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October 28, 2011

Sûreté du Québec Police's Art Crime Enforcement Unit reports three paintings by Marc-Auréle Fortin and one painting by Rolland Montpetit have been stolen

Painting by Fortin reported stolen
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Sûreté du Québec Police's Art Crime Enforcement Unit used it's internationally distributed Art Alert email program to notify the art world and law enforcement that four paintings have been stolen. The Art Alert system, designed by retired officer Alain Lacoursière and the current head of the team, Jean-François Talbot, sends out an image of the artwork and known details such as the name of the artist; title of the work; year created; medium; dimension; and any other known details.

Interested parties may subscribe at

The ARCA blog has previously covered the activities of Canada's only art crime enforcement team here.

Painting by Marc-Aurèle Fortin reported stolen
Quebec landscape painter Marc-Aurele Fortin produced three of the paintings. Fortin (1888-1970), beset by diabetes, stopped most of his painting in 1955 and entrusted thousands of works to his manager yet many of his paintings are thought to have been lost. Fortin's artworks can be seen in the Musée des beaux arts Montréal (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) and at the National Gallery of Canada.

Painting by Rolland Montpetit reported stolen
Rolland Montpetit (Canadian, born 1913) produced the fourth painting reported stolen today on Art Alert.

The police do not release any other information about the paintings on Art Alert.

If you are interested in reading about Canada's largest art theft, you may find more information here.

Update: A fifth email from Art Alert reports that another painting, one by Pfeiffer, was stolen at the same time.

Painting by Pfeiffer also reported stolen

October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - ,, No comments

German Art Forger and Three Associates Sentenced to Total of 15 Years Jail

"An art forger and his three accomplices, who made at least 10 million euros ($14 million) by selling oil paintings they falsely attributed to famous artists, were today sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison by a court in Cologne," reports Catherine Hinkley for in "German Gang Jailed 15 Years Total for $14 Million Forged Ernst, Derains":
Dealers and collectors say confidence in the German art market has been shaken by the forgery scandal, described as the biggest ever in Germany, as art historians, museums and auction houses were duped by the fake pictures.
The defendants' "confessions" saved the state prosecution the cost of an extensive trial and "appearances that could have been embarrassing for some witnesses", reported Hinkley.
The forgers were only caught out when one buyer became suspicious and sent his picture to be examined by scientists. They discovered a paint color that had not existed at the time the work was supposed to have been produced. 
As many as 41 more paintings not included in the trial because of statutes of limitations may also be forgeries by Beltracchi. The scandal has also spawned a number of civil cases against dealers and auction houses, as well as the criminal trial. Kremer said today it is not the job of the court to try to uncover each forgery.
You may read previous posts on the ARCA blog here and here.

October 25, 2011

Virginia Curry: From the FBI to Etruscan archaeological sites

Southern Methodist University reported on October 18: "Ancient Etruscan childbirth image is likely first for western art".

by Virginia Curry

In 2009, I had the honor of lecturing at ARCA’s First International Symposium in Amelia on the topic of “Crimes by Those Most Trusted” in which I highlighted my interviews and investigation of Dr. Marion True which as an FBI Special Agent assigned to the Los Angeles Field Office, I performed pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request of the Italian Government. Those interviews resulted in the Getty Museum’s first return of two objects purchased without receipt or provenance: an Etruscan tripod and a candelabrum to Italy. After retirement from the FBI, I enrolled as a graduate student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, majoring in Art History and had an experience which re-kindled my desire to preserve and protect cultural patrimony. Now working on my thesis which considers the Etruscans in their funerary context, I am especially sensitive to our inability to now connect some of these artifacts with their historic context.

Also in 2009, I had the unique opportunity to participate in the six week Poggio Colla Field School and Mugello Valley Archeological Project as teaching assistant to Professor P. Gregory Warden, Distinguished Teaching Professor and Associate Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU, who co-directs this project with Professor Michael L. Thomas, University of Texas. Sponsoring institutions of the Poggio Colla Field School include the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, Franklin and Marshall College, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

The Poggio Colla Field School is unique because of its inter-disciplinary and hands-on approach to the regional landscape analysis which combines excavation, land survey, archaeometry and visiting lecturers who are leaders in their field, such as Professor Phil Perkins, London Open University and others. Professor Perkins, an expert on Etruscan black paste pottery known as “Bucchero” recently identified two pottery fragments excavated by a student in this field school at Poggio Colla as the earliest representations of a birthing scene found in Western art.

This is also an exciting program because of the emphasis given to local community outreach programs which include a local Dicomano Museum exhibit of the artifacts in their own region and opportunities for local Italian high school students to learn field techniques and excavate at the site with a local archeologist. Parents and students learn the importance of physical context of the find and pride in the preservation of their local history.

The goals of the Poggio Colla Field School are summarized on the Mugello Valley Project Website, “Mugello Valley Archeological Project” found at

“If archaeology is to survive as a discipline into the next century, it will have to develop a broader base of support and will have to change its image from an elite and esoteric discipline understood by only a chosen few. Archaeological sites are becoming endangered by pollution, construction, and human pressures that run the gamut from neglect to outright vandalism. We hope that over the years, through our field school, we will train a large number of individuals, some of whom may go on to become professional archaeologists, but most of whom, no matter what their career, will become advocates of cultural and archaeological preservation.”

October 24, 2011

New Zealand: "Stealing Beauty: Art Crime during War" A public lecture by Judge Arthur Tompkins

Judge Arthur Tompkins will deliver a public lecture on "Stealing Beauty: Art Crime during War" at 6 p.m. Friday, November 4, 2011, at Lecture Theatre 3 in the Old Government Building in Wellington. Across the road from the Parliament, the Old Government Building now houses the Law School of the University of Wellington.
“Art always suffers during wartime. From the sack of the Temple of Solomon, through the many crimes committed against the Ghent Altarpiece (above), and the depredations of Napoleon and Hitler across Europe, this has always been so. This lecture will survey fascinating examples of these sorts of crimes, the people involved, and some of the stories and myths surrounding them. 
“As well as the Ghent Altarpiece, the lecture will include the long history of the Four Horses of San Marco’s Basilica in Venice, the theft of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana, the sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade, the miracle of the Alt Aussee salt mine, and the bizarre story connecting Goya, the Duke of Wellington, James Bond, and television licensing fees.”
JUDGE ARTHUR TOMPKINS is a District Court Judge in Hamilton. He has presented at numerous international conferences and workshops, in New Zealand and elsewhere, on a variety of topics, including international art crime. Each year he teaches Art in War at the Summer Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime and Heritage Protection Studies, presented annually by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art ( in Umbria, Italy.

October 23, 2011

Marking the First Anniversary of the launching of the Cultural Plunder Database

This week marked the first anniversary of the October 18, 2010, launching of the Database of Art Objects that transited through the Jeu de Paume from 1940 to 1944. The ARCA Blog wrote about the Database here, here and here.

Marc Masurovsky, the Project's director, sent out an email to supporters that he has permitted the ARCA blog to publish here:
In order to celebrate 12 months of global usage of the contents of this historical database, here are some generic statistics that give some idea about the people who visit and use it. 
Thanks again to the Conference of Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Commission for Art Recovery, the interns, technicians, programmers, and volunteers who made this database a reality.
He provided the following information:

Number of pageviews: 377,715

Number of user source countries: 137

Top 10 user languages:
1/ English
2/ French
3/ German
4/ Dutch
5/ Spanish
6/ Italian
7/ Polish
8/ Danish
9/ Japanese
10/ Russian

Top 10 user countries (in decreasing order of importance):
1/ United States,
2/ France
3/ Germany
4/ Netherlands
5/ United Kingdom
6/ Spain
7/ Italy
8/ Belgium
9/ Canada
10/ Denmark

Top 10 user States in the US (by decreasing order of importance):
1/ New York
2/ California
3/ District of Columbia
4/ Massachusetts
5/ Texas
6/ Florida
7/ Virginia
8/ Illinois
9/ Pennsylvania
10/ North Carolina

The most popular artist queries were (in decreasing order of importance):

Picasso, Monet, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Rubens, Eugène Carrière, Greuze, Renoir, Chagall, Sisley, Teniers, Degas, Léger, Nattier, Modigliani, Sèvres vase, Pissarro, Manet, Rodin, Dali, Braque, Goya.

The most popular collection queries were (in decreasing order of importance):
Hugo Andriesse, Alexandrine de Rothschild, Louis Louis-Dreyfus, Rothschild, Arthur L. Mayer, Princess Colloredo, Adolphe Weiss, Frederic Unger, Riesener (Ball), Flavian.

The most viewed items were (by ERR number, name of artist/type of object and source user country):
1/ Unb 55/Salvador Dali (Spain),
2/ A Le 1/bronze of Napoleon (United States),
3/ Unb 326/Picasso (United States),
4/ KAP 21/Picasso (United States),
5/ A Le 32a/clock (United States),
6/ AD W1/Raphael (United States),
7/ Unb 30/Picasso (United States),
8/ Unb 327/Picasso (United States),
9/ Fla 39/Monet (France),
10/ Wbg 128/van Gogh (United States),
11/ Li 35/Renoir (United States),
12/ Li 38/Monet (United States),
13/ R 905/van Gogh (United States),
14/ R 1505/van Gogh (Germany),
15/ Unb 348/Monet (United States),
16/ Heilbronn 4/Monet (United States),
17/ Ha 1/van Ostade (United States),
18/ Wbg 127/van Gogh (Netherlands),
19/ Unb 39/Picasso (United States).

You may access the Cultural Plunder Database here.

October 21, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011 - No comments

Application Period for the 2012 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies is now open

Amelia, Umbria: Home of ARCA's summer program
The official application period for the 2012 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies is now open. Early Decision applications are due November 15, 2011 (and admissions notifications begin) which will enable students to purchase competitively priced airline tickets and begin the search for housing. Please contact ARCA at for detailed information on the application process for this summer’s programming.

The Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) 2012 Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies will be held from June 1 through August 10 in the beautiful setting of Umbria, Italy.

In its fourth year, this program provides students with in-depth, postgraduate level instruction in a wide variety of theoretical and practical elements of art and heritage crime: its history, its nature, its impact, and what is currently being done to mitigate it. Students completing the program earn a professional certificate under the guidance of internationally renowned cultural property protection professionals.

This program will expose participants to an integrated curriculum which occurs in a highly interactive, participatory, student-centered setting. Instructional modules include both lectures and “hands-on” learning from case studies, simulations, and group discussions. At the end of the program, participants will have a solid mastery of a broad array of concepts pertaining to cultural property protection, preservation, conservation, and security.


This interdisciplinary program offers substantive study for art police and security professionals, lawyers, insurers, curators, conservators, members of the art trade, and post-graduate students of criminology, law, security studies, sociology, art history, archaeology, and history.

Important Dates:

November 15, 2011 - Early Decision applications due (Admissions notifications begin)
January 15, 2012 - Regular Decision application due
February 01, 2012 Regular Admissions notifications
May 30, 2012 – Students Arrive in Amelia, Italy
June 01, 2012 – Program Orientation
June 04, 2011 – Classes begin
August 10, 2012 – Classes end
August 11, 2012 – Students Depart

You may obtain more program information by emailing ARCA at

October 20, 2011

Tracking Ozgen Acar's Adventures in the Turkish Press

Journalist Ozgen Acar has crusaded for the return of looted antiquities from Turkey for decades. He recently sent out a link to various articles published in the Turkish daily newspapers "Hurriyet" and "Cumhuriyet" about Ozgen Acar's long mission to bring "Weary Herakles" back to Turkey.

These articles were published on 16 and 17 of September in "Cumhuriyet" and on September 16th in "Hurriyet".

The articles talk about Ozgen's long battle to bring the upper half of the statue back to Turkey. More "Like a Police Mystery Movie-Whodunit"; "Turkish Indiana Jones", "'Weary Herakles' is here and the "old fisherman" is on his way," according to Mr. Acar. "History should stay where it belongs."

Now that the statues of 'Weary Herakles' is displayed in the Antalya Museum, Ozgen Acar is retelling the highlights of his journey to bring the statue back to Turkey. The article talks about the importance of the statue, a replica of the original statue 'Weary Herakles' by Lysippos in the 4th century BC. It symbolizes Herakles after he killed the lion on his 12th mission. He is tired and leaning on a stick covered by the lion's skin. The statue was loved by the Romans and about 50 replicas were made. The original statue is missing.

'Weary Herakles" also has a sarcophagus in Perge. The smugglers tired to take this out of the country in the 1970s but they were not successful. It was unfortunately cut into pieces because it weighed 4 tons. Pieces were caught in a truck in Istanbul and some pieces were later found at the Getty Museum, which later returned them. Other pieces were in a private collection which Ozgen once saw during his visit to see the collection; although the collector denied the history of the pieces at the time, he later returned the pieces. Ozgen also found another sarcophagus that belong to the Perge Excavation in Brooklyn Museum and that too has been returned.

It was in the early 1980s when "Weary Herakles' was discovered on privately owned land between the Necropol (graveyard) and Perge. The owner of the land discovered the statue while illegally excavating on his property and didn't tell the authorities nearby what he had found (he covered it up and took it away with him at night). Mr. Yegenah, according to Ozgen Acar, was the international smuggler who brought the statue to the head of the Museum of Fine Art, Corneleus Vermule III who contacted Leon Levy and Shelby White. They purchased the statue with the museum for $1.5 million and went into the Leon Levy-Shelby White collection. The museum cut a deal that eventually Leon Levy-Shelby White would donate it to the museum.

Ozgen Acar says there will be 'another happy ending' on the "Old Fisherman" statue which he has been working on for its return for years.

October 19, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Hercules and his son Telephos in the Chiaramont Museum inside the Vatican

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

Updated August 19, 2013

Even the Roman general Pompey wanted a souvenir when he defeated Mithradates VI of Pontus and brought the Kingdom of Armenia into the Roman Empire.

In The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates: Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press, 2009), Adrienne Mayor has a photo of Hercules and his son Telephus in the Chiaramonti Museum at the Vatican. This sculpture shows Hercules in a lion-skin cape holding an infant. Ms. Mayor writes: "Recent analysis of portraiture in contemporary coins and sculpture suggests that the model for the little boy was none other than Mithradates!"

Heracles with infant Telephos
Pompey the Great recognized the likeness of the baby Telephus to Mithradates and took it to Rome after defeating Mithradates in 63 BC (Mayor):  "Pompey installed this Hercules statue in his Theater on the Field of Mars in Rome.  The statue was discovered in 1507 in Campo dei Fiori, near the ruins of Pompey's Theater."

The 19th century Chiaramonti Museum, one of the buildings known as the Vatican Museum set up more than 500 years ago.

In August 2013, when I revisited this subject, I found an image of the sculpture of "Heracles with infant Telephos" on the website of the Chiaramonti Museum. When I first wrote about this work in 2011 after reading Ms. Mayor's biography of Mithradates  on the sculpture of "Heracles with infant Telephos", the Chiaramonti had no such entry. The Chiaramonti writes that "Heracles with infant Telephos" is a second century AD copy.

Heracles with infant Telephos
Cat. 1314
This statue, which was discovered in Rome in the vicinity of Campo de' Fiori, was one of the first sculptures to come into the Vatican collections. Pope Julius II (1503-1573) exhibited it in the Courtyard of the Statues in the Belvedere. The presence of Heracles, in fact, leads us back to the mythological origins of Rome, and alludes in particular to the victory of the Romans over the tribes of ancient Latium. The god Heracles, with his club and lion skin, holds his son Telephos in his arms. Telephos is the son born to Heracles by the priestess Auge who was forced to abandon the child in the mountains of Arcadia, where he was nourished by a doe until he was rescued by his father.

Telephos became King of Mysia and one of the leading characters in a rich and complex mythology that sees him involved in the Greek expedition against Troy. This statue is a second century A.D. copy, probably of a Late Hellenistic original.

October 18, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: the Capitoline Museums’ krater of Mithradates VI Eupator the Great, king of Pontus

Bronze krater of Mithradates the Great
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

A large bronze vase, crafted under Mithradates the Great of Pontus, was stolen from Asia Minor during one of the Mithradatic Wars by either Sulla or Pompey; displayed in the seaside villa of a Roman Emperor; and owned by a pope before it entered the collection of the Capitoline Museum in Rome. This summer it visited Amelia.

According to the Archaeological Museum in Amelia, the krater may have been a gift to a school, a gymnasium, on the Greek Island of Delos for the inhabitants' support of Mithradates, the Greco-Persian ruler from the Black Sea kingdom who expanded his territory into Anatolia and Asia Minor to protest the occupation of the Romans and their taxation policies. The krater was likely shaped to mix wine with water and honey, and linked to Dionysus -- it is likely that the original vessel loops were decorated with branches and brunches of grapes (Museo di arcaeologico, Amelia).

In 87 BC, Mithradates’ generals fought for Roman-controlled Delos. “The destruction was devastating: the city was sacked and burned to the ground,” Adrienne Mayor writes in The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy (Princeton Press, 2009). “Thousands of able-bodied slaves, suddenly freed from Roman chains, joined the Greek liberation army. Mithradates’ generals killed virtually all the unarmed Italian merchants of Delos and sold their wives and children into slavery.”

On Delos, Mithradates’ generals looted the treasures from the great Temple of Apollo, then after storing most of the plunder on the island of Skiathos, moved the treasure to Aristion in Athens. The treasure was then used to finance Athens’ fight against Rome.

Mayor shows an image of this first century BC krater in The Poison King.  “During the First Mithradatic War,” Mayor writes, “this krater was apparently plundered by Sulla and taken to Rome.” [Mayor sites her information from a book by Deniz Burcu Erciyas, Wealth, Aristocracy and Royal Propaganda under the Hellenistic Kingdom of the Mithradatids in the Central Black Sea Region of Turkey. Colloquia Pontica 12. Leiden: Brill).

Whilst Mayor figures Sulla took the krater from Athens, information posted from the Archaeological Museum in Amelia this summer claims it was Pompey the Great who brought the krater from Greece to Rome with the spoils of war after the defeat of Mithradates. Regardless, both of these men looted from Mithradates.

Lucius Cornelius Sulla was dispatched by Rome to avenge the 88 BC massacre of Romans and Italians instigated by Mithradates the Great. Unfortunately, as soon as he left Rome, the 50-year-old Sulla (the name meant “Pimples” and referred to his complexion) suffered an upset by a political rival who declared Sulla “Public Enemy of Rome” and cut off his supplies and funds for 30,000 men. Before he could reach the Province of Asia, Sulla landed in Greece and began demands for money and fought for supplies. He eventually, as Mayor writes in The Poison King, “seized the sacred treasures of Greece, plundering the temples of Zeus at Olympia and Asclepius in Epidaurus. Selecting the most beautiful, precious art for himself, he melted down massive amounts of silver to pay his men and buy supplies.” Sulla destroyed Athens and then went on to the Province of Asia to win the First Mithradatic War.

Pompey the Great won the third and last of the Mithradatic Wars. In late 65 BC, the victorious Pompey, searching for Mithradates who had crossed to safety over the Caucasus Mountains, seized fortresses and treasures in Pontus. “The vaults at Talaura yielded cups of onyx and gold, splendid furniture, bejeweled armor and gilded horse bridles, Persian antiques, and the treasure from Cos – including the precious cloak of Alexander the Great,” Mayor writes.

The krater eventually reached the Italian peninsula:

"Two hundred years later, the krater belonged to the emperor Nero, who kept it at his luxurious seaside villa at Antium," Mayor writes.  "Unearthed from the villa’s ruins by Pope Benedict XIV in the eighteenth century, the bronze krater is now a centerpiece in Rome’s Capitoline Museum."

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was the grandson of Germanicus whose bronze image ended up in Amelia’s archaeological museum.

October 17, 2011

The Collecting History of Stolen Art: Amelia’s Bronze Germanicus

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

One of my reasons for writing about art crime is the history behind the objects stolen; artifacts in galleries and museums that physically tie us to the past. The collecting history of an object brings a historical context and a relevancy, a narrative from which we can differentiate some objects from the other hundreds or thousands on display. In this series on The Collecting History of Stolen Art, all of these objects can be found on display or in the collections of art or archaeological institutions. We can start with the bronze statue of Germanicus found in Amelia, the home of ARCA’s International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies program.

Amelia’s bronze Germanicus is the combination of different parts, according to scholar Giulia Rocco, author of La Statua Bronzea con Rittratto di Germanico da Ameria (Umbria) (Roma 2008, Bardi Editore Commerciale). Rocco’s book is a detailed examination of the restoration of the bronze statue found outside the historical center of Amelia in 1964 while workers were excavating a mill.

In the English translation of her abstract, Rocco writes:
The thorax belongs to the Hellenistic Age, around the beginning of the first century BC and can be attributed to a Greek, perhaps Pergamene workshop…. The statue, which the cuirassed torso belonged to could represent Mithradates VI, king of Pontus, because of the myth on the chest of the breastplate, which Achilles killing Troilus, perhaps an allegory of the wished destruction of the Romans as descendants from the Troians. It could be one of the numerous objects brought to Rome as booty in the age of the Mithridatic wars.
Adrienne Mayor, an independent scholar, published a new biography of Mithradates under the title, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadlinest Enemy (Princeton, 2011).

Mithradates the Great, of Greco-Macedonian-Persian descent and culture, objected to the Roman presence and subsequent onerous taxation policies in Asia Minor and Anatolia (now present day Turkey). In 88 BC, Mithradates organized the slaughter of 80,000 to 150,000 Romans and Italians living in the region. Then he established his headquarters in Pergamon, the kingdom bequeathed to the Romans in 133 BC and delivered a speech decrying his unification of the region against the Romans. Shortly thereafter, in the Theatre of Dionysus in Pergamon, he oversaw the execution of his Roman nemesis Aquillius, by melting gold and pouring it into the general’s mouth in front of an audience of 10,000 people.

It is probably at this time that the workshop in Pergamon made the cuirass that is now part of the Germanicus statue in Amelia. A cuirass is a piece of armor consisting of a breastplate and backplate fastened together.

Sulla, a ruthless Roman patrician commander dispatched to avenge Mithradates massacre of Romans and to recover Greece, according to Mayor in The Poison King, looted art from Greece to Asian Minor. It is possible that after the First Mithradatic War that he obtained the thorax that is now part of Amelia’s bronze Germanicas.

Rocco continues in her abstract:
It was subsequently transformed as an image of a Roman general speaking to his troops, probably one of the imperatores who fought against the king of Pontus. The provenance of the cuirassed bust and the chronology of the added parts, so as the fact that it has been found in Ameria, suggests that the bronze was transformed into a statue probably representing L. Cornelius Sulla, in whose honour monuments were erected in several municipia. 
Many years later, wishing to commemorate Germanicus, the monument was reused as iconic statue of the young prince, with a new head. This probably happened in the age of Caligula.
Germanicus was the father of the Roman Emperor Caligula.

The next post in this series will discuss more objects stolen by Sulla, including the krater on display in the archaeological museum in Amelia while Germanicus was displayed in Rome this year.

October 16, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Q&A with the Québec Art Crime Team

Québec Art Crime Team
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief Catherine Schofield Sezgin interviews the Québec Art Crime Team in the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime. In 2008, the Sûreté du Québec, in collaboration with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, created Canada's first national art crime enforcement unit now consisting of Jean-François Talbot and Sergeant Alain Dumouchel (both of the Sûreté du Québec) and Sylvia Dubuc, RCMP, and Sergent Superviseur Alain Gaulin (Sûreté du Québec).

Beginning in 2003, Jean-François Talbot worked for four years with Alain Lacoursière, an art historian and now-retired Montreal police officer, to develop a new investigative art crime team and Art Alert, an email bulletin sent out to 25,000 members of the art and police communities in 75 countries whenever artworks in Canada are reported stolen.

The team was interviewed in French. In acknowledgement of the international issue of art crime, the interview is presented in both French and in English translation.

A copy of this issue of The Journal of Art Crime may be found through the ARCA website or through

October 15, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: The Art Loss Register Recovery Update

"Portrait of a Man"
by Sir Henry Raeburn
In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Christopher A. Marinello, Executive Director and General Counsel for The Art Loss Register, answers the question "Is art ever stolen to order?"

Marinello serves as the ALR's chief negotiator and has mediated and settled numerous art related disputes for the world's largest private international database of stolen, missing, and looted artwork. In this editorial essay, he discusses the recovery of a photograph stolen from the Prague Museum; Andy Warhol's Candy Box; and a two-year dispute over Sir Henry Raeburn's 'Portrait of a Man', stolen from Joanne King Herring, who was portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film Charlie Wilson's War.

You may read Marinello's essay by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through ARCA's website or purchasing an individual issue through

October 14, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: Noah Charney on "The Art We Must Protect: Top Ten Must-See Artworks in New York City"

In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Editor-in-Chief Noah Charney writes "The Art We Must Protect: Top Ten Must-See Artworks in New York City."

Art historian Noah Charney selects works of art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Kouros, Edgar Degas' Nude Woman Bathing, Rembrandt van Rijn's Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer); the Brooklyn Bridge; Edward Hick's The Peaceable Kingdom at the Brooklyn Museum; Kazimir Malevich's Untitled Suprematist White-on-White at the Guggenheim Museum; Robert Campin's The Merode Alterpiece at The Cloisters; the Chrysler Building at 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue; Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at MoMA; and Bronzino's Portrait of Lodovico Capponi at the Frick Collection.

Find out why you should run all over NYC to see these artworks by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through ARCA's website or by purchasing this issue through

October 13, 2011

Professor Jennifer Kreder Clarifies Statement Made to The New York Times about a 16th Century Painting on Extended Display in a Nazi-era Looted Art Dispute

Jennifer Kreder, a participant in ARCA's 2010 International Art Crime Conference where she spoke about the issues of Nazi-era looted restitution claims, would like to clarify an opinion of hers that was roughly quoted in the New York Times in the October 12 article, "For Florida Museum, Dispute Over Romano Painting is a Boon".

A U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida ordered the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science in Tallahassee to 'hold onto' a 16th century painting by Girolamo Romano,  on loan from the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan at the close of a Baroque exhibition last month. The American Institution "renegotiated its contract to display" Christ Carrying the Cross Dragged by a Rogue (1538) while 'Italian officials in Rome' 'negotiate with the family of Giuseppe Gentili, which says the collaborationist Vichy government in France seize dthe painting and sold it at auction in 1941,' journalist Patricia Cohen reported.

Kreder is Chair of the American Society of International Law’s Interest Group on Cultural Heritage and the Arts and Professor at Salmon P. Chase College of Law in Northern Kentucky University.

According to Jen Kreder, something got lost in translation by the time the article hit the press.  Although Kreder cannot comment on the merits of the claim, she said that it is particularly surprising that no one on the Italian side, which had knowledge of the claim, seems to have insisted that the museum apply for immunity from seizure, which is not available after the object is in the U.S.  Before this incident, Professor Kreder published the following article in the Washington University Law Review discussing the prior Wally, Benningson/Alsdorf Picasso and Jullian Fallat seizures, which may be of interest to readers:

October 12, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 - , No comments

A Dangerous Turn for Rhino Thefts

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA Blog Contributor

Over the course of the summer, museums throughout Europe have been targeted by thieves in search of rhino horns. When I last wrote about this strange series of events in June, the theory that was floating around in the news was that the thieves were looking to make a profit on the black market, selling the horns off to people wanting ivory or the medicinal properties associated with these horns. Museums had been urged to take their horns off display and store them off-site to avoid being added to the growing list of those robbed.

Things have changed since then.

The Ipswich Museum has been added to the list of museums hit by the rhino horn thieves. As the Museum Journal reports, “According to law enforcement agency Europol, the recent spate of thefts is the work of an Irish gang.” The rhino horns are being sold for very large amounts of money to people looking to benefit from the medicinal properties which are rumored to include curing cancer and reversing the effects of a stroke. However, this may not be the case given the new steps that museums are taking to protect their collections: taxidermy heads and cast horns. The problem with taxidermy is that it involves arsenic and could taint the horns which could be harmful if they are digested.

Definitely not the cure for cancer that someone out there is looking for.

Ms. Hower, a former ARCA 2011 Intern, now studying Arts of Europe at Christie's Education in London, also blogs at The Wandering Scholar.

October 11, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 - ,, 2 comments

Post from Norway: Odd Nerdrum Denied Painting Privileges (Part III)

by Therese Veier

As to the issue of denying Nerdrum to paint, convicts in Norway are usually encouraged to paint or take art classes during their time in prison. The Justice department states to the media, that according to Norwegian laws, it is forbidden to exercise business while in prison. Since Nerdrum makes his livelihood by painting art works, he can possibly make money by selling the works he paints in prison either during or after his sentence is completed.

Nedrum is a controversial person in Norway - many find him provocative and his painting style dated. But personal feelings set aside, is it a lot harder for an artist to be forced not to make art for a limited time period than it is for people in other occupations to be denied performing their occupations?

Is anyone familiar with other similar cases regarding artists and; messy accounting, lack of reporting income, tax evasion, and being refrained from making art for a certain duration of time?

The verdict from the district court has been appealed, and might change in a higher court, but still the verdict is sending a signal to artists and other professionals.

Facts about Odd Nerdum (1944 - ):

Norwegian figurative painter. Some call him a modern classicist.

After studying at the Art Academy in Oslo, Nerdrum later studied with Joseph Beuys, at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

His primary influences are Carvaggio, Rembrandt and Tizian. One of his most known works are "The Killing of Andreas Baader" from 1977-1978, where he portraits the terrorist as a victim.

His opinions on art have caused several media debates the past 30 years. About 10-12 years ago Nerdrum stated that his art should be understood as kitsch rather than art as such. "On Kitsch", a manifesto composed by Nerdrum describes the distinction he makes between kitsch and art.
Nerdum suffers from Tourettes syndrome.

In 2002 he officially claimed that he would never again make any comments or statements to the Norwegian press.

Over the years Nerdrum has had several pupils / assistants that have wanted to learn his craft because his approach to painting is based on traditional methods that include mixing and grinding his own pigments, working on canvas he had stretched or stretched by assistants rather than on pre-stretched canvas, and working from live models often himself, and in many cases members of his own family. Several of his pupils have said that they feel like outcasts who are not respected in art circles because they aspire to paint figuratively and are inspired by renaissance and baroque artists.

In December 2003 Nerdrum left Norway and bought a house on Island, a country he had travelled to for several years. The landscape on Island, especially the volcanoes and the color of the soil has been of particular interest to the artist, and often served as backdrop for his paintings. In 2011 the artist returned to Norway, he currently resides at Rødvik farm in the Norwegian city Stavern.

October 10, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011 - ,, 2 comments

Post from Norway: Tax Evasion or Conservation Repayment? Odd Nerdrum's Troubles (Part II)

by Therese Veier

Odd Nerdrum kept a storage box in an Austrian bank where he stashed $ 900,000. Why he did this is disputed and seems to be at the core of the disagreement. According to the district court, there is substantial evidence that the artist kept the cash in a storage box in a foreign bank in order to intentionally withhold a substantial amount of profit made from the sale of art works from the IRS.

The artist’s explanation as for why he needed to store such a huge amount of cash is the following:
I kept the money in a bank vault in Austria, as an insurance fund against damages, resulting from a period where I used a particular oil paint that after a few years began to “melt” and slide down the canvas on a variety of pictures that had been sold.
The artist states that he has tried to remedy some of the damage by painting new pictures that would replace the old ones, in addition to putting aside funds in a safety deposit box intended to be used as compensation to collectors that had bought damaged works. At the most, the cash amount in the bank box was $ 900,000, according to Nerdrum.

However the district court does not believe the artists explanation about why he needed and kept a deposit box with cash, because the artist has changed his statements and various reasons as to why he kept such a huge amount of cash in a storage box, and the judge does not believe the artist when he claims that the storage box belongs to his American art dealer.

As to the two-year jail sentence, in the past, courts have tended to be stricter in their punishments for white-collar crimes. Should artists be treated differently from other people just because they claim to be no good with numbers? Does the commercial art world and art speculation encourage artists to, perhaps unintentionally, violate rules for reporting sales and keeping correct accounting of their income without really understanding the full consequences of their actions? Like other professionals, artists have to submit to the same laws and regulations regarding taxes as others, and if their financial abilities are limited they should hire help. But up until now I have not heard of other similar cases where the artist has been sentenced to jail for several years and specifically forbidden to make art works in that period.

This story will be concluded in tomorrow's post.

October 9, 2011

Post from Norway: Odd Nerdrum's Accounting and His Tax Problems (Part I)

by Therese Veier

This post could be subtitled "Don't mess with the IRS -- the Norwegian IRS in this case".

On the 17th of August the Norwegian artist and painter Odd Nerdrum was sentenced to two years in prison by the district court in Oslo. The artist was found guilty of consciously having tried to conceal his total income in order to evade taxes. In addition to the prison sentence, the artist will probably not be allowed to paint during his two years of imprisonment. According to the court, Nerdrum has sold paintings for 10,5 million NOK in the period 1998-2002 without reporting this income to the IRS. The income Nerdrum reported to the IRS in 2009 was 2,2 million NOK. The artist is listed with a fortune of 10,3 million NOK. The artist has also been condemned to pay the legal fees. Before the court case started, the artist had paid his outstanding tax amount and settled his debt with the IRS. The amount was not disputed by the artist during the trail.

Nedrum’s defense lawyer, Tor Erling Staff, told the Norwegian paper Aftenposten that the verdict will be appealed immediately because it has been carried out a selective choice of information in the case and that not all issues have been discussed.
My impression is that the district court thinks Nerdrum lacks credibility and instead must prove his innocence, says Staff.
Nerdrum is furious with the court because a prison sentence means he will loose his American visa.
Two years in prison and I lose my visa to the United States. Now I cannot be a guest teacher at Maryland Institute College of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art or New York Academy of Art, says Nerdrum.
The artist states to the press that it feels like the Norwegian government is executing a vendetta against him.

Awaiting his appeal the artist is now hiding from the press in his castle, situated in Maisons-Lafitte, a fashionable suburb outside Paris. The estate is registered to his wife, and was recently purchased by her company. It is intended to be used as a family house, with ample room for Nerdrum’s pupils.

About the district courts verdict - the court claims that it had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Nerdrum had devoted considerable effort to hide the total sum of his income from Norwegian authorities. It is especially aggravating that the profit from this income has been hidden in such a way that the risk of discovery has been very small.


This story will be continued in tomorrow's post.

Therese Veier previously contributed to the ARCA blog on the subject of Edvard Munch.

October 8, 2011

Lessons from Sandy Nairne's book, "Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners": Anti-gang police arrest 3 in Paris museum theft and stolen Picasso paintings from Zurich recovered in Serbia

Interior view of Paris museum (photo by Catherine Sezgin)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

Here's a link to ArtInfo's summary of the arrest of three people arrested for the theft at Paris' Modern Art Museum. The story reminds me of Sandy Nairne's depiction of an art theft in his book, Art Theft and The Case of the Stolen Turners. Organized crime was involved and the presence of a specialized police group in Paris seems to indicate professional criminals planned the robbery of the Paris museum. In the case of the stolen Turner paintings, the thieves gave the paintings to a 'handler' who passed the artwork on. Years passed before the Tate was able to negotiate a reward for the return of the paintings.

Nairne, now director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, himself writes in his introduction: "... the loss of the two late Turner paintings in Frankfurt in 1994 appears as part of a sequence that includes the attack on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990, the thefts of versions of The Scream in Oslo in 1994 and 2004, the loss of Cellini's Saliera in Vienna in 2003 and the theft of of works by Matisse, Picasso and others from the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris in May 2010."

As Nairne outlines in his book, the Tate in London loans two paintings by J. M. W. Turner (then valued at 24 million pounds and insured to travel) to a public gallery in Frankfurt in 1994 on July 28.  The front entrance door of the Kunsthalle had been locked by the night security guard at 10.10 p.m. the previous night after the last of the evening visitors had departed'.  The guard was attacked and then tied up in a cleaning cupboard. Nairne explains how it happened:

"The thieves had entered the gallery toward the end of the day, staying behind after hours and overcoming the night guard.  But how did they get out again? It seemed by using the guard's keys, unlocking the back entrance area and opening the big doors, so gaining access to the goods lift and from there to the loading bay.  This might have been fairly straightforward, but crucially, it was possible only with knowledge of the security system and the internal layout to execute the operation swiftly.  While removing the paintings, the three men (two thieves and the waiting driver as it later emerged) would have been listening to the guard's radio, connection to Eufinger's [a Frankfurt security firm] headquarters.  This was their way of knowing whether any suspicions had been aroused."

In both the museum thefts in 1972 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and in 2010 at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, the thief or thieves had knowledge of the security systems' vulnerabilities -- in Montreal the repair of a skylight had disabled the alarm and in Paris the security system was awaiting the delivery of a part. Three security guards were alleged to have been on duty the night of the theft in Paris but nothing in the press has explained the whereabouts of these guardians while the small gallery was being robbed.

The initial investigation in Frankfurt, Nairne writes, was conducted by the Franfurt-am--Main Organized Crime Squad.  "After setting up a reconstruction, collecting evidence from the Schirn Kunsthalle staff and from witnesses that evening, the Squad eventually got to the point of being able to make arrests," Nairne writes (page 53).  "Over a period of time they arrested nine suspects, only some of whom they could actually connect with the emerging evidence."

Nairne quotes Jurek "Rocky" Rokosynski, a (London) Metropolitan Police undercover officer's recollections:
"The thieves and the handler were arrested soon afterwards.... Apparently they had an alibi for the actual time of the robbery.... But the clock was hours out of time, and only years afterwards, when the clock was checked against the actual time of the theft, did the truth emerge.... The police had their thumb prints or partial prints right from the start, because they had left them at the Schirn.  There was also a third person, a 'handler'. He was the one that the BKA put an undercover agent onto, to try and obtain the paintings, but each time he was arrested he would keep his mouth shut and would have to be released again."
The partial prints led police to the red light district of Frankfurt and into the criminal underworld.  Rocky recalls: "The van that was used linked to a driving license itself linked to one of the red light district establishments, run by Serbs. But in a police interview, if they don't have to say anything, they just don't say a thing."

It took the Tate over a decade to negotiate the return of the paintings.  You can read the rest of Sandy Nairne's fascinating book to find out how the paintings came home.

In other news, "Swiss Locate 2 Stolen Picassos" from Zurich? Where? Serbia.  In the 1960s it was the Corsican mob stealing paintings in the South of France.  Are we now seeing evidence of Serbian organized crime either commissioning or purchasing stolen art?

October 7, 2011

An online review of Christie’s sale of "Antiquities" in London on October 6

This week my attention was drawn to Christie’s sale of “Antiquities” on October 6 when a friend told me that she had seen ‘Germanicus’ at the preview in South Kensington, London. Since I am writing an art crime mystery about the fictional theft of a bronze Germanicus from Amelia, Umbria, Italy, I was curious about which ‘Germancius’ was for sale.

Christie’s online catalogue describes “A Roman Marble Portrait Head of Germanicus”, dated circa 10-19 AD, as:
His head inclined to the right, with strong features, prominent chin and aquiline nose, his narrow lips bowed, his hair spiraling from the crown and falling onto his forehead in thick pincered waves. 12¾ in. (32.4 cm.) high
Under “Provenance” the information is provided as follows:
Marie Ghiringelli collection, Monte Carlo, 1920s-1950s; thence by descent to Mr. G. Huguenin, Switzerland, 1955.
I did a simple Google search for “Marie Ghiringelli, Monte Carolo” and found an “Antonio” who had been involved with opera and “G. Huguenin, Switzerland” appeared to possibly be a gallery of sorts in Switzerland. I am not an expert in this kind of thing and I emailed Christie’s for more information but you can imagine that on the eve of a big auction that they were really busy.

The price for Germanicus, estimated at 200,000 to 300,000 British pounds was out of my budget, but if I had been a prospective buyer, I would look for information that this object was in compliance with the 1970 Convention. Information that it had been in two collections, as long as this information was true, would have given me as a buyer some comfort. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend 300,000 British pounds just to find out I’d supported a network promoting organized crime. You might say, why buy it then? Well, I have spent years studying Germanicus and this object would just be too tempting for me. However, one of the questions that would remain unanswered is, where did this object come from? Did it sit in Nero’s seaside villa in Anzio (Nero was Germanicus’ grandson) or did it belong to Caligula (Germanicus’ son and the ill-fated emperor?)

This is the information that Christie’s did provide to prospective buyers:
Germanicus Julius Caesar, (15 B.C.-A.D. 19) was the son of Drusus Major and Antonia Minor and the brother of Claudius, who later became emperor. Tiberius (reigned A.D. 14-37) was his uncle and adoptive father. Germanicus' military career was distinguished; he commanded the eight Roman legions on the Rhine frontier, recovering two of the legionary standards lost after a military disaster in the Teutoberg forest (A.D. 9). He became immensely popular among the people of Rome, who celebrated his military victories. The Roman biographer Suetonius in hisLife of Caligula, III, describes Germanicus' "... unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men's regard and inspiring their affection." Following his untimely death through illness at Antioch at the age of thirty-four, he was elevated to god-like status. 
This portrait was probably set up high and near a wall or in a niche because of the low relief carving of the locks of hair at the back of the head. Based on the fringe over the forehead and physiognomy, the present portrait is likely to belong to a group of portraits known as the Beziers type which originate with a head from Beziers, now in Toulouse. Cf. F. Johansen, Roman Portraits I, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1994, pp. 126-7, no. 51. For the typology, cf. H. Jucker, Die Prinzen auf dem Augustus-relief in Ravenna. Mélanges d'histoire ancienne et d'archéologie offerts à Paul Collart, Lausanne, 1976, p. 254, no. 91.
The ‘collecting history’ of this piece is minimal and the actual information of where this object came from is not mentioned – all we are told is that it ‘was probably set up high and near a wall or in a niche because of the low relief carving … likely to belong to a group of portraits known as the Béziers type which originate with a head from Béziers, now in Toulouse.”

What and where is Béziers? It’s an ancient town in the southeast of France in Languedoc (I stayed there in Vergeze for two weeks in 2006), a former Roman town known as Baeterrae. The Romans apparently, according to Wikipedia my go-to-classical history guide, colonized it in 36/35 BC. I was not able to find information about the heads of Béziers that are now in Toulouse (another city I’ve stayed in). But my guess from exploring this information is that they are first century Roman marbles that were displayed in a small town in the southeast of France. However, just visiting those areas years ago didn’t give me any additional information – I mostly remember vineyards and a great science museum.

Did this marble head of Germanicus sell at Christie’s on Thursday?

Christie’s has a magnificent website that provides ‘Auction Results’ on the items sold. The sale in South Kensington of ‘antiquities’ totaled 3,491,862 British pounds. Christie’s provides a list of the sales price for each item.  In looking through the 251 items offered for sale, 20% of the items did not sell. When I sorted the lots by “estimate (high to low)”, I found that two highly valued items that did not sell.

An Attic red-figured pointed neck-Emphora”, attributed to Skyriskos, circa 475-450, valued at 250,000 to 350,000 British pounds, was not sold according to Christie’s online auction results. The “provenance” on this item was from a private German collection and acquired in Switzerland in the 1960s. It was labeled “Beazley Archive no: 30676”. This information shows ownership prior to 1970, the agreed upon date by UNESCO members desiring to create an international treaty to stop the looting of archaeological sites and the sale of stolen antiquities. That information might provide me with some comfort that it had not been recently dug up.

The second most expensive object in the auction, my Germanicus marbel head, did not sell.

Neither did the 3rd century BC “Greek Parcel Gilt Silver Phiale” estimated at 100,000 to 150,000 British pounds.  Its “Provenance” is identified as from a private London collection in the 1980s; a private collection in Switzerland; and acquired by the current owner on the ‘Swiss art market’ in 1993. 

Are buyers also sensitive to objects that appear not to be in compliance with the 1970 Convention? If items are not selling, will Christie’s auction house provide more detailed information about the ownership or collecting history of these objects in order to facilitate a sale? Are they already thinking that they should do more to reassure their clients that the objects are not looted? After all, a company such as Christie’s which is providing all this information on the Internet for everyone – museum officials, archaeologists, academics and law enforcement to see – and enabling buyers worldwide to purchase the objects online – would be unlikely to engage in selling stolen property, eh?

What did sell at Christie’s London auction of ‘Antiquities'

The most expensive item that did sell at Christie’s London October 6 auction was “A Roman Bronze Portrait Head of a Man”, circa second quarter of the 3rd century AD, for 457,250 British pounds (US$705,080). The stated “Provenance” of this object is from a private collection in Germany in the 1980 and acquired by the current owner in 2001. This information might not satisfy a buyer’s question as to whether or not this item had been smuggled out of Italy or possibly even Bubon in southwestern Turkey.   The “Lot Notes” on this item, which sold for almost $1 million, does not indicate where this object came from, only that it was from the period of the Soldier Emperors (235-284 AD).

A Greek Marble Head of Young Girl” sold for 313,250 British pounds or US$483,032. The “Provenance” states that it was owned by "P. Vérité in Paris in the 1920s" and passed on to "C. Vérité of France". As a buyer, I might feel more comfortable purchasing this antiquity and less concerned that someone would claim that it had been found in the ground in the last four decades.

Looking at the auction results from the Kensington sale at Christie’s, approximately 55 or about 20% of the items didn’t sell. Although the auction results state the “price realized”, the buyers are not named and these items will not be able to be publicly tracked. If you contact Christie’s, you will likely be told that the information of the purchasers is private. Of course, would every Porsche owner want his or her name publicized when a vehicle is purchased? But this gets into the whole debate of who owns cultural property. Where did these objects come from and how did they get to the auction house in London? Where will they be going now? These artifacts are the collective memory of human history; each item commemorates an aspect of being human and provides historical perspective, possibly understanding of current society.

For all UNESCO’s efforts to stop the trafficking of looted antiquities, what are the auction houses doing to reassure buyers that the items were legally obtained? These objects are so beautiful that if I had the money to purchase them, I would like to feel comfortable with the investment. Or will the purchase of antiquities go the way of fur coats?

Christie’s does have another way of communicating with prospective buyers about the auction through an easily accessible e-catalogue. The pages are beautifully displayed and contain much of the same information as the website.  Page 41 introduces the “Property from the Collection of the Late Gabrielle Keiller (1908-1995).  Her third husband, archaeologist Alexander Keiller and ‘sole heir to a Dundee marmalade firm’, opened a museum in Avebury and contributed to ‘one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain’ (English Heritage).  Mrs. Keiller collected modern art and bequeathed her 20th century collection to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  According to the catalogue, Gabrielle Keiller purchased three Cycladic works up for sale at the auction in 1981 from B. C. Holland Inc. in Chicago in 1981.  However, there is no information as to when B. C. Holland came into possession of the objects.

On page 43 of the catalogue is an object, Lot #61 titled “An East Greek Bronze Griffin Protome” whose “Provenance” is described as being “with Robin Symes London; with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1988; and the Morven Collection of Ancient Art.  I don’t know what that means.  When did Robin Symes have this 6th century BC object? Sometimes “East Greek” means the land known as “Asia Minor” which is now the Republic of Turkey.  I just finished reading a few articles from Turkish journalist Özgen Acar which describes the smuggling ring of antiquities where Robin Symes intersects.  Symes is a former antiquities dealer who went to prison for in 2005 and whose activities are documented in Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini’s 2006 The Medici Conspiracy, the Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums.”  I am willing to believe that Christie’s auction house would not trade in illegal antiquities but I don’t know what I am to understand from this information as it is stated here.

Christie’s does have a paragraph on page 170 at the back of the brochure, which I presume is fairly standard:

(c) Attribution etc Any statements made by Christie’s about any lot, whether orally or in writing, concerning attribution to, for example, an artist, school, or country of origin, or history or provenance, or any date or period, are expressions of our opinion or belief.  Our opinions and beliefs have been formed honestly and in accordance with the standard of care reasonably to be expected of an auction house of Christie’s standing, due regard having been had to the estimated value of the item and the nature of the auction in which it is included.  It must be clearly understood, however, that due to the nature of the auction process, we are unable to carry out exhaustive research of the kind undertaken by professional historians and scholars, and also that, as research develops and scholarship and expertise evolve, opinions on these matters may change.  We therefore recommend that, particularly in the case of any item of significant value, you seek advice on such matters from your own professional advisers.” 
Christie’s catalog also states that it is an agent and that all transactions are between the seller and the buyer, yet the names of sellers are not identified in most cases.  Who is really putting these items up for sale?

While many items require a major investment, other objects are for sale for thousands of US dollars or British pounds. It seems that even though I could conveniently see this auction and view real-time results on my iPhone or iPod Touch (as touted by Christie's), I’ll need a lot more than money before I feel comfortable purchasing an object of antiquity at auction.

October 6, 2011

Top Half of Turkey's Herakles Sent from Boston's MFA to Istanbul in Prime Minister's Private Jet

Özgen Acar publishes an article in one of Turkey's largest newspapers on a subject he's covered for decades.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The rumors began last July that Boston's Museum of Fine Arts had agreed to return the top half of 'Weary Herakles' to Turkey, but the official announcement did not come until September and within a few days the Roman marble was enroute to Turkey on the Prime Minister's private jet.

Geoff Edgers, reporter for Boston's Globe, reported from Antalya on July 17th in "Making 'Herakles' whole after all these years" that after 20 years of denials the Boston museum would return the top half of the 1,800 year-old statue to Turkey.  Malcolm Bell, a University of Virginia professor quoted in the article, was also mentioned in "Chasing Aphrodite," the nonfiction book by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino.  Dr. Bell was director of the archaeological site in Morgantina in Sicily from where the 'Aphrodite' statue recently returned from the Getty.

The person who emailed me the link to Edgers' online article was Özgen Acar, the Turkish journalist who has chased down the Lydian Hoard and the Weary Herakles for decades (as featured in Sharon Waxman's book Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World).

I had met Mr. Acar in Ankara in July 2010 and he had given me copies of many of his articles, including "Turkey's War on the Illicit Antiquities Trade" (Archaeology, March/April 1995) and "The Turkish Connection: An Investigative Report on the Smuggling of Classical Antiquities" (Connoisseur, 1990). I asked Mr. Acar via email then for his response which was swift and passionate:
I’m very happy to learn that, following my discovery of the stolen Weary Heracles and related articles in 1990, yet another part of Turkey's historical heritage will be returned to Turkey. 
When my story was first published by Connoisseur Magazine, Cornelius Vermeule III [curator at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts], had made fun of me in his interview in the New York Times
He had said, "How can a statue have two navels?" 
He also said, that there were many Roman copies of the same type of Weary Heracles.
He added that the upper section was in the market in the mid 1950’s.
He lied twice.
 A) He had come to see the bottom piece in Antalya as a tourist; he knew the both pieces very well.
 B) He knew that the upper part had been brought to the Shelby White and Leon Levy couple in the early 1980’s.
I am not an archeologist but an investigative journalist. As the result of my investigation for many years, “The Lydian Hoard” (King Croesus Treasure), “The Elmali Hoard” (The Hoard of the Century) and many treasures were returned to Turkey.
Foreign collectors and museum officials have to respect the historical, cultural and religious heritage of every country. They belong, not only to Turkey, but to all mankind. History is beautiful where it belongs.
Mr. Acar has written about the theft of illicit antiquities out of Turkey for decades, identifying routes, naming individuals involved in the transactions, and how items were shipped and sold, including tying operators with Robert Hecht, an American antiquities dealer on trial in Italy on charges of conspiring to traffic in looted artifacts (associated with the sale of the Euphronios krater to the Met which was returned to Italy in 2009).

In 1995, Acar wrote of the archaeological museum in Antalya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast which had on display the lower half of the statue of Herakles -- "the upper half is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston" ("Turkey's War on the Illicit Antiquities Trade").  The museum also included a 'reassembled sarcophagus' which had had a piece returned by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu 'when Turkish archaeologists identified it as stolen'.  Another sarcophagus had been displayed at the Brooklyn Museum until it was returned to Turkey in 1994.

'Weary Herakles', which Acar wrote about in the same article in Archaeology magazine in 1995, is dated 170-192 AD and 'shows the tired hero leaning on his club.' The upper half of the statue was jointly owned by Leon Levy and Shelby White, New York collectors, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This is what Acar wrote then:
"In 1980 Jale Inan, director of excavations at the ancient city of Perge, northeast of Antalya, heard rumors that something important had been stolen from the site.  Later that summer, while excavating a Roman villa, Inan discovered the bottom half of the Herakles statue, as well as several other sculptures that were complete.  By 1981 the top half of the Herakles had been acquired by Levy, who gave a half-interest in the sculpture to the Boston museum.  The statue was displayed at the Metropolitan from late 1990 through early 1991 in an exhibition of White and Levy's collection titled Glories of the Past.  Turkey learned of the Levy-White Herakles from the exhibition catalogue (for which Boston's curator Cornelius Vermeule had written an entry on the statue) and from a photograph that was faxed to the Antalya Museum.  Articles in Connoisseur magazine and The New York Times showed the upper and lower halves of the statue photographically rejoined."
Although the two halves were shown to fit as early as 1995, the burden of proof was placed on Turkey to prove that the top half of Herakles had been stolen.

If you would like to read more about the return of Herakles to Turkey, you may find articles in English written here and here in Hürryet Daily News.