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December 23, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011 - , No comments

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

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

December 18, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

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

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

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

Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino

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

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

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

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

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

Sextus Roscius was acquitted of the accusation of parricide.

December 15, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 11, 2011

Museo Archeologico di Amelia: The Collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2011

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

by Kirsten Hower, ARCA 2011, ARCA Blog London Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 6, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011 - ,, No comments

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

by Therese Veier, ARCA Blog Norwegian Correspondent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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