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December 23, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011 - , No comments

Applications Due January 15 for the 2012 ARCA Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies

View from the Porta Valle
January 15, 2012 is the application due date for the 2012 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. The program will run from June 1 through August 10 in Amelia, Umbria. Prospective students may find more information on the ARCA website.

December 18, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

This post is part of a series highlighting the collection at the municipal archaeology museum in Amelia. This information is from museum's English placards.

The gens Roscia was one of the most important families of Ameria [the Roman name of Amelia] and was made famous by Cicero's renowned oration defending Sextus Roscius, accused of parricide by two members of his family: Titus Roscius Magnus and Titus Roscius Capito, one of whose descendants may have been mentioned in an inscription in Ameria. Cicero's words tell us about the wealth of his client's father -- thirteen very fertile plots close to the Tiber (Pro Rosc., 20) and about his influential ties with some of Rome's artistocratic families, such at the Metelli and the Scipio. The exploitation of landed property through the work of slaves must have been one of the ways the gens made its fortune. The family also had brickworks, attested to by the seals bearing the family name.

The wealth and reputation of the gens offered some of its members the opportunity to become city magistrates. Well-known family figures became members of the quattuorviri, and in the first half of the 1st century AD one of them -- Titus Roscius Autuma -- donated a thesaurus or container for offers of the faithful at the temples.

Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

In 80 BC, Cicero defended Sextus Roscius of America, accused by two relatives of murdering his father. The two men responsible for the murder wanted to gain possession of the dead man’s property.

In 80 BC Cicero defended Sextus Roscius, who had been accused of murdering his father. Although this was his first causa publica (criminal case), it brought the orator – who was not even 30 years old at the time – enormous fame. Cicero later proudly recalled his courage in agreeing to defend the man, for in the final phase he had to accuse Chrysogonus, the powerful freedman of the Roman dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla, but without actually drawing the dictator’s name into the case (De officiis, 14.51).

The accusation of parricide was effectively the last stage of a conspiracy that, as Cicero successfully demonstrated, had been organized by two of Sextus Roscius’ relatives, Titus Roscius Capito and Titus Roscius Magnus, who had murdered the man and wanted to put their hands on his fortune with the help of Chrysogonus. Sextus Roscius – father and son bore the same name – was a wealthy citizen of Ameria whose friends included some of the most important Roman families. One night, he was murdered on his way back from a dinner in Rome, while his son was in Ameria. A few days later, the two conspirators convinced Chrysogonus to put the dead man’s name on the prosciption lists, though they had been closed for some time, in order to cheat the son out of his inheritance. In fact, through this prosciption Sextus Roscius’ property was confiscated and auctioned, only to be bought by Chrysogonus for a pittance compared to its real value, which would then be shared by the three.

In the meantime, in Sulla’s name (though unbeknownst to him) the freedman had received a delegation from the city of Ameria, pleading the cause of Roscius, father and son. Chrysogonus promised to look into the matter, but did nothing. At this point the young Roscius, reduced to poverty and facing a possible death penalty, decided to seek refuge in Rome with his father’s friend Cecilia Metella. While he was there, in order to get rid of him, the two relatives accused him of parricide, a crime punishable with death by drowning.

His father’s powerful friends rallied around him. Realizing the political implications of the trial, they decided not to enter the fray but to hand his defense over to Cicero, whose youth and supposed inexperience would have justified any unwarranted words. In his harsh attack of Chrysogonus, Cicero deftly avoided harming Sulla’s reputation, saying that the dictator could “not have been aware of anything, given that alone he has the entire government in his hands, and is so full of important commitments that he cannot even breathe freely (Pro Rosc., 22).

Sextus Roscius was acquitted of the accusation of parricide.

December 15, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011 - ,,, No comments

Retired FBI Special Agent Virginia Curry to be featured speaker in Los Angeles at the Society of Television Engineer's Holiday Dinner

Virginia Curry with Richard Ellis earlier this year
Retired FBI Special Agent Virginia Curry will be the featured speaker for the Society of Television Engineer's Holiday dinner in Burbank on Thursday December 15.  Curry's talk, "The Fine Art of Crime - Hollywood versus Reality" will talk about art sleuths, those elite detectives who specialize in investigating and solving art crimes - brazen thefts, forgeries, looting and vandalism around the world.

Curry is a charter member of the FBI Art Crimes Task Force. Virginia is one of a small number of detectives who specialize in investigating art crimes. Together with her Scotland Yard colleague, Richard Ellis, Virginia has also been involved in a number of international art related criminal investigations that read like Hollywood scripts.  Her experience has also included studio assets, such as stolen animation cells, piracy and "genuine" (fake) propos from famous films.

During her service with the FBI Mrs. Curry successfully completed many major art crimes investigations and undercover assignments.  She has been honored for her achievements by both the FBI and the City of Los Angeles.  Mrs. Curry has represented the FBI at various national and international symposiums concerning cultural patrimony issues, and has also served as liaison to other national law enforcement agencies, including the Carabinieri of Italy and La Guardia Civil of Spain. Among other awards, Mrs. Curry received a commendation from the City of Los Angeles for recovering Native American artwork stolen from the Southwest Museum. Virginia was also a consultant to the Getty Museum on the Object ID project.

Mrs. Curry holds a graduate degree in Gemology from the Gemological Institute of America and a Masters Degree in Italian as well as Spanish Literature.   She is currently completing a Masters Program in Art History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

December 11, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: The Collection

Photo of the Spagnoli home
 (Museo Archeologico di Amelia)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

This is part of a series highlighting information posted at the archaeology museum in Amelia, the Umbrian town which hosts ARCA's International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Program each summer.

The Museo Archeologico di Amelia began with the collection of artifacts by Giovanni Spagnoli, a public notary. He had purchased some items from the collection of from the Morelli family who had kept artifacts discovered in the late 19th century in the Viterbo area at their garden at Villa della Fontanelle in the hamlet of L'Annunziata di Amelia. The artifacts dated back to the late Roman Republic in terracotta works to 11th century reliefs.

Spagnoli brought the artifacts to his home in Amelia, according to the museum, "notifying the government in accordance with regulations."

Spagnoli wasn't the only one to collect artifacts. Some of the finest homes in Amelia reused objects from antiquity to decorate their homes. "In some cases, private recycling -- as elegant furnishings intended to bring greater prestige to the home or to decorate residential gardens -- distorted the meaning and original use of the item," the museum writes. For example, a piece from T. Roscius Autuma was originally intended to collect offers -- it was later reworked to serve as the basin of a fountain.

"As long as they still maintain a function, the surviving ancient structures are usually less restored and recycled for daily use though for applications that are clearly less prestigious than the original ones," writes the museum.

The museum exhibits are extensively curated with informational signs in English.

December 8, 2011

Post from London: The Institute of Art and Law's "A Round Up of Recent Events in the World of Art and Antiquities"

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA 2011, ARCA Blog London Correspondent

The Institute of Art and Law in London, England, hosts both academic certificates and accompanying events such as conferences and study forums. On Saturday, November 26th, they held a study forum titled, “A Round Up of Recent Events in the World of Art and Antiquities,” which focused on current legislation concerning art and antiquities. The forum was attended by lawyers, art historians and students, giving a broad scope to the seminar’s coverage.

Norman Palmer, Professor of Law at the University College London and a central figure of the day, opened the day’s talks by addressing the issues surrounding anti-seizure statutes in the United Kingdom. He focused on the problems of anti-seizure which do not allow a claim to be taken to court while an artwork is on loan. However, loopholes inside the statutes create further problems, most of which could be, potentially, avoided with a good provenance. The point, as Palmer noted, is that, “Art is mobile. It should be able to move and be able to move safely.” This is, of course, a notion many of us hope for.

The next speaker was Nicholas Querée, a solicitor of Hickman Rose, who expounded on “Theft and Handling of Stolen Cultural Objects.” It was a very lively presentation filled with theft stories such as the 1961 theft of Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington and the theft of the Stone of Scone. In addition, he addressed existing UK legislation concerning theft and handling stolen goods (such as the 1968 Theft Act) as well as fraud (the 2006 Fraud Act). The most difficult issue concerning the handling of stolen cultural objects, as Querée pointed out, is establishing suspicion or knowledge that the object is stolen—which is far more difficult than one can imagine.

Tony Baumgartner, of Clyde & Co. LLP, rounded off the morning session with his talk “Targeted Offences: the Iraq Order and the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003” in which he recalled the sad tale of the Baghdad Museum in 2003. He stressed the fact that, though there is an estimate of how many works are missing, the true amount is unknown as to how much was looted from the museum from April 10th to April 16th. What happened to many of these works, is also not known. Baumgartner did, however, focus on the legislation enacted after the fact: the 2003 Act and the 2003 Iraq Order. The 2003 Act, which deals with tainted cultural objects, is limited to protecting objects stolen after December 30, 2003, (when it was commenced) and prompted the creation of the Iraq Order which prohibits all imports and exports of items illegally taken from Iraq.

The second half of the forum started with an interesting talk by Elizabeth Weaver, Barrister at XXIV Old Buildings, outlining the problematic case of Accidia Foundation v. Simon C. Dickinson Ltd. The convoluted case boiled down to the problem of certain parties acting as both agent and dealer in regards to the sale of artwork. As Weaver pointed out, agent and dealer are, in the eyes of the law, two very different roles and typically mutually exclusive. However, attempting to act in both capacities can cause infinite problems, especially in the art market which, as Weaver pointed out, is rather document shy.

Paul Stevenson, Barrister at Tanfield Chambers, continued on Weaver’s final note of the art market being document shy by speaking about, “Contracts and Exclusion of Liability,” and the problems that arise in court due to a lack of documentation. He focused specifically on exemption clauses in contracts that deal with the liability of each party in the context of their contract. Stevenson focused on two pieces of legislation that deal with liability within sales contracts: Unfair Contract Terms Act (UCTA) 1977 and Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations (UTCCR) 1999. These pieces of legislation deal with breaches of contract dealing with sales—something very important within the art market.

Kevin Chamberlain, Barrister at York Chambers, gave one of the most instructive talks of the afternoon, “UK Implementation of the UNESCO 1970 Convention.” Chamberlain paid specific attention to the articles of the Convention that UK law either initially conformed to or that it adapted to conform to. It was both interesting and helpful to have someone speak about the individual articles and to speak about their importance in the construction and evolution of UK Law.

Janet Ulph, Professor at the University of Leicester, gave an enlightening talk on “Art and Money Laundering” to give an overview to the legal aspects of art theft and fraud as well as their link to money laundering. She drew attention to the case of R v. Tokeley-Parry (1999) which concerns the problems of handling goods that have been stolen abroad. In addition, Ulph explained Confiscation Orders and how they have been upheld in United Kingdom. Quoting statistics of these Orders, “Between April 2007 and February 2008, 4,054 confiscation orders were made for a total of £225.87 million.” The main difficulty, as Ulph pointed out, is the statute of limitations that keeps casing from being prosecuted; an unfortunate reality throughout legal systems. Keep an eye out in the coming year for Ulph’s new book on this same subject.

The IAL’s study forum, like many of the other programs of the IAL, was a great combination of art and law that brought together those looking to study and protect art. For more information on the Institute of Art and Law, their events and certificate programs, visit

December 6, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - ,, No comments

Post from Norway: Kvalheim accused of selling fake Hamsun and Ibsen documents

by Therese Veier, ARCA Blog Norwegian Correspondent

Geir Ove Kvalheim has been indicted by Økokrim, Norway’s art crime unit, accused of committing extensive forgeries of writings and documents from the world famous authors Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen. One of the buyers of Kvalheim's alleged forgeries is The National Library in Norway[1]. The library bought the supposed fakes via Norli’s antique shop[2]  in Oslo.

When the news about the scale of the forgeries and the indictment broke, Kvalheim found himself in the middle of a scandal that has really upset Norwegian collectors and the National Library as well as experts and scholars on Hamsun and Ibsen[3].

After an ongoing police investigation since 2008, Økokrim has now indicted the 41-year-old man with gross fraud in connection with the resale of a number of writings and documents that allegedly originated from Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen[4]. The indictment includes 13 documents, amongst others [5]:
-manuscript fragments of the novel På Gjengrodde stier / On Overgrown Paths by Knut Hamsun;
-manuscript fragments of the novel John Gabriel Borkman by Knut Hamsun;
-registration letter for the NS (6)  signed by Knut Hamsun;
-pocket almanac from 1943 with Knut Hamsun’s own handwritten notes;
-handwritten obituary by Knut Hamsun for Vidkun Quislings death[7];
-two first editions by Henrik Ibsen’s novel John Gabriel Borkman with dedications to Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Edvard Munch;
-a letter from Henrik Ibsen to Knut Hamsun dated 1891, inscription by Knut Hamsun dated 1948; and
-other letters and personal greetings

Constructed ownership
- This is a unique criminal case in both Norwegian and European context. We are very familiar with art forgery, but in this country we have never seen attempted fraud with historical documents in this way or to this extent before, says chief public prosecutor Hans Tore Høviskeland in Økokrim’s environmental crime department. [8]

This type of fraud is really grave, but sadly I do not think it is unique, it may be unique in Norway but not in European fraud history. Fraud cases involving forgery of provenance and documents can be very tricky and hard to detect, but after the well known British case involving John Myatt and John Drewe perhaps people are becoming more aware.

During Økokrim’s investigations to reveal Kvalheim’s forgeries they used font experts and performed provenance research. According to the indictment, information about previous ownership in several cases was constructed by Kvalheim without the knowledge of the various people listed as previous owners. [9]

It sounds as if this was a rather poorly constructed fake provenance that should have been easy to detect when Kvalheim first approached the antiques dealers.

Lars Frode Larsen, a Hamsun researcher, was among those who already early on raised the alarm about possible fakes of Hamsun related documents from Kvalheim’s collection.

-The police investigation has taken more than three years, but I am glad charges have now been brought, says Larsen. [10]

Had a commission agreement
According to Økokrim’s indictment most of the sales where made in the years 2005-2006, through a commission agreement Kvalheim made with Norli’s antique shop in Oslo. Via Norli’s antique shop, several of the fake documents made their way into the National Library’s collection, who during this period bought eight fake Hamsun documents for the total amount of 695 000 NOK (92 000 Euro). [11]

In March 2006, Kvalheim also offered Cappelen's antiquarian bookshop in Oslo the chance to buy a supposedly unknown play by Henrik Ibsen entitled The Sun God. However the bookshop employees expressed doubts about the object's authenticity and did not take it on commission to resell any of these items. However, now, Kvalheim is also charged for this attempt of fraud.

In addition to these crimes, Kvalheim is accused of having sold a fake award evidence, the object is a gold German Cross from the Waffen SS. This was sold to the shop Derek’s Militaria in Tønsberg for the sum of 20 000 NOK.

Embarrassing to have been duped
The head of Norli’s antiquary, Rolf Warendorf is shocked at the extent of the fraud, but believes this is a one-time event.

- It is embarrassing to have been duped in this way. This is not a good thing for us, says Warendorf. [12]

It was Warendorf who first met with Kvalheim in 2005.  He considered the items to be authentic, and agreed to take them in commission.

Probably more fakes in the market
Both Økokrim’s investigators and Hamsun expert Lars Frode Larsen warns collectors that there may be more fakes in the market.
- We have seen that there have been other fakes in circulation than those covered by the indictment, said Høviskeland in Økokrim. [13]

-I encourage people who have purchased items that can be linked to Kvalheim, to perform a thorough check of previous ownership history on the objects purchased, advises Larsen.[14]
On Tuesday 29th of November Warendorf from Norli’s antigue shop could still not say exactly how much material the bookshop had purchased from the collector, except that it is “much more” than those contained in Økokrim’s indictment.[15]

I find some of Warendorf’s statements very alarming, particularly when he says the bookshop has not done anything with their procedures to prevent such scandals in the future. Unfortunately this illustrates the naivety and lack of knowledge about these types of crimes among some of the professionals which in turn makes it easier for conmen to slip fakes into the market.
- I am convinced this is an exceptional case. This is not something that happens every ten or fifty years, says Warendorf.[16]
The National Library has yet not made a public comment about the indictment. The defendant (Kvalheim), and his lawyer, have so far refused to make any comments.

I will continue to follow this case closely. It seems like Økokrim has made a thorough investigation. It sends an important signal that this type of fraud is treated as especially grave, because forging these type of objects can contribute to create a false impression of important people, events and works that are a part of Norwegian cultural and literary history. On the other hand it is naïve and scary that some professional dealers think this type of crime is almost non-existent, and that they seem unwilling to revise their routines for provenance research. It is much harder to reveal forgeries once they are resold and have entered the market or collections, private or public. So in the meantime, it is perhaps best for collectors to follow the old Latin saying “caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).

About Geir Ove Kvalheim:
Kvalheim is a Norwegian actor, director and copywriter, as well as being a collector. Kvalheim has been involved in an earlier judicial dispute. In 2009 he was convicted and had to pay Fredrik Jensen, an SS-veteran, the amount of 370 000 NOK (49 000 Euro), after an allegation concerning fraud in connection with a planned documentary film about Norwegian SS-veterans.[17]

In 2001 Jensen also gave the director a loan of 200 000 NOK for production of the documentary; however, the documentary was never finalised.

Text by Therese Veier, an art historian, lawyer and writer. Currently works at Public Art Norway.

[6] Nasjonal Samling was a party formed by Vidkun Quisling.
[7] Vidkun Quisling lived from 18 July 1887 – 24 October 1945, and he was a Norwegian politician. On the 9th of April 1940, with the German invasion of Norway in progress, he seized power in a Nazi-backed coup d'etat that garnered him international infamy. From 1942 to 1945 he served as Minister-President, working with the occupying forces. His government, known as the Quisling regime, was dominated by ministers from Nasjonal Samling, the party he had founded in 1933.

December 2, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: Artifacts from Amelia Spread to Other Collections in 19th century

Mars attacking (Rome, National Etruscan
 Museum of Villa Giulia)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

I attended ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime Studies in 2009, fell in love with our host town, Amelia, and have returned each subsequent summer for ARCA's International Art Crime Conference. However, I have never spent enough time in the archaeological museum to appreciate or learn about the town's history. Last July I abandoned my usual table on the patio of Bar Leonardi and not only dawdled for a few hours in the museum, but photographed many objects and the associated information that had kindly been translated into English. Then I uploaded the photographs into my computer and forgot about them until two weeks ago. In support of the museum's work, I will be offering a series of blog posts on sections of the antiquity section and later the art gallery.

Amelia's collection of cultural property displayed in the Museo Archeologico di Amelia (Archaeological Museum of Amelia) began with an excavation of a Roman theatre along Via di S. Elisabetta in 1820.

A "significant number of Amelia artifacts (bronze and lead votive objects)" according to the museum were "put on the antiquarian market and ended up in Italian and foreign museums and collections."

Statuette of Demeter (London, British Museum)
A partial list from the museum includes the following:
A group of small votive bronze objects from the Archaic period is preserved at the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome (before it was at the Museum Kircherianum). 
A bronze statuette depicting Demeter on a chariot is from the collection at the British Museum in London. 
The 19th century excavations conducted in Pantanelli unearthed a series of votive figurines cut from lead foil. They were purchased by Baron E. de Meesert de Ravestein prior to 1864 for his collection and are now in Brussels. 
A bronze laminetta engraved in epichoric Umbrian characters on both sides (opistographic), found near Santa Maria in Canale, is currently preserved at the National Museum in Naples. The chain of events that ultimately brought the tablet to Naples began in 1788, when it came into the hands of the Benedictine abbott G. Di Costanzo, who purchased it from the Amelia antiquarian G. Venturelli. Di Costanzo then gave it to Cardinal Stefano Borgia, whose heirs sold it to the Bourbon Museum in Naples in 1817. 
An Imperial marble altar and two inscriptions are at the Vatican Museum. 
The altar, dedicated to the goddess Fortuna by Curiatus Cosanus, is now in Florence. In the 16th century, it was documented in the Church of Santa Firmina. It was then taken to Spoleto and is now part of the Bardini Collection.

November 30, 2011

RAND Europe: "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective"

RAND Europe has publicly published online, "Assessing the illegal trade in cultural property from a public policy perspective", a report by by Siobhán Ní Chonaill, Anaïs Reding, and Lorenzo Valeri:
"The aim of this research is to explore new ways of curtailing the illegal trade in cultural property. Despite a range of legislative and policy interventions, the trade in illicit art and antiquities continues to flourish, resulting in damage to the arts, scholarship and heritage. Through an exploration of existing intervention tools, two case studies and a set of key informant interviews, this study demonstrates the existing difficulties in curtailing the market in cultural property and explores the potential for new policy interventions. More specifically, we map the supply chain for the illegal trade in cultural property and explore the failures of current policy interventions through two case studies, the Medici trading cartel and the Beit collection robberies. On this basis, we prioritise policy interventions to contain the illegal trade in cultural property according to the applicable stage of the supply chain phase (supply, transfer or demand) and the associated priority level (low, medium or high)." 
Readers may access this report here.  RAND Europe is an independent not-for-profit policy research organisation.

The authors propose that in addition to coordinating policing internationally and improving security at cultural institutions that meet the seriousness of the current problem, that a central database is essential.  They write:
"In order to prevent situations whereby individuals or galleries purchase stolen art in good faith, there is a need for a legal mandate that for all prospective buyers to consult a central registry of stolen art.  Although a number of different databases of stolen art are in existence, there is no one central registry used by all parties in the legal art trade.  By ensuring greater diligence in the maintenance and use of a central international database, the number of good faith purchases of stolen art could be reduced.  This would have the additional effect of making it more difficult for illegal traders to sell stolen works of art, making the enterprise less attractive overall."
At the UNESCO meeting commemorating the 1970 Convention in Paris last March, conference delegates also said that a central database was important.  How and who's going to be in charge and finance it seems to be the question.  The Art Loss Register offered its services, but not everyone seemed comfortable with a private company providing a database. 

November 28, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011 - ,, No comments

Post from Norway: Unknown Rubens work hung on the wall for 80 years at National Museum

Photo from National Museum
By Therese Veier, ARCA Blog Norwegian Correspondent

It has just been discovered that a very valuable work,  by the world renowned Dutch artist Rubens has been exhibited in Oslo’s National Museum and been part of their collection for 80 years – without them knowing about it. [This text is based solely on information from two articles; one in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten 19.11.2011 which unfortunately is not available on the paper's webpages yet; the other from the National televisions webpages]

'This is not something that we discover every day. It is remarkable. I’m very surprised,' said Nico van Hout, a Belgian curator and Rubens expert. He had come to Norway to determine if the painted sketch was what the museum suspected: a genuine Rubens.

Until recently, the painting had been exhibited with a plaque that said “unknown Flemish artist”. It has now been attributed to the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens, one of the leading Flemish Baroque painters who mainly worked in the city of Antwerp.

The museum first came in contact with Nico van Hout when he visited the National Museum in conjunction with the museums Rubens exhibition during spring 2011. He immediately noticed the oil sketch, and told the museum that he thought it was very special. After his visit, van Hout and the museum kept in touch, and continued their discussions about the work and it’s provenance. He suspected that the work might be a genuine Rubens. This week van Hout was invited back to Oslo. He has been able to establish a final attribution, and has now confirmed that the work is a very good sketch by Rubens. In addition, the National Museum’s Rubens work has connections to a very important painting, "The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus" (1617/18) at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, according to van Hout.

'This is a great discovery, which should be internationally known because of the importance of the work,' says van Hout, and points out that the painting is a great Rubens work. 'This is a masterpiece by Rubens. It is an important work from around 1615. One of the reasons the international art world and scholars did not know about this work is because so far it has not been registered in the artist’s catalogue raisonne.'

Peter Paul Rubens's works are known for nudity, sensuality, vitality, color and speed. The National Gallery's new discovery is a good example of his work. 'This is a magnificent sketch, which really shows the life force, brushwork and speed scholars commonly associate with Rubens,' says Nico van Hout.

The scholar was asked, 'How surprised where you when you found an undiscovered Ruben’s work in Oslo?'

'I was very surprised. The National Museum is known for its great collections, but the museum does not attract the number of visitors it deserves internationally. The museum deserves greater international and national reputation.'

Nils Ohlsen, director of the department for historic and modern art at The National Museum, believes that this discovery shows how important it is to have international contacts in the art world. 'This is a joyful day for us. It proves that we have a pretty good collection also when it comes to older art.  It is important to establish personal contact with other gallery owners because they might know more than us.'

Of course the art work will have a considerable increase in its value by this new authentication. Even though prices at auction houses vary, old masters such as Rubens are not often on the market.

'It is very difficult to determine the value of such a work. I do not think there are similar Rubens works on the open market today,' says Ohlsen.  'What is important for the National Museum is that we have a real Rubens work in Oslo, and that we will now be visited by several researchers who might want to write about this sketch.'

The provenance and history of The National Museums Rubens work

The painting that has now been authenticated as a genuine Rubens sketch was originally donated to the museum by the Norwegian art collector Christian Langaard. He donated his entire collection of historic international paintings to the National Gallery in Oslo, which today is part of Oslo’s National Museum of art. According to the museums current director Nils Ohlsen, Langaard meant that the painting was a genuine Rubens. But at that time scientific researchers refused to authenticate the work, and refuted that the painting was by the Flemish master Rubens. Thus the painting was incorporated into the museum collection, but was left unattributed.

'Early in the 19th century a lot of works where wrongfully attributed to Rembrandt and Rubens,' Says Ohlsen.  'After this new technical and scientific investigations where executed, and as a result of this a lot of former attributions to old masters such as Rubens and Rembrandt where then seen to be incorrect, and several works got the label “painted by unknown Flemish master” or “in the school of...” I do not know exactly who it was that examined the National Museums painting, but it was then established that it was not by Rubens.

'The painting is small, and measure only 77 x 32 cm, but the composition is filled with excitement, shadow and light,' says Ohlsen.

The National Museum hopes for more new authentications

The museum will now investigate the provenance on several other paintings in its collection, with the hope that they will discover other unauthenticated master works.

'The National Museum plans to continue this work. The museum owns several other art works that we do not know who painted. We have decided to send picture files of other works to scientists, amongst others in America,' says Ohlsen.

It is not yet certain which paintings that are to be submitted to a closer examination, but the museum has had several suggestions already from van Hout.

'He has given us suggestions about which works we should send to international scholars. And in a couple of weeks we plan to make a complete agenda and list for these new examinations,' says Ohlsen.

The attribution of works is, as the art world and art market has seen several examples of, both difficult and not precise, and neither technical tests nor the eye of a connoisseur can always be trusted. It is especially the high prices art works fetches at auctions, and the increase in value for a work if it authenticated as the work of a famous artist, that contribute to attract unserious experts and fraudsters.

However it is really great that Oslo’s National Museum has been so fortunate as to have one of the works in their collection be authenticated as a Rubens, and as one of the museum directors say, this is not something that happens everyday. But I really hope that the museum has the right connections and will seek the help of professional experts in their future plans to determine the fate and attribution of other works in the collection.

Freelance writer Therese Veier is an art historian and a lawyer and works at Public Art Norway.

November 25, 2011

New Zealand: Summer Intensive course – Art Crime during Armed Conflict

Hamilton, New Zealand
Down in New Zealand, the University of Waikato’s Te Piringa-Faculty of Law and the University’s Centre for Continued Education have recently announced a forthcoming five-day summer intensive course, entitled “Art Crime during Armed Conflict”.

The course can be taken for credit by enrolled students (in which case, email for enrolment details), or as a non-credit course by anybody – in this case, the course cost is a very reasonable NZ$215 (at current exchange rates, equal to about US$160, or €120). To enrol as a continuing education participant, go here or email .

The Course will be taught over five days, from 13 – 17 February 2012 (which is high summer in the Southern Hemisphere!), on the campus of the University of Waikato at Hamilton, New Zealand. The city of Hamilton is situated in a verdant dairy farming region of New Zealand, known as the Waikato after the great river that flows through the province, (and amongst many other attractions is located within an easy 40 minute drive of the location for the filming of J R R Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Tours of the extensive, and fully rebuilt, Hobbiton film set can be arranged at

Judge Tompkins
The Course’s developer and presenter is Judge Arthur Tompkins. Judge Tompkins developed the course for ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, offered each year at Amelia in Umbria, Italy, and has taught the course there in 2010 and 2011. He will be returning to teach the course again in 2012.

During the first two days the course covers about 2000 years of history, from the sack of Herod's Temple in Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70 through to art and cultural heritage crimes committed during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and very many instances of art and cultural heritage crime during times of war in between - including the Fourth Crusade, the Thirty Years' War, Napoleonic and Imperial France, and the First and Second World Wars.

On the third day, the course covers the fate of several famous libraries destroyed or displaced by war - including the Library at Alexandria, destroyed on several occasions starting with Julius Caesar's sending of fire ships into Alexandria Harbour in 48 BC, the removal of Library of the Palatinate (carried over the Alps from Heidelberg to the Vatican on the backs of 200 mules in the early 17th century), the destruction of the Library at Louvain in the First World War and likewise the devastation of National Library during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 1990s.

Waikato University
On the last two days the international and private law response to such crimes will be covered, beginning with Cicero's prosecution of Verres before the Roman Senate in 70 BC, through to Grotius' Laws of War, the Leiber Code, and on to the Hague Conventions of 1907 and 1954. The two main hurdles in the way of private claimants seeking to recover looted art - Limitation Periods and the differing responses to the bona fide purchaser - will round out the last day of the course.

Throughout the course, the lectures will consider numerous case studies, and the lectures are copiously illustrated by accompanying and extensive Powerpoint presentations. Copies of these will be distributed to all participants, along with a detailed Course Outline and Bibliography.

For more information, email (for course-credit enquiries), or (for non-credit enquiries).

November 19, 2011

New Zealand: Prison Term Begins for Thief of National Army Museum

by Judge Arthur Tompkins, ARCA Blog New Zealand Correspondent

Yesterday, Friday 18 November, in New Zealand one of the more prolific and long-lasting insider thieves in New Zealand’s cultural and military history begins a prison term.

Keith Davies

Keith Davies was a serving soldier in the New Zealand army for 30 years and, upon his retirement from active service after an illness in the 1990s, his considerable knowledge of New Zealand’s military history saw him secure a job at New Zealand’s National Army Museum situated in Waiouru, in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island.

He served at the museum from 1995 to 2002, being responsible for, amongst other duties, storage and inventorying the Museum’s medal collection, and corresponding with the families of donors. The collection had been built up over many years, and containing medals and other items donated to the Museum by soldiers and their families. Davies’s seniority and knowledge of the Museum’s systems enabled him to cover his thefts both whilst he was employed at the Museum, and for eight years after he left, by altering records and replacing medals with other similar medals, so as to maintain the illusion that sets of medals had not been broken up.

Overall, he stole 750 medals, sold at least 131 to buyers around the world, and had about 270 still in his possession when he was arrested in Australia earlier this year. Around 350 medals are still missing. One estimate put the value of the stolen medals at of NZ$236,515.00. But the prosecutor said to the Court at sentencing that:
“The greatest effect was on the trust of the people who donated medals and other artefacts to the museum for the benefit of the cultural history of New Zealand.”
The New Zealand Army Museum, Waiouru.
His defence lawyer claimed that Davies could not account for why he stole the medals, noting that the thefts began when he took the medals home to clean and mount them, but then did not return them. The sentencing Judge characterised the thefts as “premeditated, ongoing and organised”, and noted the “gross, wholesale and ongoing abuse of trust.”

Davies was sentenced to three years in prison, and ordered to pay reparation of NZ$50,000 immediately, to be funded by raising finance against a home in Sydney, Australia. Under New Zealand’s parole laws, Davies will serve one year before appearing for the first time before the Parole Board.

The Museum announced that it would continue to search world-wide for the missing medals, saying that pictures of the missing medals would be displayed on the Museum’s website at, although at time of writing the pictures had not yet appeared. Nor, indeed, is there yet any mention on the website of the thefts!

The Museum is, unfortunately, no stranger to the theft of medals – on 2 December 2007 smash and grab burglars stole 96 medals from glass display cases, including 9 Victoria Crosses. On 18 February 2008 all the medals stolen in this raid were recovered, after payment of a reward of NZ$300,000, half of which was itself also recovered – a case-study the writer presented to ARCA’s 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, Italy. It seems possible that investigative work triggered by that theft revealed Davies’s unconnected but earlier crimes.

Judge Arthur Tompkins is a District Court Judge in New Zealand, and teaches Art in War in Italy each year at ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

November 18, 2011

Part Two: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia Brennan sewing net over damaged areas of silk
by Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part two

Atasoy describes that tent makers were divided into groups – those who sewed the tents and others who embroidered. The tent pieces were layers of fabric; the decorations, mostly floral, were cut out of fabric such as satin or silk, to shape the motif such as vase or column. They were sewn onto the backing fabric. A contour around the motif was shaped with a silk cording and sewn onto around the contours to mask the uncut edges and prevent unravelling. This is exactly how these wall fabrics were constructed; with a combination of stitching, glues, appliqués, and embroidery inside the vases. They are also pieced together; with patches inserted around arches, windows, and the stage. There were obviously plenty of pieces on site in order to exactly fit the fabrics into the finished architectural space. The patterns do not all match up – it is a patch work in many curved and small areas.

Lime encrustations and crepeline overlay from the 1960s
Another clue about the construction comes with the backing fabric, a coarse burlap fabric. This was behind all the appliqué silk. It is essentially the backing cloth. The old Ottoman tents were constructed with a taupe colored structural skeleton called ‘cengari’. This carried the weight of the embellishment and helped stabilize during constant installations. The hanging rings were sewn to this rough cloth. This system of hanging rings, (supplemented by later tacks, nails, and glue) was still evident on the Turkish Residence Ballroom textiles. The jute is part of the structure of the textiles. A linen backing had been sewn onto the back probably in the 1960’s campaign.

This was a massive project –- 515 square feet of complex and damaged textiles.

My team set up our workshop in the Residence and stayed for 11 months working, spread out on tables, and up on scaffolding as the seasons passed from blooming dogwoods, shivering cold winter bringing in our heaters, and back into spring, and the blossoming pear trees again. We vacuumed every two days just to pick up the fibers that were flying off the silks. We divided the panels up by location, documented extensively, and then systematically cleaned and repaired. Repairs had to be gross approach and not minute, due to sheer scope of project.

Once all the panels were de installed, then the architects could truly evaluate and see how damaged and porous the walls were. Since the entire house was being renovated, outside masonry work would be done to solve the leaking and stabilize the interior walls. The old crepeline overlays were removed, as well as the later linen backings. Each panel was carefully vacuumed through protective screens to remove surface soiling and dust. This also provided an opportunity to carefully examine each panel, document damage, as well as embroidery and technique.

Full panel after conservation
The most difficult challenge was cleaning. A majority of the soiling was greasy and gritty, blackened and dark stains, from leaks, coal burning heating system and city grime. Embedded into the silks and burlap, it made the fabrics brittle and dry rotted in areas. Due to the original use of glue to attach some of the appliqué and cording, a wet cleaning treatment was ruled out.

Moreover, this kind of soiling is better cleaned with solvent based applications. All the different fabrics and dyes were tested with the solvent and detergent. An extraction system was employed, pushing and extracting a petroleum-based volatile solvent combined with detergent, through each panel, section by section. Buckets of black solvent were extracted from the panels; a majority of the embedded soiling was removed and many of the dark stains were reduced in appearance.

The repair and stabilization of the fabrics was an eight month process. All the loose cording was re attached with hand stitching. The loose pieces of silk appliqué were re attached with hand stitching, and holes were ‘patched’ using new silk sateen in a similar color. Shredded silk sateen was realigned and couched with hand stitching. The surface silks were still fragile and the weight of the appliqué pulled on the silk ground cloth. Because the panels had to be strong and stable enough to be hung again for a projected fifty years, the decision was made to encase the most fragile of the panels in protective netting. If the panel was predominantly red, then a marroon netting was laid over the panel and hand stitched around the edges, and throughout all the patterning, following the edges of the applied cording and designs. Red and gold netting overlays were applied to about 40% of the panels. This overlay literally holds the silks in place and prevents loss while vertically hanging. The overlays do create a slight ‘veiling’ of the embroidery details and cast a slight red or gold sheen over those treated panels.

Finally, new cotton sateen linings were hand sewn to the back of each panel and fragment. Two inch wide Velcro machine sewn to three inch wide cotton upholstery tape was hand sewn along every edge of each panel, both horizontal and vertical axis. Four years later, when the house was completely renovated, our team returned to install the fabric panels. The walls, fully repaired, were sealed with a vapor and moisture barrier. Two inch wide thin battens were attached to the wall mirroring where the Velcro was on each panel. Two inch wide Velcro hook was stapled to the walls aligning with each strip of Velcro on each panel. One by one, working around the room, the panels were re attached. Finally, a system of low level LED ‘marquee’ lights were installed above and below the panels. This provides a subtle and safe lighting solution.

These textile panels never revealed a name or date, but their construction was telling about a by-gone era and production, as well as a flamboyant architect and his trusting patron. The Turkish Embassy did a great service restoring not only these unusual textiles, but the entire building.


Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”,

Stone, Caroline. "Movable Palaces", Saudi Aramco World, July/August 2010, pgs. 36-43

Julia M. Brennan

November 17, 2011

Part One: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia at work in 2004
Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part one

In 2002 the Turkish government launched the renovation of the 1606 23rd Street, NW mansion; every detail both structural and decorative. It took four years. I served on a team consisting of an architect, engineer, designer, curator, conservators and appraisers evaluating the ballroom wall hangings. The main question was how much life remains? Could they be aesthetically and structurally restored to validate the cost of conservation? Discussions included possible replacement with reproduction weavings from high scale design houses, to simulate the overall look but not historic techniques. Another option considered was having new ‘embroideries’ produced in Turkey. (Could that even be done?) Concerns about the structural integrity of the walls to prevent future damage were hammered out. Since the entire mansion was going to have a grand face lift, these textiles had to meet the same aesthetic bar. Otherwise, the inclination was for retirement and replacement with in a newer look, a ‘proven’ longer term wall treatment.

Detail of stains
Nearly 100 years in situ had severely damaged the 515 square feet of wall fabrics. Visible from the floor, about 25% of the fabrics were in severe condition - badly stained, disintegrating, falling apart, and truly disfigured. Huge black stains around window frames marked where the silks were completely rotted. From a cursory examination on ladders, it was evident that the silks and backing fabrics were dry rotted, huge holes proliferated, the stains and encrustations had deteriorated the multiple layers of fabric in areas, the roof and window leaks had leached lime and plaster into the fabric – in short it was going to be a huge challenge!

As a conservator, I truly valued the historic importance of the fabrics. If they were retired, they would never be seen again. It was a long shot that money would be spent to reproduce them accurately. And while not fully proven, I believe they are original to the house and date to circa 1880-1900. In fact, the wall fabrics have not been definitively dated. (No written records were found.) One appraiser in 2002 concluded that they were a mid-century Ottoman style of embroidery and wall covering. While we can conclude that they were installed in situ circa 1914, they could have been cannibalized and cut from earlier 19th century wall coverings from Turkey. Since architect George Totten had lived and worked in Turkey, it is not inconceivable that he purchased these specifically for the ballroom. They are an extraordinary complex technique of appliqué of silk sateen cutouts (think Matisse) on top of contrasting silk sateen ground, with each large motif outlined with a cording that was stitched and glued on. The pattern, an architectural niche containing a tall bulbous ‘vase’ shapes, alternates the red and gold silk, so the eye moves along as if following a series of decorative windows. Within each ‘vase’ or ‘tree of life’ elaborate floral bouquets are embroidered in blues, pinks, yellows and reds. More than 12 genus correct floral bouquets were identified throughout the fabrics. In spite of the blackened stains, holes and losses, the fabrics were definitely worth preserving.

Inserting silk panels
It was also evident that the wall fabrics had previous repairs and restorations. There were many fine elegant stitch repairs, that may date back to the 1800s, depending on the original date of the fabrics. Coarser darnings and glue repairs were obviously later. Laid over most of the panels, and stitched like large billowing pillow-cases, was a dark brown silk crepeline (sheer silk) that was hanging in crispy tatters. This campaign was probably executed in the 1960s or early 1970s, in an effort to hold in place all the falling bits. This technique of ‘overlay’ is still employed by textile conservators. In fact, it was employed in the new 2003 treatment, but with a different material. Silk crepeline is very fragile and usually more short-lived than the artifact. Most 30 year old crepeline treatments have failed, unless they have not been exposed. Unfortunately, no previous treatment documents were available from the Embassy or other partners. My work was entirely deductive.

De-installing panels in 2003
In the initial stages of conservation research, we took down one smaller panel for examination and analysis. This permitted deconstruction and analysis of the entire construction, techniques and fabrics/materials. Some of the panels were hung with curtain rings at 6” intervals. This is similar to the technique used to hang large architectural banners in Turkey and frequently used to hang large textiles and tapestries until the 1970s (until Velcro came onto the market). Traditionally a string was woven through the rings so that the long hangings could be unfurled and hooked up easily. Construction and historic research revealed that the wall coverings are surely related and descended from an earlier Ottoman style of architectural tent hanging. Professor Dr. Nurhan Atasoy has published extensively on Ottoman Imperial Tents. While these hangings are surely not 16th - 18th century, they derive from the tradition of the interior tent decoration, in both design and construction.

Tents were used for military campaigns, state ceremonies, outings, personal ceremonies, daily housing, and of course by tribal groups. The Ottoman army had extensive tents, elaborately decorated to project power, prestige and comfort. The walls of the tents were formed by rectangular textile panels sewn together, and the number of panels depended on the size of the tent. They were crafted to recreate tiled panels in a room or pavilion. (Atasoy) Depending on rank, the tent had various degrees of decoration. Some were richly encrusted, with silks, and sparkling threads and embossed leather.

Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”,

Part two of this series will resume tomorrow on this blog.

Julia M. Brennan graduated from ARCA's International Art Crime Studies program in 2009.

November 16, 2011

Revisiting the Turkish Residence – The Ballroom’s “Ottoman style” Wall Fabrics

The Turkish Residence
By Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

This story is not about art theft or repatriation, rather it is a preservation account of a monumental project to conserve part of Turkey’s and Washington D.C.’s shared history.

Recently I had the honor of attending a lecture about the Perge excavations at the Turkish Residence in Washington DC. We gathered in the elegant ballroom, whose walls are covered with sumptuous arabesque and floral red and gold silk textiles. They are not just ‘wall fabric’, but architectural textiles; characterized by two-dimensional niches executed with a syncopation of color, pattern, and rich floral details. People wonder if they are painted, leather, old or new. The whole room radiates from the Ottoman-style wall fabrics. They draw you into a dance around the room, over gilt mirrors and carved doorways, the red and gold niches of red and gold silk vases, with flickers of subtle embroidery. They speak to another era and taste. In 2002, the Turkish Government launched a complete restoration of the mansion – every architectural, structural and decorative detail was addressed. I was given the contract to clean and conserve these fabric treasures. Four years later, when the renovation of the entire mansion was complete, the fabrics were reinstalled, restoring the original Ottoman-style sumptuous character to the ballroom. It was a stunning backdrop to the Perge lecture, and personally very gratifying to see the textiles beautifully restored, as they might have looked in 1914 when they first graced the ballroom.

1606 23rd Street NW was an eccentric and extravagant mansion when it was completed in 1914. Commissioned by Edward H. Everett, a Cleveland millionaire, philanthropist and industrialist, who like many barons, needed a Washington DC base for societal and political reasons. He had interests in oil, beer, and huge glass productions. Everett was the inventor of the ‘crimp’ bottle cap, made famous by Coca Cola. During the Everetts’s residency, their home was the scene for many parties, including musical events in the ballroom, “including singers from the Metropolitan Opera.” (The Sunday Star 9-9-56) His second wife, Grace Burnap, was an amateur opera singer. The house was a gem of The Gilded Age, encrusted with elaborate marquetry and parquet flooring, marble entrance hall, Mannerist paintings, Flemish tapestries, Oriental carpets, a stained glass conservatory, an Otis elevator and the first indoor swimming pool in the city. The 1915 tax assessment was $280,000. (The original building estimated that the cost of building would be $150,000.) No expense was spared.

The architectural design and interior decorations were entrusted to architect George Oakley Totten Jr (1866-1939). His international background and keen interest in architectural ornamentation, produced many lavish Embassy Row homes, combining Oriental and Occidental styles. He designed and built over 16 houses in Washington DC. Totten spent three years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1893-1895), lived and worked in Rome, Vienna, Madrid and London, and in 1908 resided in Turkey where he designed the American Chancery and a residence for the Prime Minister. Sultan Abdul Hamid offered him the position of ‘private architect to the Sultan of Turkey’, but the 1909 overthrow of the Sultanate ended that commission. Totten brought to his Washington projects all the elements of his exotic and romantic life, including probably the actual silk wall hangings in the ballroom. No doubt, working for the Sultan, he was exposed to the tradition of ceremonial tent hangings, exquisite Ottoman architectural textiles adorning houses and transitory encampments.

The Ballroom in 2003
In 1932, after the death of Mr. Everett, the Turkish government established their embassy at the Totten ‘palace’. The house was still pristine, and in it’s hey day, a gem of Washington ‘status’ architecture along the Massachusetts Avenue corridor. The Turks acquired the house with all the architectural and decorative décor, “buildings and furnishings” including paintings, fireplaces, wall coverings. Just after the Great Depression, the home was priced to sell. The Honorable Munir Ertegun served as the first Ambassador from the newly formed Republic of Turkey. His sons grew up in this house and in an avant garde musical environment. One of the Ambassador’s sons, Ahmet Ertegun, is known for founding Atlantic Records and signing the Rolling Stones. Given Ahmet’s charisma and love of music, he must have fallen in love with the ballroom with it’s elevated stage, Italianate windows and inset mirrors, gold and blue rinceau-panelled ceiling, carved rinceau double doors, and sumptuous gold and red silk Ottoman walls. It was an over-the-top blend of styles and textures, a perfect place to hold ground breaking jazz concerts hosting Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and other Washington DC music greats. During the Ertegun period, the grand life of the ballroom continued with a renewed style and sound. In segregated Washington DC, local newspaper society columns at the time gossiped and criticized the frequent flow of ‘Negroes using the front door’ of the residence.

In 1999 the house became the Ambassador’s Residence, and after nearly 100 years it was suffering from both structural and decorative damage.

“Massachusetts Avenue Architecture, Volume I”, Issued by The Commission of Fine Arts, Washington D.C. , 1973, pgs. 317-346

The next two blog posts will continue the story with the conservation of the wall fabrics.

Julia M. Brennan