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June 30, 2011

Update on Lucas' "Cranach's Adam and Eve" at The Norton Simon Museum: Laura Gilbert's Blog "Art Unwashed" Comments on "Supreme Court Declines to Hear Art Restitution Cases"

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

Laura Gilbert, through her Art Unwashed blog, reported Monday June 27th that the Supreme Court decided not to hear Von Staher v. Norton Simon Museum which we have covered extensively on the ARCA blog ["The Norton Simon Museum's Adam and Eve Part I and II" here and here, "The Stroganoff Collection in 1800 by Alexander Stroganoff"]. Her comments on the case are of course thoughtful and well-worth reading. As a member of the Norton Simon Museum and as a resident of Pasadena living within a one-mile walk of the Lucas Cranach paintings, I will confess to being very attached to them staying in California. However, I would like to comment that research does support that these paintings were purchased by Jacques Goudstikker in Berlin in 1931 and that the Jewish art dealer was forced to flee Amsterdam by the Nazis in 1940. His Black Notebook clearly states that these paintings were owned by him at the time of his death and later transferred to the Nazis in a force sale. Provenance research by myself -- and by The Getty Research Institute -- has not supported the Dutch government's decision in the 1960s to turn over the paintings to an heir of the Stroganoff family who then sold them to Norton Simon. Someday I will share with readers my misadventures and the countless twists and turns I have taken in trying to find any mention of Lucas Cranach's "Adam" and "Eve" in the Stroganoff Collection -- it is a fascinating story for those of us who love to research, however, the only conclusion would have to be that they never were owned by any member of the Stroganoff family before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The question left to me after months and hours of research is how did this paintings end up in a church in the Ukraine?

June 29, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 - , No comments

From Poaching to Theft: The Recent “Trend” of Rhino Horn Thefts in Europe

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor

When thinking of museum thefts, what first comes to mind of what might be stolen? Painting, smaller sculptures, jewels, manuscripts—essentially pieces of cultural heritage that are both valuable and aesthetically pleasing. Sitting in the Fiddler’s Elbow in Florence last weekend, rhino horns certainly did not come to mind. Not until reading the Florence Newspaper that is.

In the past month rhino horns have been stolen from multiple museums in Europe. On May 27, a rhino head was stolen from the Haslemere Educational Museum in Surrey, England. It was the only item missing from the museum. The theft of a rhino horn was discovered at Bamberger’s Nature Museum in Germany, though the time of the theft is unknown. The Natural History Museum (La Specola) in Florence, Italy, had three rhino horns stolen from the collection on June 8, including one that was over a meter long.

It is believed that the horns have been stolen for the illicit attainment of ivory. This is certainly supported by the fact that some of the rhino heads that have been stolen have been recovered but without the horn. It seems that those in the illicit ivory trade have taken a step away from murdering living rhinos for their horns to robbing museums of their stock—meant to preserve what may not be left behind if poachers continue to kill off the rhino population. La Specola’s president, Giovanni Pratesi, is convinced that these horns are destined for the Asian market, which would sell them for medicinal uses and as aphrodisiacs.

Museums have been advised to take their rhino-related items out of display so as to not encourage further thefts. Surrey’s Haslemere Educational Museum has even posted a notice on their website:
Rhino Material Removed from Premises
Following the recent theft of a rhino head from display, the remaining rhino head has been removed from the premises and the museum will no longer store rhino material.
This recent rash of thefts has certainly put a dint in the display of rhino heads and horns in museums. Fortunately—and unfortunately—the same cannot be said for works of art that are susceptible to theft.

You may read more by Kirsten Hower on her blog, The Wandering Scholar.

June 28, 2011

The Boston Globe Reports "MFA makes amends in probable plundering: Artwork believed stolen by Nazis"

Eglon van der Neer, "Portrait of a Man and Woman"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

One of our readers directed the ARCA blog to a headline June 27th in the online Boston Globe edition: "MFA makes amends in probable plundering, Artwork believed stolen by the Nazis."

Geoff Edgers for The Boston Globe reports that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts will pay an "undisclosed sum" to the heir of Walter Westfeld, a Jewish art dealer, to keep the 17th century painting, "Portrait of a Man and Woman" (1665-1667) by Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703).

Edgers writes:
The 29-by-27-inch work, which depicts a wealthy couple sitting in their living room, was purchased from a New York dealer in 1941 for $7,500. In recent years, similar van der Neers have sold at auction for as much $550,000.
The MFA's curator for provenance, Victoria S. Reed, researched the painting's history.  Again, Edgers from The Boston Globe:

There was no way to track the direct path of the painting from Germany in the 1930s to New York. But it was very unlikely that Westfeld had sold his painting voluntarily.
Reed learned that Westfeld had run a gallery in Elberfeld (now Wuppertal), Germany, until the Nazis shut it down in 1936. He continued to operate secretly as a dealer, but in 1938 he was arrested, and he was sent to Auschwitz in 1943.
You may find more information about the provenance of this painting and others on the MFA's website here.

You may also find interesting article by Kate Deimling in, "Suspecting It Harbors a Nazi-Looted Painting, MFA Boston Preemptively Pays Settlement", which points out that Victoria S. Reed is the first full-time "curator for provenance" although credit should be given to the Los Angeles County Museum who in 2000 hired a full-time provenance researcher, Dr. Amy Walsh (Dr. Walsh is now Curator of European paintings at LACMA). 

June 27, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011 - , No comments

Carabinieri recover several important pieces of the Eva Peron jewelry collection

by René M. Du Terroil, ARCA Contributor

The Italian media reported last week finding jewels allegedly belonging to deceased Argentine former first lady Eva Peron.  The jewelry is worth over US$9 million and was found in a hotel in Milan in Northern Italy. According to reports, local police located the jewels in a joint operation with Spanish police.  Police sources report that the precious stones where recovered from a 2009 robbery to a jewelry store in Valencia carried out by a gipsy gang. One person has been detained so far.

A tiara, a gift from the Dutch king during the 1950’s, several rings and a pair o earrings were among the jewelry recovered by the Carabinieri police in a room of the luxurious Silver hotel in the outskirts of Milan. According to the police, seven Serb gypsies were responsible for the robbery. The jewelry was taken in December of 2009. One of the robbers was arrested in May of last year after the Spanish court extended the arrest warrant to all Europe.

The English-language press (copied in after the links to the story) inaccurately reported many of the facts.

The pieces were stolen from a Spanish jeweler in what is known as a "rip" where a jeweler is offered an exaggerated price for his merchandise with the proviso that he perform some type of under-the-table cash deal. This initial exchange goes through flawlessly, at considerable profit for the mark. Some time later the scammers approach the mark with a similar proposition, but for a larger amount of money (and thus a larger return for the mark). His confidence and greed inspired by the previous deal, the merchant agrees — only to have his money and goods taken, by sleight-of-hand or violence, at the point of exchange.

The Carabinieri and Spanish police had been working together for some time, and phone taps and Interpol were involved. Although 8 members of the gang were identified and arrest warrants issued, only one was apprehended in the Milan hotel. Several of the others were already arrested in Spain.  The jewels were recovered when the suspect left his hotel room and he was arrested later. Apparently many of the Serbian - Gypsy/Romanian families engaged in this activity live in the area.

June 26, 2011

The Boston Globe Continues the Tease with the headline "Bulger may yield clues to Gardner Museum Art Heist"

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

For twenty-four hours after the Los Angeles Times announced the capture of James "Whitey" Bulger last Wednesday evening, I followed the story of the capture of one of the FBI's most wanted. I'd read enough about the theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 of 13 paintings, including Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's "Storm in the Sea of Galilee" to know that Bulger is not thought to have engineered the St. Patrick's Day heist. However, for much of the two plus decades that the paintings have been missing from the walls of the Boston gallery, Bulger was also missing and the two mysteries intertwined themselves. The hope, the dream, the fantasy, of those following the Gardner theft is that maybe Bulger does know where the paintings are and will trade that information to negotiate down from a death sentence.

The area of Santa Monica that Bulger lived on Third Street, just north of the retail and entertainment area known as Third Street Promenade, is in the center of a destination beach community in one of the largest metropolitan area in the United States. In addition, he occupied a rent controlled apartment in Santa Monica. Rent-controlled apartments are basically inherited or found with the best of connections. No one gets a rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica from the classified ads, never mind occupy it for 16 years. Who set up Whitey and his girlfriend in such sweet accommodations?

This morning's Boston Globe article restates that the FBI has no knowledge that Bulger had anything to do with the Gardner heist. And many people who have studied the case also agree. However, it is a bit disappointing to see that the FBI has put more energy into finding an aging gangster instead of locating priceless works of art. The families of the victims of Whitey Bulger have expressed their satisfaction in the media that Bulger was apprehended and that of course cannot be minimized. However, Bulger, an old man at 81, will be convicted and put in jail. He removed himself from organized crime in Boston almost two decades ago. But now that Osama bin Laden has been captured and killed and Bulger is now checked off the FBI's most wanted list, maybe Boston can focus on bringing home its masterpieces.

History of Art Vandalism: The 1985 Destruction of Rembrandt's "Danaë" at The Hermitage Museum

Rembrandt's Danaë, Oil on Canvas, 185x202.5 cm
The State Hermitage Museum
by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor

While Greek mythology may not claim her as the most beautiful woman in the world, she is certainly one of Rembrandt’s most beautiful women: Danaë. Voluptuous and naked, she reclines across the eight-by-ten canvas, looking into the distance beyond the frame of the painting. This painting may not be Rembrandt’s most famous work or even his most famous painting of a female, but the Danaë has certainly drawn attention from scholars and vandals alike.

While scholars may be fascinated by the beauty and technique of Rembrandt’s peculiar but stunning Danaë, there are others that are not quite as fond of this painting. On June 15, 1985, while hanging on the walls of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Danaë was attacked by Bronius Maigys, then 48 years old, who threw sulfuric acid on the painting and attacked it with a knife.  Maigys was later judged insane, and some say targeted the Hermitage as a symbol of Russian state power.  Maigys spent six years at the Cherniachovsk psychiatric hospital in the Kaliningrad Region. While museum staff attempted to take quick action, (the Hermitage’s restoration staff were not on duty at the time) the painting had been badly damaged and to this day is not the same. Conservators struggled with the ethics of repainting the damaged parts of the painting but decided against full restoration (meaning repainting the parts that had been damaged) because it would mean that the painting was no longer a true Rembrandt:
In the resulting painting, ‘some parts are 100 percent Rembrandt, some are 50 percent Rembrandt, and some had to be redone,’ Mr. Gerasimov [a staff member of the Hermitage] said. ‘The left thigh is slightly restored. The right arm was 90 percent damaged but is now back to normal. The pearls were intact, but the jewels needed work. What the visitor sees is not ‘the original,’ and we would never put it forward as such. But the spirit of Rembrandt is intact.’

Classical mythology tells us the story of Danaë, daughter of King Acrisius of Argos who was told of a prophecy that his grandchild would kill him. To keep this from happening, Acrisius had his daughter locked in a tower in which no one could get to her. However, he had not considered the infamous lust of Zeus, who was thoroughly in lust with Acrisius’ beautiful daughter. The god of thunder changed himself into a golden rain and fell on Danaë, impregnating her with a son who would become as famous as his mother: Perseus.

The part of the story depicted in Rembrandt’s painting is not entirely clear. Danaë’s upraised hand, as if she is warding someone off or welcoming them forward, suggests that there is someone beyond our field of vision. Even the older maid, partially hidden behind the curtains of Danaë’s luxurious bed, is looking in the same direction of Danaë. Did Rembrandt defer from the traditional story and imply the appearance of Zeus in another form to Danaë in her confinement? Is that the scene that the two women are looking towards?

The appearance of a maidservant is not traditionally a part of the story either. However, realistically, her appearance is not all that surprising: even in confinement a princess would be likely to have a maidservant to take care of her. While there is this practicality to her appearance, she also serves a second purpose which is to emphasize the beauty of Danaë. The wrinkled, leathery skin of the maid is a perfect foil for the soft, pale beauty of Danaë who is almost entirely exposed to the viewer. Only her lower legs are hidden from view, creating a sensual figure moments before seduction.

The appearance of the cupid above Danaë’s head is also interesting, though not unusual. Both Titian and Correggio depicted their Danaës accompanied by angels as the golden rain fell upon them. However, this golden cupid, with a tortured expression upon his face, is completely gold and could be interpreted as representing the golden rain which impregnated Danaë. His expression is a bit troublesome though unless it is meant to allude to the fact that Danaë was impregnated without her consent. If not for this reason, then what reason is there for his tortured expression?

While she may not be the same Danaë that Rembrandt painted, the essence is still there—despite being attacked by a ‘madman’ with undisclosed motives. Was it the nudity that inspired some religious-driven attempt to destroy a woman representative of tales of pagan lust? We may never know.

John Russell, "Healing a Disfigured Rembrandt's Wounds," The New York Times, August 31, 1997.

WSJ Reports on "The Barnes Foundation's Art: The $25Billion Art Move"

The June 24th Wall Street Journal online published a story, "The Barnes Foundation's Art: The $25 Billion Art Move", about the move after the Fourth of July of the art in the Barnes Foundation at the museum in the outskirts of Philadelphia to downtown. The Barnes Foundation has been involved in a long legal battle to accomplish this move and now it's here. ARCA's founder Noah Charney comments on museum security. You can read the article here.  The new museum will open in May 2012.

June 25, 2011

LA Times' Jason Flech on "Can Whitey Bulger help solve biggest art heist in U. S. History?"

Los Angeles Times reporter Jason Flech has written an article, "Can Whitey Bulger help solve the biggest art heist in U.S. history?", which talks about why robbing the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 would not have been the type of crime Bulger would have committed; the hope that Bulger does know who did the theft; and what publicity could do to recover the paintings. Jason Flech is the co-author of "Chasing Aphrodite", the story of The Getty, stolen antiquities, and the fall of Marion True.

Image to the left copied from the article as published by The Los Angeles Times online.

The Business of Art Authentication

After reading the ARCA blog post about the Picasso Foundation's authentication of an electrician's hoard of Picasso art, John Daab, contributor to the Journal of Art Crime, sent a link to a series of his articles, Art Authentication Boards: Another Element of Chaos in the Fine Art Industry.

Dr. Daab writes in his introduction:
As technology takes many industries to the heights of efficiency, effectiveness and control, the fine art industry seems to be moving to greater levels of disorganization, inefficiency, and chaos. We observe works deteriorating and on the verge of collapse and disintegration being purchased for millions of dollars, families of artists being allowed to create and sign works of the dead, and art authentication boards offering authentication conclusions only to recant their original conclusions after buyers purchase the works. The consequences of the above processes result in law suits unnecessarily costing millions of dollars and rendering such works as specious and of questionable value. This article examines art authentication boards, how they operate, and how they could be made more efficient, and transparent.
Tom Flynn, an ARCA lecturer on the practices in the art market, recently wrote about "The Wildenstein Era will end and the art market will benefit."

June 24, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011 - , No comments

Missing Farrah Fawcett Portrait by Andy Warhol Seen in Ryan O'Neal's Television Show

Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol
by René M. Du Terroil, ARCA Blog Contributor

Update: has a column on the Andy Warhold Farrah Fawcett shown on O'Neal's reality television show.

A well-known portrait of Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol may have been found at the home of the late actress' longtime boyfriend, actor Ryan O'Neal. The photograph, which Fawcett had willed to the University of Texas, had been missing since her death in 2009. Investigators and friends noticed what appears to be the image hanging above O'Neal's bed in his new show Ryan & Tatum: The O'Neals. O'Neal, who was not named in Fawcett's will, is alleged to have been attempting to control the actress' estate, but insists there was no wrongdoing on his part. For more intrigue, watch the full story in the video below:

In Less than 10 Minutes, FBI's "Most Wanted" James "Whitey" Bulger Agreed to be Held Without Bail and to Be Sent Back to Boston

Assistant U. S. Attorney Robert Dugdale speaks to the press
 after the arraignment of James "Whitey" Bulger
 and his girlfriend Catherine Grieg.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

LOS ANGELES, CA - In the U. S. District Court Arraignment Room 341, it took only six to seven minutes for James "Whitey" Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Grieg, to agree to be held without bail and to be sent back to Boston to face criminal charges he had fled more than 15 years ago. In addition, the fugitive who was thought to be living off of millions of dollars and who was once, albeit briefly, considered to be behind the world's largest art theft (the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum involving Vermeer's The Concert and Rembrandt's Storm of Gaililee), filled out the paperwork to get a court-appointed public defender.

Camera trucks lined along Judge John Aiso St.
 just south of the Edward Roybal Federal Building
 in downtown Los Angeles.
The hearing, which began fairly promptly at about 2 p.m. was over by 2:14 p.m. Only 22 seats in room 341 had been allowed and journalists had a problem getting in, lining outside the hearing room, corralled by the U. S. Marshalls. One woman sitting on a bench outside the arraignment room, complained loudly on her cell phone that she had been waiting since 9:30 this morning to enter the room, but that she and her friend had been excluded from those let into the hearing room. She was one of the many family members waiting for the others regularly scheduled to see the judge (after Bulger and Grieg had seen the judge, the family members were counted by the U. S. Marshalls and told to go sit back down until they were called again, apparently to be seated after the media had vacated the court room).

One male journalist from ABC actually left the hearing room before it began to give up his seat for other print journalists. He explained to the line of journalists against the wall that his company already had radio and TV representatives in the room. Another journalist along the wall was told that if he was seeing giving a stare down again, he'd be removed from the building.

A reporter for Channel 7 in Boston left the hearing room and phoned in his observations: Bulger had been 'unfazed'... his 60-year-old girlfriend looked 75 even with her unlined surgically altered complexion because her hair was so white and she looked so thin...Bulger was unrecognizable ... Bulger answered the questions clearly. He agreed to be immediately "forthwith" transported by the U. S. Marshall Service back to Boston to face charges.

The U. S. Magistrate Judge was John McDermott and he was from Los Angeles as were all the personnel involved with the case. However, many of the press had boarded an early morning flight in Boston to arrive in Los Angeles for the afternoon hearing.

On the street, credit was given to the FBI for publicizing the image of Bulger's girlfriend on television shows purportedly of interest to women who might frequent beauty salons and other places that Bulger's girlfriend would visit -- the FBI played to the tendency for women to pay attention to how other women look.

Here are some updated links:

according to ABC, Whitey Bulger has lived in Santa Monica since 1996;

and Channel 7 in Boston filed it's report here online;

and to the Financial Times for how the FBI advertised for a fugitive's girlfriend.

Judge Arthur Tompkins, one of our ARCA Lecturers, just send me an email highlighting an anecdote in The New York Times about the lifestyle of a fugitive:
Janus Goodwin, 61, who lived on the same floor as Mr. Bulger and Ms. Greig, came to know the couple in 1999. She said Mr. Bulger rarely left the apartment. 
“When I would be invited in, he would always be lying on the sofa, watching TV,” Ms. Goodwin said. “He was very proud of his little art pieces, which were cheap knockoffs of Monet and Van Gogh.”
Judge Tompkins writes: "Makes you wonder, in an idle moment, if he had a stray but genuine Rembrandt or Vermeer lurking around somewhere ..."

Osama Bin Laden is dead, James "Whitey" Bulger has been captured, it would be nice if the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum found its stolen paintings.

June 23, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - , No comments

James "Whitey" Bulger Scheduled to Appear in the Federal District Court (Central District) at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles

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

James "Whitey" Bulger will appear at 3 p.m. today in the Federal District Court (Central District) in Los Angeles. The Irish-American gangster is rumored to have attended mass at  Saint Monica Catholic Church, the most popular parish for the Westside of Los Angeles and a place of worship for many politicians and law enforcement.

This is the FBI's press release -- quite understated -- released today:

FBI Agents have arrested Top Ten Fugitive, James J. "Whitey" Bulger, and his companion, Catherine Greig, in California.

Recent publicity produced a tip which led agents to Santa Monica, California, where they located both Bulger and Greig at a residence early this evening.
Bulger and Greig were arrested without incident. Both are currently scheduled for an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California (downtown Los Angeles) on Thursday.
Here are some more links on the story, highlighting the FBI's successful publicity campaign to find the fugitive and his beauty-salon loving girlfriend: 

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - No comments

ARCA Job Announcement

ARCA (The Association for Research into Crimes against Art) is seeking to hire a full-time Chief Executive Officer. This is an exciting new position within the organization to sustain ARCA’s recent growth and facilitate future plans for expansion. As a small, virtual organization, ARCA is looking for a dynamic and proactive individual with adaptable skills that can handle all aspects of the organization—from writing strategic plans to posting envelopes. Reporting directly to the Board of Trustees, the CEO has first-line responsibility for the administration and general management of ARCA and its projects, as well as, organizational development and fundraising. The CEO is expected to broaden and diversify the sources of financial support and substantially increase annual revenue.

ARCA is a non-profit organization which researches contemporary issues in art crime and cultural heritage protection. ARCA’s mission is to serve as a resource of knowledge and expertise necessary to increase the security and integrity of all art and cultural works. As an interdisciplinary group, ARCA aims to bridge the gap between the practical and theoretical elements of this global issue. ARCA’s main activities include: running the Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Property Protection in Amelia, Italy; publishing the Journal of Art Crime and other relevant publications; hosting the Annual Art Crime Conference; and sponsoring lectures and other educational programs.

For the specific duties, responsibilities, and candidate requirements please view the full job announcement. (View the full job description and details here).

To Apply: please email a cover letter and resume to jonifincham"at" with the subject line: "ARCA CEO Application" by Friday, July 22, 2011.

Spoiler Alert: FBI's Most Wanted James "Whitey" Bulger Has Been Arrested in Santa Monica, CA

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

UPDATE: The New York Times reported that Bulger and his girlfriend Catherine Greig were arrested at a private residence.  The FBI had launched a specific campagin to find Greig who frequented places offering teeth cleaning, beauty salons and plastic surgery.

The Los Angeles Times reported at 8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time that the FBI arrested James "Whitey" Bulger this evening in Santa Monica, California. The former FBI informant and Boston criminal has been a fugitive since 1994. Bulger became the most wanted after the death of Osama Bin Laden. A $2 million reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.

The FBI has not yet released an official press release but their website for their "Ten Most Wanted" shows "Captured" under Bulger's photo.

In Ulrich Boser's book, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, the author reports that at the time of the 1990 theft of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, that "Bulger was one of the most powerful gangsters in Boston, the head of the infamous Irish-American mob, the Winter Hill Gang, and during the 1970s and '80s, Bulger controlled the New England underworld with savage brutality."

Basically, although Bulger was not thought to have orchestrated the largest art theft in American history, such a crime could not have happened in Boston without him knowing about it. Maybe the 81-year-old Bulger would be willing to exchange information about the location of the paintings in exchange for leniency?

We can only hope.

Image of James "Whitey" Bulger above is from the FBI website.

June 22, 2011

The Electrician, 271 Picasso Artworks and the Picasso Foundation: Gift or Theft?

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

Under the headline "La succession Picasso sous tension", Veteran journalist Vincent Noce reported in  Libération that 271 works by Pablo Picasso were 'discovered' when a retired electrician and his wife asked Claude Picasso, the administrator of the Picasso Foundation, for certificates of authenticity for the artwork in their possession.

Noce reports that Claude Picasso, the artist's son by his mistress Françoise Gilot, received a letter on January 14, 2010, from Pierre Le Guennec requesting certificates of authenticity for 26 previously unpublished photographs of works by Picasso. Le Guennec sent another 39 photographs of artworks by Picasso in March and another 30 in April. Noce reports that none of these images matched any previously known works by Pablo Picasso and that Claude Picasso said he could not issue any certificates of authenticity based upon images of the artworks.

So, on September 9, a couple in their 70s from the Côte d'Azur brought a suitcase to the offices of the Picasso Administration on rue Volney in Paris' 2nd arrondissement (just a couple of streets north of the Ritz at the Place Vendôme). For three hours, Noce reports, Claude scrutinized contents of the luggage. The works were allegedly from the period of 1900 to 1932, the years after the artist arrived from Barcelona and had his celebrated first great retrospectives. The artworks had not been included in the inventory of the Picasso estate: nine "cubist collages" worth 40 million euros alone, "these "proverbs in painting" of which the founder of Dada and essayist Tristan Tzara talked about, made in 1912, very fragile, and of which were believed to have been destroyed when Picasso's studio in Montrouge flooded. Also there was a watercolor from Picasso's Blue Period, gouaches, some studies for oil paintings, that we can report to his essays of summer 1920 in his own handwriting, 30 lithographies he had done that year, and more than 200 drawings of his first wife Olga, the arabesques of 15 for the Study of the Three Graces from 1923; a dogfight, a crucifixion, satyrs, and rare landscapes. The fragile cubist collages from 1912, described as "painted proverbs", were thought to have been lost when Picasso's studio in Montrouge was flooded.

Noce asks if these works could be brilliantly executed fakes but reports that those experts who saw the works claim that it would be impossible to reach such a degree of control in so many different techniques. In addition, some of the works are numbered. In 1935, Picasso, in considering a divorce from Olga, had asked his art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, to inventory his work. The boxes remained in the apartment on the Rue La Boetie that Rosenberg had found near his gallery for Pablo and Olga until they were moved to the villa that Picasso bought in Cannes in 1955 where they remained until his death in 1973. Pierre Le Guennec worked as an electrician for Picasso during the last three years of his life, including installing alarm systems.

Pablo Picasso's six heirs filed a complaint on September 23, 2010, against Le Guennec and his wife for concealment, or basically holding stolen property. On October 5, L'office central de lutte contre le trafic des biens culturels (OCBC) [in English it's known as the Central Office for Fighting Against Trafficking in Cultural Property], led by Colonel Stéphane Gauffeny, went to the home of Le Guennec in Mouans-Sartoux (Alpes-Maritimes) and seized the collection of Picasso artworks and put them in the vault of the OCBC in Nanterre.

Noce reports that the Picasso family does not believe that Picasso or his wife Jacqueline would have given the artworks to the electrician. Picasso is said to have repurchased some of his own artwork, since as the first painting he had done of a bullfighter when he was eight years old.

Noce writes that the Picasso family is prepared to engage in a great legal battle to protect the legacy of Pablo Picasso. The question Noce asks is why was this treasure kept in solitary confinement for four decades. Noce wonders if keeping these artworks quiet was a way to avoid criminal prosecution (a limit of three years) or civil liability (a limit of 30 years).

Le Guennec was taken into custody by the police, then released, and sometime soon will have to go to court to explain how he came into possession of these artworks.

After the recent coverage of this story in ARTINFO, "Picasso's Electrician Indicted for Harboring Allegedly Stolen Cache of the Master's Art," I contacted a family friend, a retired French bank employee living in Nice, and asked him about his thoughts on the case.  I found them interesting, and with his permission, I publish them now:
First reaction: for what possible reason would anyone keep stolen property for 40 years without trying to sell it? Theft is for gain. But not always monetary gain. There are those who steal to increase a collection (a story about 10 years back of a man who had been robbing a museum for years to increase his collection) but that doesn't appear to be the case here. 
Secondly, the presumption of innocence in France is a legal obligation, and it is highly unlikely that a court would leak to the press a presumption of guilt. So the article covering the event is slanted. I wonder why? 
Thirdly, if nobody knew these works existed, how can you prove they were stolen? And by whom? The electrician? Obviously not for gain, or he would probably have tried to sell them quietly one at a time. 
What is important, and what will never be known, is what he artist himself thought of the works. 
Example. I write music. From time to time I dig up a piece written years ago - and find it is sonic rubbish. So I rewrite it or throw it away. If by chance I had left the score of one of those pieces with someone, would that person be accused of theft 40 years after my death? (If by chance I have left an unfinished concerto at your place, either blow your nose with it, or stick it in the loo in case you run out of paper.) But suppose I became famous. Would the art world accept my opinion of the said rubbish, or would it become priceless just because it was composed by me? Imagine that an unpublished and unknown score by Mozart were discovered. Musicians would quzuz up to play it, regardless of its musical value. (And no, not everything that Wolfie wrote was a work of genius). What gives value to a work is the signature. If you visit the Picasso museum at Antibes you will find a room of decorated plates. And even if you proved that one of the plates was the work of 7 year old Georges Dupont, the art world would ignore you or disbelieve you. 
It seems that not all the works bore the signature of the artist. 
Suppose the electrician is telling the truth, and Picasso, or more likely his late wife gave away the works, considering them as sub standard. Or even possibly as thanks for an unsubmitted invoice. In that case, is someone currently trying to appropriate the works without paying the owner a fair market price? 
It is easy to pick holes in someone's evidence about a long past event. Can anyone clearly and concisely describe a 40 year old event in his or her life? Put yourselves in the place of this electrician and his wife being grilled by the police. Their word is being doubted. Nobody has informed us of what the electrician and his wife thought of the artistic value of the works. Suppose they considered them merely as keepsakes or mementos of a kind old employer. And if they really had stolen the works would they be stupid enough to ask the potential owners what they were worth? The couple state that in view of their age, they are just trying to put their estate in order for the benefit of their children. 
There just isn't enough information in this affair to come to any conclusion. So the only thing that is talking is money. And if it talks loud enough, sometimes it silences justice.

June 21, 2011

More on Leptis Magna: During World War II, Friend of Lawrence of Arabia Prepared Preservation Plans for All of Libya's Ancient Sites

Leptus Magna in Libya (Photo via Africa Fairtrade Tourism)

Judge Arthur Tompkins emailed the ARCA blog after reading Rez Hamilton's post on June 19th, "Current Conflict in Libya Puts Greek and Roman Ruins at Risk." Judge Tompkins, who will teach "Art Crime in War" in July for ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Culture Heritage Protection Studies, added this information about Leptis Magna in Libya:
Leptis Magna had an important triggering role in the formation of the English version of the Monuments Men in the mid 1940s.

An extract from my lecture notes for the course I teach the week after next records this: "When, in what is now Libya, the British entered the ruins of Leptis Magna, situated 130 kilometers east of modern day Tripoli, the Director of the London Museum, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Eris Mortimer Wheeler, and another archaeologist, Lieutenant Colonel John Ward-Perkins, were amongst the artillery officers there, and both tried to prevent damage by the army as they moved in and through the ruins. In London, their reports ended up with Sir Leonard Woolley, an archaeologist and friend of Lawrence of Arabia, Architectural Advisor to England’s War Office, who worked with them to prepare preservation plans for all of Libya’s ancient sites.

In October 1943 Woolley was appointed to head up a Monuments and Fine Arts branch in England, which worked closely with the Roberts Commission, and, with the help of English experts, compiled similar lists of monuments, collections and sites requiring protection in both Europe and Asia."
Leptis Magna was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC.  It became a Roman city complete with a forum, basilica, and retail and residential districts, was constructed during the reign of Augustus and Tiberius.  It reached prominence during the 2nd and 3rd century when its native son, Lucius Septimius Severus, became emperor.  You may read more about Leptis Magna and see more images on the Key Africa website promoting tourism here.

June 20, 2011

Article Adapted from Anthony Amore's Book "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" Published in The Boston Globe

Anthony Amore, the director of security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and an instructor in 2009 for ARCA's International Art Crime Studies Program, has co-written a book with journalist Tom Mashberg, "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Thefts" (MacMillan Publishers, July, 2011). You may read an article adapted from the book in today's Boston Globe here.

June 19, 2011

Current conflict in Libya puts Greek and Roman ruins at risk

by Rez Hamilton, ARCA Blog Contributor

This is an extract taken from, "Military use of ancient ruins during conflict" submitted for ARCA's course, "Art Crime in War" taught by Judge Arthur Tompkins, 2011.

Recently, international news has brought attention to the ancient city of Leptis Magna in modern day Libya, an archeological site that has been valued for its beauty and almost unheard of completeness. Leptis Magna is unfortunately located between two combating strongholds: Tripoli (about sixty miles away from the ancient ruins) and Misratah (currently held by rebel forces), and at the time of this report is still under the hold of Muammar Gaddafi. The current conflict in Libya which has been ongoing for the past several months has recently had journalists and archeologists alarmed that rumors pertaining to the Gaddafi regime’s use of this ancient site as a staging point for munitions and/or for military operational use are true.

Sadly, the ancient site of Leptis Magna has the potential of being irrevocably damaged by modern warfare having previously survived and persevered since the first recorded conflict against the Byzantines in the first millennium BC and just shy of its 30-year anniversary of being an UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Security and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. To give some scope to its scale and historical importance, Leptis Magna used to be Roman’s third largest and influential city on the African continent, following Alexandria and Carthage. Another UNESCO site that was declared in Libya during 1982 is Cyrene, which is currently a stronghold of rebel forces and which also has a history of military presence among its ancient ruins during World War II. With NATO’s ongoing conflict against the Muammar Gaddafi regime, a statement has been released which indicates that regardless of the location of resistant positions, NATO forces will strike, which means not even UNESCO heritage sites are safe.

Are the rumors true? According to reporters who attended a Libyan government sponsored tour of Leptis Magna last Wednesday, no military presence of personnel or munitions were seen. However, one must be considerate of the fact that due to the tour being Gaddafi regime sponsored, proof may have been taken away prior to the reporters arrival and/or may have been moved onto or replaced to the site soon after the camera crews had departed. In the meantime, the world must hope that the use of the site as a military show of force or for storage will never come to pass.

A military’s use of ancient ruins during conflict is not new nor is it unusual. One famous example which was used in order to justify the removal of the famed Elgin Marbles now housed in the British Museum in the UK, was when the Turks were using the Parthenon as munitions storage. While in storage, an accidental ignition of some of the weapons directly damaged the site. Ongoing arguments abound on the topic of its repatriation, and on whether or not Lord Elgin saved the marbles from further destruction.

Modern warfare cannot and will not allow the time nor will it lend protection to ancient sites, regardless of conventions and treaties. Nothing is unconditionally safe during conflict and as the record of the current regime has showed its marked carelessness for human life, it is safe to assume that not even ancient relics will be preserved. We can only hope that should any evil befall the ruins as the conflict continues that there will be enough left to put the pieces back together and that no plunder occur in the interim which would scatter the remains to the four corners of the earth for those with little care of provenance and wealthy enough to afford illicit antiquities. Should the plunder come to pass, then the ancient ruins will probably be forever ruined with little chance of ever reacquiring all the pieces to the heralded Leptis Magna, one of the most complete archeological sites known in modern times.

To personally share your thoughts/comments along with any examples of other specific ancient ruins which were used by the military in times of conflict (besides the parthenon), please email me at:

Works Cited:

· 1943, January. "Leptis Magna at Risk: History Repeats." Project Patrimonio. Word Press, 14 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011.
· "Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna." UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Web. 18 June 2011.
· Charman-Smith, Mary. "The Ancient Ruins of Leptis Magna, Libya |" 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 18 June 2011.
· Coghlan, Tom. "Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi Hides Grad Missiles from NATO Raids in the Ruins of Leptis Magna « Shabab Libya." Shabab Libya. The Times, 14 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011.
· Hewton, Terry. "Libya: Putting Ancient Ruins into a Contemporary PerspectiveAt Leptis Magna Ancient Romans, Early Christians and Modern Libyans Meet." Guardian [London] 23 Nov. 2010, World News sec. Guardian | 23 Nov. 2010. Web. 18 June 2011. 
· Hughes, Peter. "Libya: Ancient Ruins in African Sand." Telegraph [London] 28 May 2008, Travel: Activity and Adventure sec. - Telegraph. 28 May 2008. Web. 18 June 2011. .
· Londono, Ernesto, and Michael Birnbaum. "Fear for Libya’s Roman Ruins - The Washington Post." The Washington Post. 16 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011. .
· Mustich, Emma. "Is Gadhafi Putting Ancient Ruins of Leptis Magna at Risk?" Web log post. The Archaeology News Network. 14 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011. .
· Tharoor, Ishaan. "With Roman Ruins Under Threat, Libya’s Ancient Past Presses Against Its Present - Global Spin -" Global Spin - A Blog about the World, Its People and Its Politics - Time Magazine, 14 June 2011. Web. 18 June 2011.

More information about the archaeological site of Leptis Magna may be found on the UNESCO site here.

June 18, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011 - ,, No comments

Swansea University Professor David Gill Awarded AIA's Outstanding Public Service Award

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) has selected Dr. David Gill, Reader in Mediterranean archaeology at Swansea University and a columnist for ARCA's Journal of Art Crime, for this year's Public Service Award.

Professor Gill, author of "Context Matters", a column published twice-annually in the Journal of Art Crime, spoke recently with journalist Robin Turner with Western Mail, the "national" newspaper of Wales, here and has been previously featured on the ARCA blog "Lotting Matters Relays Message from the Field in Egypt" here and "Medici's Antiquties Still a Presence on the Art Market" here.

Dr. Gill is also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Art Crime.

June 17, 2011

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Amelia, Umbria: In His First Criminal Trial, Cicero Defended Sextus Roscius the Younger from the Charge of Killing His Father, A Wealthy Resident of Amelia

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

Sometimes on this art crime blog we feature stories about Amelia, the town in Umbria that is hosting for the third year ARCA's Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies.

This post is about not an art crime but murder. In 80 BC, during the dictatorship of Sulla, the only military commander to take victories in both Rome and Athens, a wealthy resident of Amelia was murdered in Rome. Sextus Roscius the Elder's estate in Amelia consisted of 13 farms and numerous slaves. He spent much of his time in Rome and left the farming to his son, Sextus Roscius the Younger, a middle-aged man who shunned social occasions and loved his work. One evening in September, while walking after dinner with two of his slaves, between 8 and 9 p.m. near the Palatine Baths, 'Old' Roscius was killed. Shortly thereafter, his estate was confiscated and put up for sale. This happened because at the time people who were not loyal to Sulla could be put on a list and have their assets sold. However, adding names to the list had stopped the year before Old Roscius was killed. Yet, sometimes, property was auctioned as if the owner had been listed. Two distant relatives, Capito and Magnus, purchased the farms.

A committee in Amelia felt that this was unfair so they sent a delegation to speak with Sulla and explain that Old Roscius had been in good standing at the time of his death and that the sale should be reversed. However, the delegation only spoke to a spokesman of Sulla who promised that the property would be restored to Sextus Roscius the Younger.

However, this delegation may have only been a smokescreen to appear to be seeking justice as the committee was headed up by Capito himself. What ended up happening is that Sextus Roscius the Younger was actually accused of killing his father in order to keep the property for himself. A witness came forward and said that the younger Roscius had been on poor terms with his father and was afraid of being disinherited.

No one thought that anyone would be brave enough to defend Roscius the Younger. Robbery and murder was common in Rome and the judicial court was easily bribed. People were afraid that they too would be accused by officials of or friendly to Sulla's regime.

However, the Roscius family had friends in Rome who convinced the 27-year-old Cicero to take the case.

The young advocat did not have to provide any evidence, just refute the accusations. Cicero defended Sextus Roscius the Younger by saying that he was uncouth and ignorant and the luxurious things meant nothing to him. In addition, Cicero said that the son had not been to Rome at the time of the death of his father, that he had been 50 miles away in Amelia. Cicero said that the younger Sextus had neither the means, the opportunity, or even the disposition to carry out such a crime. On the other hand, Cicero said, Magnus, a distant Roscius relative who had feuded for years over the estate, had been in Rome the night of the murder and had traveled to Amelia by dawn the next morning to tell his cousin Capito that Sextus Roscius the Elder was dead. Capito ended up owning three farms and Magnus managed 10 farms in the name of one of Sulla's administrators. Cicero gave such an impassioned speech that the 50 judges of the criminal court could not help but acquit Sextus Roscius the Younger, although Capito and Magnus never returned the property or faced charges in the death of Old Roscius.

In Amelia, just past Piazza Marconi and down Via Piacenti, you can find a plaque in memory of the Roscius family.

If you would like to read more about this case, you may read a summary of Cicero's "Pro Roscio Amerino" here and Chapter 4 of Anthony Trollope's book, The Life of Cicero, here.

June 15, 2011

Government of Canada Returns Its Largest Ever Seizure of Cultural Property to the Republic of Bulgaria

Press Release from the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

GATINEAU, June 10, 2011 – The Government of Canada today returned to the Republic of Bulgaria 21,000 coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects that were illegally imported to Canada and seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The cultural artifacts were returned today at a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization by Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament (Ottawa–Orléans), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

"Today marks Canada's largest ever return of illegally imported cultural property, and we are pleased to return these 21,000 precious artifacts to the Republic of Bulgaria," said Minister Moore. "This return of items to their country of origin demonstrates Canada's commitment to stopping the trafficking in cultural property and recover illegally imported goods."

"The Government of Canada is taking action to prevent the illicit traffic of cultural property," said Mr. Galipeau "I would like to commend the work of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency, whose efforts led to the successful seizure and return of these rare antiquities."

"The RCMP is pleased with this successful outcome. Our team in Montréal has worked long hours to investigate, locate, and retrieve these Bulgarian artifacts," said Bob Paulson, RCMP Deputy Commissioner. "Together, with our government and law enforcement partners, we monitor and identify any illegal smuggling of valuable cultural objects and ensure their safe return to the rightful owners."

In 2007, Canada Border Services Agency officials detained two imports of cultural property sent by mail from Bulgaria. These imports were referred to Canadian Heritage for further assessment, and the RCMP was asked to investigate. As a result of its investigation, the RCMP seized about 21,000 ancient coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects in November 2008. In January 2011, the importer formally abandoned the cultural property, clearing the way for the Court of Quebec to rule under the Criminal Code for the return of the seized antiquities to the Republic of Bulgaria.

These objects, many of which were illegally excavated, cover more than 2600 years of the history of Bulgaria. This collection includes more than 18,000 coins, as well as a number of artifacts including bronze eagles, rings, pendants, belt buckles, arrows and spearheads, and bone sewing needles. They represent a mix of Hellenistic, Roman, Macedonian, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman cultural heritage.

His Excellency Mr. Vezhdi Rashidov, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria, was present to accept the artifacts from the Government of Canada at today's ceremony. Madame Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, was also present.

"I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Department of Canadian Heritage and personally to Minister James Moore, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to the investigative departments, as well as to all Canadian institutions who contributed to the resolution of this case," said Mr. Rashidov.

Canada and Bulgaria are signatories to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property, under which participating states agree to assist each other in the recovery of illegally exported and stolen cultural property. In Canada, the Convention is implemented through the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Department works closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency to enforce and administer the Act and combat the illicit traffic of cultural property.

You may find this press release on the website of Canadian Heritage here.

June 14, 2011

Picasso's Granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso Discusses 4 Year Old Theft with The New Yorker

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée on display at The Gagosian Gallery in New York (Photo from Gagosian website)

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

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée (Interpol)
Just finding information out about an art theft case can be like unraveling a mystery. Four years ago, thieves stole several paintings from the home of Picasso's granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso. Seven months later they returned but little was reported in the newspaper about the details of the theft. Ms. Widmaier-Picasso spoke to Eric Konigsberg (At the Galleries: Granddaughter) in The New Yorker's current issue (Summer Fiction, June 13 & 20, 2011) and described the people arrested for trying to sell one of the paintings six months later on the street in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris:
"That is how professional art thieves operate. The one in charge had two nicknames, and they're both interesting: the Locksmith and Goldfinger. It was like a Western."
Of the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme she said:
"They treated it like the kidnapping of a person in the family."
One of the paintings, "Maya à la Poupée", of her mother, the daughter of Picasso and his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, is currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery on West Twenty-first Street, in an exhibition, "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse" open until July 15.

ARTINFO reports "How a Routine Traffic Stop Led Italian Police to $3.6 Million in Stolen Art"

ARTINFO reports that police stopped a car whose driver had no license to drive but a criminal record and a stolen painting in the trunk. You can read about it here. The post makes no mention of the two men's criminal affiliation except that they were also arrested with a "Romanian woman" thought to be their accomplice. The paintings were small by well-known artists and had been stolen from a residence in Monte Carlo five years ago.

June 13, 2011

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ARCA Staff Profile: Intern Jessica Nielson Editing ARCA's First Title Under Its Own Imprint, "The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World's Most Famous Painting" by Noah Charney

ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief Catherine Schofield Sezgin 'talks' with ARCA Intern Jessica Nielsen.

Jessica Nielsen
Jessica Nielsen is one of the summer interns for ARCA, working on editing, publishing and publicizing ARCA’s first title under its own imprint, Noah Charney's The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting. She has a BA in Art History and History and a Masters of Architecture, and has had varied experiences in arts administration, philanthropy and design. She is currently working on revising her first draft of a novel involving forgery and deception. Jessica lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

What area of art crime do you enjoy following (reading, researching)?
Jessica: I am most interested in perceptions of value in the art market; how it is established, protected and manipulated, and cases which involve forgery and fraud. I have been reading every thing that I can find about the subject – both fiction and non-fiction for years.
My favorite place to sit in Amelia is the patio of Bar Leonardi. Do you have a favorite place?
Jessica: I don’t have a favorite place yet for sitting. But I took a long walk this morning on the footpath just outside the walls and drank in the early morning sounds, sights and smells and decided that it would be my morning ritual. 
When I first went to Amelia in 2009, I was astounded by the cleanliness of the town and the beauty of the views of the surrounding countryside. What was your initial impression of Amelia? 
Jessica: My first impression was of a historic small and friendly town with a lot of charm. That hasn’t changed. Just doing errands here has been a pleasure. I love living in Italy and have twice lived in Rome ¬– but I’m a city person so living in a small town in the country is a new experience for me – I think I’ll really enjoy it.
What are your expectations for this summer?
Jessica: I am hoping that it will be a fun couple of months of working, learning and meeting new people. I would like Noah’s book to be a success and a strong foundation for more titles to be published by ARCA and I want to find some time to work on my own manuscript too.
And, of course, Amelia has lots of venues for live music. Do you play an instrument or sing?
Jessica: Only at Christmas; then I’ll sit at the piano and play a few carols to get in the holiday spirit.

June 11, 2011

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Amelia Art Crime Salon with Art Historian Tom Flynn Scheduled for June 15

British art historian and journalist Tom Flynn will lead the discussion June 15 at the Art Crime Salon at the B&B Cisterne in Amelia for this year's ARCA summer program students. This informal discussion, hosted by one of the returning students, will feature 'milk and cookies' and topics related to art crime.

Dr. Tom Flynn will lecture on "Art History and the Art World" the first half of June as part of ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Property Heritage Protection studies. The ARCA blog profiled him here in December. Readers may follow Dr. Flynn on his blog, artknows.

The following art crime experts will lead additional discussions: Author and archaeologist Neil Brodie on June 22; lawyer and criminologist Edgar Tijhuis on June 29 (you may read his profile here); Judge Arthur Tompkins on July 13 (you may read about him on the ARCA blog here.)

June 10, 2011

June 9, 2011

Thursday, June 09, 2011 - , No comments

ARCA Staff Profile: Summer Resident Intern Kirsten Hower Assists on the Third Annual International Art Crime Conference in Amelia

Kirsten Hower in Florence
ARCA Editor Catherine Schofield Sezgin 'talks' with summer resident intern Kirsten Hower.

Kirsten Hower is one of the summer resident interns for ARCA, specializing in research and helping to organize events as well as writing for ARCA. She received her B.A. in Art History from Washington College in 2010, graduating with departmental honors, and recently completed a year long post-baccalaureate program at Studio Arts Center International (SACI) in Florence, Italy, where she completed a thesis on the flow of religious reform ideas through the influence on artists. This fall she will be starting the MLitt program in the Arts of Europe at Christie's Education in London, England.

What area of art crime do you enjoy following (reading, researching)?
Kirsten: I really enjoy the quirky stories behind the thefts, such as the theft of Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington" from London's National Gallery in 1961 and the resulting trial. I also really enjoy reading about incidents of iconoclasm and the beliefs that push people to do such things to art.
My favorite place to sit in Amelia is the patio of Bar Leonardi. Do you have a favorite place?
Kirsten: I'm very much a fan of sitting in front of Bar Leonardi, especially for appertivos and watching the sun set behind the walls of Amelia. But I think my favorite place would be the "Bond Bar" which is the house of one of the students this summer. It's a gorgeous gardened backyard that overlooks the surrounding countryside and it's perfect for a bottle of wine and great conversation.
When I first went to Amelia in 2009, I was astounded by the cleanliness of the town and the beauty of the views of the surrounding countryside. What was your initial impression of Amelia?
Kirsten: Fortunately, this is my second time visiting Amelia (I presented at the conference last year) and both times I have been amazed by how picturesque the town is and how warm and friendly the town is. I grew up in a small town, and everyone was always friendly, but Amelia has a certain charm that is all it's own.
What are your expectations for this summer?
Kirsten: I'm expecting to thoroughly enjoy myself while I'm here--which I already am. I'm hoping to get a lot of work and writing done, in combination with my ARCA projects and my own personal research. I'm looking forward to joining the students on their field trips and sitting in on some of the classes. I'm also really excited to attend the conference, more so this year because I'm helping to organize it so it will be overwhelming to see it come to fruition.
And, of course, Amelia has lots of venues for live music. Do you play an instrument or sing?
Kirsten: Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I neither sing in public nor do I play an instrument.

June 6, 2011

The Four Horses Rest Inside St. Mark's Basilica in Venice after Being Plundered from Constantinople in the 13th century

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

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

The Fourth Crusade saw what might be termed one of the great detours in world military history. Pope Innocent III had become Pope in 1198, and immediately started to preach for a Fourth Crusade. [One of the churches in which it is claimed by some writers that he proclaimed the crusade, the Chiesa Sant'Andrea, stands in the central piazza in Orvieto.] The Third Crusade had failed abjectly, and in Western Europe there was little stomach for another go at the Muslims, now firmly in control of the Levant, including Jerusalem and much of the adjacent territory.  But, despite that, the Fourth Crusade finally got underway in October 1202. A largely French Army, but crucially also comprising a significant Venetian contingent, set out from Venice for Cairo in Egypt, intending to invest Jerusalem overland through Egypt.

Fewer crusaders (memorably described by Michael Palin as “wandering psychopaths with really sharp swords ...”) than expected had turned up in Venice, whose merchants and bankers had expended a large amount of money and effort preparing for a much larger army - much like, nowadays, a city will spend up large preparing for the Olympics, to the bemusement and often resentment of local taxpayers. Venice expected a significant return on its investment. Venice insisted on payment up front of the princely sum of 85,000 silver marks, which the crusaders only partially managed by beggaring themselves. The result was that when the crusade sailed, the Venetians were feeling decidedly out of pocket. A displaced prince of Constantinople, Alexius Angelis, seized the opportunity presented by the presence of a large but strapped-for-cash army, and offered money, transport, knights, and control of the Greek Orthodox Church if the Crusaders would but place him back on the Byzantine throne in Constantinople. So the Crusade detoured to Constantinople. The sack of Constantinople was not, it seemed, initially part of the deal. After an attack on a trade rival of Venice’s, Zara on the east coast of the Adriatic , carried out despite express prohibition by the Pope, Venice offered the Crusaders winter residence in Zara. In effect, Venice was taking "profit wherever it could be found" (Taylor, page 40)[Another source for this material is Wilhelm Treue's Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest (Translated from the German by Basil Creighton, The John Day Company, New York, 1961).]

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

The Fourth Crusade in its Venetian transports arrived off Constantinople in late June 1203. The siege occupied many months, but finally the ‘Latins’ entered the city on April 13, 1204. As Wilhelm Treue comments in his book, Art Plunder: The Fate of Works of Art in War and Unrest (John Day, New York, 1961):
“Old men, women, and children, carrying crosses and holy images, went to meet the victorious troops, but there was no restraining their lust for blood and plunder; they were Crusaders no longer; they were plunderers such as Europe had never known till that day. Whoever stood in their way was killed..... the forty richest cities on earth could not equal the riches which Byzantium now lost to her conquerors. All this was now distributed throughout Europe and added unimaginable riches to the legacy of antiquity and the medieval Eastern Empire. Venice benefited chiefly, but the whole of Europe as far as the British Isles and Scandinavia, wherever relations and friends of any crusader were to be found, shared in this amazing windfall. Every Crusader of any rank found himself in possession of a fortune on April 13, 1204. ... An eclipse, taken to be a sign on the wrath of God, put an end to the looting on April 16.”
Speros Vryonis in Byzantium and Europe (Harcourt Brace, 1967) gives a vivid account of the sack of Constantinople by the Frankish and Venetian Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, and comments:
The estrangement of East and West, which had proceeded over the centuries, culminated in the horrible massacre that accompanied the conquest of Constantinople. The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Crusading movement thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention.
Thus occurred uncontrolled looting of what was then the grandest and richest city in Europe, the repository of many centuries of art and culture.

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

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

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

But principal among the riches plundered were the Four Horses. They are most likely of Roman origin, although some argue for an older, Greek origin. Originally accompanied by a quadriga, or chariot, they were displayed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople, having arrived there centuries before, from Rome. A recent reconstruction of the starting boxes for the Hippodrome's chariot races shows one possible location of the horses. They are made largely of copper, with tin added, which suggests a Roman rather than hellenistic origin, although Chamberlain categorically states that they are of Greek origin. They may have once stood on the Arch of Trajan in Rome. The collars were added in 1204 by the Venetians to conceal where the heads had been severed to facilitate their transportation by ship from Constantinople to Venice. The fate of the quadriga is unknown, but the leader of the Venetians during the Fourth Crusade, the Doge Dandolo, arranged for the four horses to be installed on the pediment above the entry to the Byzantine-style St. Marks' Basilica, the Cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, in 1254.

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

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

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

The horses remained in Venice, in a variety of locations but mostly on the Basilica, for nearly 600 years, until Napoleon arrived in 1797.

The fall of Venice followed on from the plundering of Rome. There was no frontal attack, but rather Napoleon engineered the rebellion of a number of subject cities on the mainland against their Venetian masters, and after a year of negotiations, on Friday 12 May 1797 the Venetian Great Council voted itself into extinction, and the French occupied the city. This brought to an end 1070 years of independence, and left Venice and its dependencies and territories, under the terms of the Treaty of Campo Formio, signed in October 1797, divided between France and Austria. But the Austrians did not arrive to take control of the city until January 1798. In the meantime the French looted the city. As Chamberlain notes, curiously for the legalistic French, there was a four day lacuna between the dissolution of the Great Council, and the signing of the Treaty of Milan on 16 May 1797, which allowed for the removal of art treasures .

In any event, The Four Horses were a primary target of the French. Chamberlain describes the scene:
[On] a day in December 1797, six weeks after the signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio, they were lowered from the front of the basilica. Again, as in Rome, French commissioners had to go to work protected by French bayonets from the anger of an Italian mob. The contemporary illustrations of the event point up, accidently or inescapably, the contrast between the serenity of the beautiful creatures, and the restlessness of the crowd, as they made their way in stately procession across the piazza.
Most of the art work plundered from Rome and elsewhere in Italy was assembled in the Tuscan port of Livorno (in English, Leghorn), there to join the marshalling of plunder from all over Italy, and from thence (largely at the Vatican’s cost) to Paris, arriving in 1798. Quynn notes: “[A group of savants] were horrified at the idea of an unceremonious arrival in the capital of precious relics from Rome arriving like coal barges and unloaded at the Quai de Louvre like boxes of soap..." So a parade on the Champ de Mars (where, nearly a century later, Eiffel was to build his Tower) was hastily arranged. An etching by Berthault of the parade clearly shows the horses, amongst the camels, lions and the like. The procession was headed by a banner reading: “La Grece les ceda; Roma les a perdus; leur sort changea deux fois, il ne changera plus” which translates, (more or less) to: “The Greeks gave them up, Rome lost them; their fate has changed twice, it will not change again”. Quynn lists some of the contents of the procession:
In these crates there travelled to Paris such treasures as the Apollo Belvedere, the Medici Venus, the Discobolus, the Dying Gladiator, the Laocoon, and sixty or more other pieces of sculpture from the Vatican and Capitoline museums and other collections. Nine paintings by Raphael, two famous Corregios, mineral and natural history collections, the bears of Bern, animals from zoos, and valuable manuscripts including those from the Vatican dated prior to AD 900.”
France’s actions were not without their critics: the sculptor Canova, later, as we shall see, actively and successfully to represent Pope Pius VII in obtaining the return to the Vatican of much of the plundered sculpture, archives and manuscripts; sardonically addressed Napoleon: “May your Majesty at least leave some things in Italy. These ancient monuments form a chain which cannot ever be transported.” Quatremere de Quincy similarly protested in a pamphlet and subsequently a petition signed by eight Academy members and 43 artists, arguing that arts and sciences were a common republic, so that no one country had the right to assert an exclusive claim to the heritage of art, or to divide it up unilaterally, and any country that did so should suffer the reproach: “ ... of barbarity and ignorance for thus damaging the common property.” But such lone voices were few and seldom heard, and the torrent of art continued to pour into Paris – mostly to the Louvre, but in time to provincial museums elsewhere in France as well.

The Four Horses were initially housed in Les Invalides, then placed on gate piers guarding the entrance to the Tuileries, before finally being placed atop the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, also in the Tuileries. But compared to their centuries of repose in Venice, their stay in Paris was over in the blink of an eye. A mere 17 years after their removal from Venice, and following Napoleon’s final exile to St Helena after the defeat at Waterloo in June 1815, Austrian and English engineers lowered them from the arch on 17 October 1815, under guard by Austrian soldiers . Two months later they were loaded onto barges and ferried across the lagoon and back to their old home. There they stood until air pollution forced their removal, in the early 1980s, to their present, much less lofty, position just inside the Basilica.