurlitt "trove" was released to the public by Focus Magazine in November 2013. Marinello explained how his team of researchers quickly assembled a comprehensive analysis of the Rosenberg claim for the Matisse painting with supporting documentation after an image of Femme Assise appeared in the magazine.

Marinello criticized German authorities in their handling of this most recent discovery of long lost Nazi looted artwork but praised the efforts of the individual researchers who make up the “Task Force” faced with the herculean task of reviewing the provenance of the Gurlitt pictures.  
  
Despite the fact that German law offered little or no protection to his clients and other heirs of Holocaust claimants, Marinello explained that some of his strategy in the Gurlitt matter included direct contact with Cornelius Gurlitt himself. Marinello said that throughout the discussions that took place with Mr. Gurlitt’s lawyers, he refused to accept anything other that unconditional restitution of the looted Matisse. Marinello said that an unconditional release and restitution agreement negotiated with Mr. Gurlitt’s lawyers in late March was put on hold after an unusual series of events interfered with the execution of that agreement. The upheaval in Gurlitt’s legal team and the Task Force’s consideration of a competing, but ultimately fraudulent claim to the Rosenberg Matisse delayed matters long enough to see the death of the Cornelius Gurlitt, Marinello explained.

In an apparent snub of Bavarian officials, Marinello said, Gurlitt left his pictures to the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland which has publicly pledged to return all looted works of art to their rightful owners.

Without revealing his current strategy, Marinello explained that he has been in contact with the museum in Bern and the German Probate Court and is confident that the Matisse will be restituted to the Rosenberg heirs in the next few months.

A three-time returning speaker at ARCA, Chris thanked conference organizers for developing a program that allows for spirited intellectual debate of important cultural property issues in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Gurlitt Art Collection: Task force declares Matisse work was stolen from Paul Rosenberg and should be returned to his heirs by the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt in accordance with the principles of the Washington Declaration

Julia Michalska reported for The Art Newspaper on June 11 in "Matisse painting in Gurlitt Hoard was Nazi loot, researchers find" that the painting by Henri Matisse titled Femme Assise (1921) had likely once belonged to Paul Rosenberg, a Jewish art dealer in Paris until the Nazi Occupation in 1940:
Ingeborg Berggreen Merkel, the head of the task force, said in a press statement released today: “Even though it could not be documented with absolute certainty how the work came into [Cornelius Gurlitt’s father] Hildebrand Gurlitt’s possession, the task force has concluded that the work is Nazi loot and was taken from its rightful owner Paul Rosenberg.” Merkel added that the final decision on what will happen to the painting “lies in the hands of the heirs of Cornelius Gurlitt, who, shortly before his death, committed himself to returning looted works in line with the Washington Principles. This commitment also binds his heirs”.
According to the Lost Art Internet Database website, the "Schwabing Art Trove" (named after the neighborhood where Cornelius Gurlitt resided) Task Force is examining the ownership of 590 works that may have been "confiscated" by the Nazis.

Here's a link to the the press release issued in German.

For further information on the Gurlitt case, the Central Registry of Information on Looted Cultural Property (1933-1945) you may go here on their website.

June 30, 2014

His Highness Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong presented "The Duryodhana, the Balarama and the Bhima: a Cambodian perspective on the return of three pre-Angkorian sandstone statues from Prasat Chen at the Koh Ker temple complex" at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference

These photos were provided by M. Bertrand Porte, French
School for Asian Arts (EFEO), who is the head of the
restoration workshop of the National Museum in
Phnom Penh.
His Highness Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong of Cambodia presented "The Duryodhana, the Balarama and the Bhima: a Cambodian perspective on the return of three pre-Angkorian sandstone statues from Prasat Chen at the Koh Ker temple complex" at ARCA's Sixth Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference.

After apologizing for his accented English (he explained that he usually delivers his talks in French or Italian), he showed a video of archaeologist and cultural property lawyer Tess Davis who for the last decade has documented the plunder of Cambodia's ancient temples and worked for the return of the country's looted antiquities.

The Prince told the audience:
In Cambodia the preservation of the archeological patrimony has become one of the main topics discussed among members of the local intelligensia, but it is a recent phenomenon and it occurs mostly in western-influenced environments. The will of the Royal Governement is to educate in the most accessible way, to make people understand how sacred and holy these artcrafts are in our patrimony as Cambodians, and moreover, as survivors of a genocide, during which art and culture were cancelled. Sculpture schools, archeological trainings and preservation technique lessons are improving in quality and quantity all over the Kingdom. Little by little, more and more people are being educated to the duty to preserve and defend our cultural patrimony. Nevertheless, the wounds of war, poverty and the powerful groups sponsoring lootings and international art traffic are still prevailing and as long as there will be such a taste for Khmer Antiques, we will not be able to eradicate this sadly human lust for money.
Here's a link to Tess Davis' project at Trafficking Culture and another link to an article, "Temple Looting in Cambodia: Anatomy of a Statue Trafficking Network", co-written with Simon Mackenzie and published in the British Journal of Criminology.

His Highness Prince Sisowath Ravivaddhana Monipong, was born in Phnom Penh in 1970; has been living mainly in Italy, in Rome, since 1997. Educated in France, holds a Master of Arts in Contemporary British Literature; founded in 1992 the Institute of the Royal Household of Cambodia with Professor Jacques Népote (CNRS). Recognised specialist of the history and the culture of Cambodia, has published books and articles regarding the social structures of Cambodia and the genealogy of the Khmer Royal Family. After a career as sales officer in various multinational private companies such as IBM and ACCOR, has collaborated as a Programme Officer and Consultant for many years with the United Nations (WFP, FAO & IFAD) and private sector with interests in Southeast Asia; has been for many years representative of the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism for Italy. You may follow him at his blog here: "Ravivaddhana Sisowath: Never Complain, Never Explain".