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February 28, 2013

Boston's MFA's Provenance Curator Victoria Reed Lecturing Tonight at The Getty Center "Tales from an Art Detective: The Eventful Lives of Art Objects"

Victoria Reed, Monica S. Adler Assistant Curator for Provenance at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is speaking tonight at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on her work examining the ownership history of objects and the art-museum's policy and practice today.

Ms. Reed has been featured on the ARCA Blog previously: here in April 2011 as a panelist at a World War II Provenance Research Seminar; here in June 2011 regarding the MFA's settlement to keep Eglon van der Neer's painting, Portrait of a Man and a Woman; and here last summer in a post by Virginia Curry regarding a lecture to students at the Stonehill Art Symposium.

February 21, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - ,, No comments

Jonathan Keats' FORGED: Eric Hebborn (1934-1996)

ARCA Blog Editor Catherine Sezgin continues her look at Jonathan Keats book FORGED. [Here's a link to a 45-minute documentary on the art forger Eric Hebborn on YouTube.]

What is History? Eric Hebborn (1934-1996)

The number of works by Eric Hebborn in public collections will never be certain.  Between the 1960s and his death in 1996, Hebborn created an estimated thousand drawings in the manner of various old masters, artfully mixed in with thousands more of legitimate origin that he handled as a dealer.  Though dozens of the fakes have been detected by curators, and more were revealed by Hebborn himself in his notoriously mischievous 1991 autobiography, Drawn to Trouble, the vast majority remain in circulation under names other than his own.

In his chapter on Eric Hebborn, Keats describes the forger’s schooling (which ended when Hebborn set the school cloakroom on fire) and artistic training. After earning numerous prizes and ‘had establishment credentials that were impeccable – and that would have ensured him a sterling career a century earlier, before modernism supplanted academic acumen with avant-garde innovation,’ Hebborn work for art restorers allegedly led to opportunities for fraud. Hebborn would never be convicted of forgery or any other crime – his punishment was a fatal blow to the back of his head at the age of 61. The forger, who even published a handbook on his techniques, blamed experts for the false attributions of his works.

Hebborn distinguished his operation from one blatantly out to make money by subscribing to a “moral code”: “Never sell to a person who was not a recognized expert, or acting on expert advice,” he vowed. “Never make a description or attribution unless a recognized expert has been consulted; in which case the description or attribution would in reality be the expert’s. Hebborn’s job was to create artwork that would silently telegraph the attribution he intended. To succeed, he needed to absorb not only the nuances of how the master drew or painted but also the intricacies of how the connoisseur reasoned.

In 1978 the Colnaghi & Co. in London recalled some Old Master drawings brought to them by Hebborn. Keats examines the possibility that Hebborn exaggerated his forgeries and his effect on the history of art.

Of course, his reputation as a fraud was what gave his confabulation credibility. He didn’t need to make five hundred forgeries after the Colnaghi affair; simply claiming to have done so was enough to throw art history into turmoil.  In fact, faking his fakery may have been his masterstroke, since no amount of sleuthing could detect forgeries that never existed.

We can imagine that any drawing lacking certain provenance is by Eric Hebborn, or by the school of Hebborn established with the publication of his Art Forger’s Handbook. By extension, we can see all art of any age as contemporary, eternally current, and perpetually relevant. Historians may fret, and philosophers may quibble. But for the artists who made the work, whoever they may be, forgery is immortality.

February 20, 2013

Jonathan Keats' FORGED: Han van Meegeren (1889-1947)

Han van Meegeren's "Supper at Emmaus"
Review excerpt by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Forged: Why Fakes Are The Great Art of Our Age
Jonathon Keats
Oxford University Press 2013 ($19.95, 197 pages)

What is Authority? Han van Meegeren (1889-1947)

In Jonathan Keats' book on art forgers, the San Francisco art critic recounts how in 1917 art critics loved Han van Meegeren’s first exhibit of his paintings; however, five years later critics panned van Meegeren’s exhibit of biblical paintings (personally I blame Cézanne for modernism in art).  Keats writes:
Though the gallery found buyers for van Meegeren’s virtuoso depictions of the young Christ teaching in the Temple and the supper at Emmaus, his earnings could hardly compensate for the injury to his reputation.
Van Meegeren would revisit the subjects of these paintings in two pivotal moments of his life.  He created and sold Supper at Emmaus as a Vermeer, then, after accused of collaborating with the Nazis by selling a Dutch masterpiece to Goering, he confessed to his forgeries. Had van Meegeren forged art to mock art experts or did he just want to make more money? After all, Keats writes:
Van Meegeren was well compensated for this work [‘flattering portraits of the upper crust’], generating an income that many avant-garde artists would have envied.  But in the early 20th century, no modern painter could command prices comparable to the old masters.  Picasso earned approximately $5,000 for a major canvas in the ‘20s.  By comparison, The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals sold for approximately three times that amount – and it was a counterfeit.  The painter? Han van Meegeren.
The counterfeit Laughing Cavalier was painted in 1922, two years before van Meegeren’s second exhibit met the disdain of art critics and years before he sold five Vermeer paintings. In a 1937 issue of the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Abraham Bredius, the former director of The Hague’s Mauritshuis Museum, praised [van Meegeren’s] the newly discovered Supper at Emmaus as the ‘masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer of Delft.’ Keats writes of van Meegeren’s forgery success:
On the strength of the laudatory text, and the author’s eminence, the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam acquired the painting for 520,000 guilders – approximately $3.9 million today – and made The Supper at Emmaus the centerpiece of a blockbuster exhibition on the golden age.
Conversation PieceThe Smiling GirlLace Maker, and a Portrait of a Girl with a Blue Bow were four paintings made by van Meegeren and sold as Vermeer paintings.  Art dealer Joseph Duveen sold The Lace Maker and The Smiling Girl to Andrew Mellon.  Keats writes about how the forger fooled the art experts:
In other words, the connoisseurship exploited by van Meegeren was the very basis of Vermeer’s art historical resurrection.  The authority he abused may have been venal and vainglorious – and jealously hostile to scientific verification – but there was no substitute for it.  Gullibility was the underside of open-mindedness.
Keats recounts the van Meegeren’s arrest for collaborating with the Nazis, how he subsequently diverted attention from his work for Hitler to confessing that the paintings allegedly sold to Nazis had been counterfeit Vermeers. He then participated in performance art by spending months in the former Goudstikker Gallery creating another forgery, The Young Christ Teaching in the Temple, to show off his ability. The Dutch public was led to believe that van Meegeren’s forgeries had resisted Nazi authority. The convicted forger died before beginning his prison sentence.  Keats writes:
For the experts and critics, the verdict and consequences were more ambiguous. Conveniently deceased before the trial, Abraham Bredius was universally condemned as a fool, while the few experts who had not been tricked took the opportunity to gloat.  Most noisily, the Duveen agent Edward Fowles publicly released a telegram he’d secretly cable to Joseph Duveen after seeing Emmaus in 1937: PICTURE A ROTTEN FAKE. When the New York Herald Tribune picked up his story, no mention was made of the suspect Vermeers that Duveen had sold Andrew Mellon. 
On the other hand, Dirk Hannema refused to accept that Emmaus was a fake and spent the rest of his life trying to establish its authenticity with funding from Daniël van Beuningen. Though no credible scholars took Hannema’s research seriously and he no longer had an official position at the museum, The Supper at Emmaus remained on exhibit at the Boijmans – with no mention of who’d painted it – until Hannema’s death in 1984.

The unlabeled Emmaus was a fitting tribute for Han van Meegeren, who’d shattered the authority that made him without fostering alternatives.
Van Gogh's Le Blute-fin Windmill and Dirk Hannema (AP)
However, Dirk Hannema's reputation did not end with his misidentification of van Meegeren's Vermeer forgery. Here's a link to a video about the controversial museum director's life in art connoisseurship and collecting (now at the Museum de Fundatie). Hannema spent years claiming that a painting of a windmill he'd purchased for 6,500 francs from a Parisian dealer was by Van Gogh -- and 25 years after his death the Van Gogh Museum authenticated Le Blute-fin Windmill.

The Boijmans exhibited Van Meegeren's Fake Vermeers in 2010.

February 19, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - ,,,, No comments

Dr. Joris Kila Reports on Feb. 1 Fire that Damaged the former American Embassy at the Historic Villa Casdagli in Cairo

Old interior picture of Villa Casdagli Hall
and Chapel. Photo by Jeremy Young.
This is a report from Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group (IMCuRWG) and adviser to the Austrian Committee of the Blue Shield and the Association of the National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS).

Dr. Peter Lacovara, a US Egyptologist working in Luxor, sent out an alarm early this month after vandals torched the former American Embassy, the Villa Casdagli, in Cairo on February 1. Alerted by the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Corine Wegener, president of U.S. Blue Shield, contacted Dr. Kila who was spending a week in Cairo to report on the damage. The fire set on Friday night was not extinguished until early Saturday morning.  

Fire damaged Villa Casdagli on Feb. 9Photo by Dr. Joris Kila
Villa Casdagli on the Midan Simon Bolivar is very close to the Tahrir Square. It was reported that later several adolescents had set fire to the interior of the villa and were were chased away by casual passer-by’s.

According to Dr. Lacovara's message on 4 February 2013, the Cairo fire department needed the security forces to clear Tahrir Square of demonstrators who were doing everything possible to stop the fire department from putting out the fire at the villa. As of 4.30 in the afternoon on February 4, fire was still smoldering in the upper floors and smoke was coming out through the windows. Plunderers were ripping out anything of value inside the villa. Dr. Lacovara had asked the fire department to revisit the premises, but they refused to do so as there was no roaring fire apparent, and they didn’t want to venture out and possibly cause another violent demonstration. The firefighters believed they would need protection to undertake this job but security forces were disinclined to break the calm that prevailed in the area.

Villa Casdagli's 2nd floor (Photo by Dr. Kila)
One week after the fire on Saturday Feb. 9, Dr. Joris Kila and Tilly Mulder, an advocate for Blue Shield in Egypt, went to the Midan Simon Bolivar. Most of the antique fence and that gate to the Villa Casdagli had been stolen, leaving the building unprotected and still vulnerable to looters. Kila and Mulder, joined by Egyptian architectural researcher Ahmad Al-Bindari, went inside and saw the devastation. The Byzantine hall in which Saint George was so well depicted in both the celestial ceiling and the hall’s extraordinary cloister (chapel) is severely damaged. The monumental staircase is completely destroyed by fire. Marble ornaments and fireplaces are broken with pieces scattered around. Everywhere in the building, useable parts are stripped and stolen. The second floor was found completely burned and ravaged.

Hall and chapel on Feb. 9 (Photo by Dr. Kila)
The team tried to get more information about who created this destruction and looting but this was difficult. The Villa is close to the Tahrir Square and more or less in a sort of riot zone. There is no police so everything is left unguarded. Unconfirmed rumors blame criminal elements who are also kept responsible for looting and damaging the lobby of the nearby Intercontinental Hotel. The website states: "the solitary winner here is the villa's latest owner who will no doubt sell this prime real estate to Qatar or replace it with a lucrative high rise’’.

The fact that the Casdagli Villa was an official monument did not make much difference. Last year another Cairo monument, the luxuriously furnished villa of Kevork Ispenian on the Pyramids Road, was looted and destroyed despite being on Egypt’s heritage list.

Back ground of the Villa Casdagli
The Villa Casdagli is a listed historic monument. It is an irreplaceable architectural landmark with distinguished architecture, European-style paintings, mosaics and special inlays. It was built during the first decade of the 20th century by Austrian architect Edward Matasek (1867-1912). According to the Casdagli family,  Emanuel Casdagli [a British educated Levantine family of Georgian-Central Caucasia origins dealing in the lucrative Manchester trade] purchased the building in 1911 after the British High Commander Sir Eldon Gorst moved to a 'more stately home.' One of Villa Casdagli's pre World War II tenants was the American Embassy. The building is situated next to the plot where the current US embassy is located.

The Villa Casdagli later became a school for girls named after Sudanese revolutionary "Ali Abdelatif". In 2006, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), now the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA), placed the villa on Egypt's heritage list as an Islamic monument. In 2008, the SCA, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Research Centre in Cairo (ARCE), developed a comprehensive restoration project for the building. The project was funded by the US Department of State's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation with a $5 million grant. After restoration the monument would become a new Institute of Museology, established by the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs to train curators on modern technology as used in world renowned museums. Courses would include museum presentation and exhibition design, restoration, museum studies and heritage management and the institute would offer MA and PhD programs.

On February 10 Dr. Kila and Ms. Mulder attended a meeting of the so-called ‘’Friends of Manial Palace Museum”. This NGO has good relations with the Antiquities Ministry (formerly Supreme Council of Antiquities) -- proof of this is that the meeting was held in the premises of this Ministry in Zamalek. During the meeting, it was understood that the ownership of the Villa Casdagli had been transferred from the Ministry of Education to the Antiquities Ministry which makes real-estate speculation less likely.

According to an article in Al Ahram online published 13 February and on the occasion of a symposium on the "Islamic view on cultural heritage", the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture" (IRCICA) issued the "International Declaration of Cairo", which protects Islamic as well as Pre-Islamic heritage. Among the participants were the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the Sheikh d'Al-Azhar and the Minister of Waqfs. The Grand Mufti announced that he is going to publish a book on short notice that collects all fatwas on the protection of heritage. The use of Fatwa’s to prevent abuse and destruction of Cultural Property which also happened in Iraq. In May 2003, just after the American invasion of Iraq had begun Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was asked by the archaeology inspector of Dhi Qar province in southern Iraq to announce a fatwa. The request was granted and Al-Sistani proclaimed that digging for antiquities is illegal; that both Islamic and pre-Islamic artefacts are part of Iraqi heritage; and that people with antiquities in their possession should return them to the museum in Baghdad or Nasiriya. Copies of the fatwa were distributed widely in the south, and published in the Iraqi press. As a result some of the looting stopped. Islamic leaders can have a major positive impact on protecting cultural heritage.


Email correspondence with Dr. Thomas Schuler Disaster Relief Task Force (DRTF) of ICOM, Cori Wegener USBS, Dr. Peter Lacovara.

Publications: Kila, Joris, “Can white men sing the blues? Cultural Property Protection in times of armed conflict deploying military experts,” in Laurie Rush
(ed.), Archaeology, Cultural Property and the Military, Woodbridge 2010, pp. 41–59

Kila, Joris. Heritage under Siege. Military Implementation of Cultural Property Protection following the 1954 (Heritage and Identity, 1). Leiden-Boston 2012.

Ahram online,Saturday, 16 February 2013

Looters smash jewel of Cairo’s colonial past | The Sunday Times Sara Hashash, Cairo Published: 10 February 2013

Al-Ahram Weekly On-line | Heritage | Back to school for museum staff, 19 - 25 May 2011, Issue No. 1048

Jonathan Keats' FORGED: Alceo Dossena (1878-1937)

Madonna and Child, marble
Alceo Dossena, 1930
San Diego Museum of Art

Artist and critic Jonathan Keats highlighted Italian forger Alceo Dossena in his book, FORGED: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age. A version of the chapter on Dossena was previously published in Art & Antiques Magazine ("Almost Too Good") in November 2011.

In 1925, the Cleveland Museum of Art paid $18,000 for a painted wood statue of a life-size Madonna and Child from a convent chapel in the town of Montefiascone near Lake Bosena north of Rome. Two years later, a series of X-rays revealed that the sculpture was not by Giovanni Pisano or any known Renaissance or medieval artist due to the presence of 20-th century nails used in the construction.  The Ohio museum returned the work to Europe before paying $120,000 for an ancient marble statue of Athena.  In 1928 AlceoDossena, angry that his fraudulent associates had made significantly more money than they had paid him for his forgeries, confessed he had made both works in his studio in Rome.

In his hometown of Cremona in Lombardy, Dossena learned painting and sculpture at a trade school then apprenticed for art restorers in Cremona and Milan, which gave him ‘practice in the traditional crafts, as well as a thorough knowledge of how to artificially age materials. Equally important, it put him in physical contact with the work of masters from Pisano to Mino da Fiesole to Simone Martini (Dossena would later create works that he would attribute to these artists).

Madonna and Child, wood, early 20th century
Alceo Dossena, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Dossena, who later claimed not to have intended to defraud anyone with his creations, was peddling artificially aged works in dive bars during World War I when he met two antique and art dealers who set him up in a studio after the war. It’s estimated that Dossena operated in his forgery studio from 1918 to 1928, providing product worth $2 million on the art market. Keats writes:

They benefited from the harsh economic conditions following World War I, which fostered a black market in genuine masterpieces illicitly sold by impoverished European institutions to the wealthy patrons of ambitious American museums.  Rumors were rife and alluring.  Even the Vatican was said to be furtively selling off hidden treasures.

In addition to the wooden Madonna in the style of Pisano, Dossena created dozens of works: an Annunciation in marble (Simone Martini) sold to Helen Clay Frick for $225,000; a marble sarcophagus (Mino da Fiesole) sold to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for $100,000; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased ‘a genuine piece of archaic Greek sculpture’ that went straight to the basement.

Immediately after Dossena exposed his work as forgeries in 1928, the Cleveland Art Museum called Dossena “among the greatest sculptors of the day” (this institution does not include any works by this artist in their collection online") . But when Dossena’s works were sold under his own name at auction in New York City in 1933, 39 pieces sold for a total of $9,125.  Critics then dismissed Dossena’s artistic talent in the seven years before his death. Keats writes:

The schism in Dossena’s reputation reflects the problem presented by his art, that it cannot adequately be categorized as true or false.  Neither the praise he garnered in the 1920s nor the condemnation that followed does his work justice.  He was an original and he was a copyist, and the compulsion to take sides merely reflects society’s categorical literal-mindedness.  Modern viewers deem authenticity a prerequisite for an artifact to be a work of art.  Dossena presented people with an authentic paradox.

February 18, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013 - ,,, No comments

Jonathan Keats' FORGED: What Is Belief? Lothar Malskat (1913-1988)

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

The artist who copyrighted his mind in 2003, Jonathan Keats, questions the concept of originality in his new book, FORGED: Why Fakes Are the Great Art of Our Age (December 2012, Oxford University Press).
‘We need to examine the anxieties that forgeries elicit in us now.  We need to compare the shock of getting duped to the cultivated angst evoked by legitimate art, and we need to recognize what the art establishment will never acknowledge: No authentic modern masterpiece is as provocative as a great forgery.  Forgers are the foremost artists of our age.’
I will leave it to our readers with a background in art history and visual arts to agree or disagree with Keats' premise (which he elaborates on in an introductory essay). What I particularly enjoyed were the chapters devoted to six 20th century forgers. Keats nicely sums up the works of these forgers, their explanations for breaking the law (or not), and discusses the impact these forgeries have had on the art market. Here on the blog this week I'll showcase each of these forgers and add a bit of online research that I couldn't refrain myself from doing as I read FORGED.

Keats highlights Lothar Malskat, a German restorer, who faked a mural in a damaged 14th century church after World War II; Alceo Dossena, an Italian sculptor, who created antiqued marbles in the 1920s; Han van Meegeren, a successful Dutch portrait artist, who forged six paintings by Vermeer and sold a couple of paintings to the Nazis; Eric Hebborn, forger of old master drawings from the 1960s until his murder in 1996; Elmyr de Hory who forged out of his studio in Ibiza until his suicide in 1976; and Tom Keating, former housepainter and restorer, who called his forgery work in the 1950s and 60s an act of socialism.

What is Belief? Lothar Malskat (1913-1988)

In May 1952, Lothar Malskat walked into a police station in Lübeck to report that he had forged the  supposedly restored murals in Marienkirche (the Lutheran St. Mary’s church).  Eight months earlier, the 13th and 14th century frescoes had been celebrated at the church’s 700th anniversary. In 1942, the fires from the Allied bombing of Lübeck on Palm Sunday had ‘peeled five centuries of whitewash off the walls, exposing enormous Gothic frescoes painted when the building was erected.  Dubbed “the miracle of Marienkirche,” the discovery was sheltered under improvised roofing until the war ended and structural repairs could begin.” In 1948, Lothar and his boss, Dietrich Fey, had been commissioned to restore the murals.

Lothar claimed that ‘He’d faked the medieval paintings on Fey’s orders, he said, and he was confessing because “that crook Fey” had treated him unfairly.’ Neither the police nor the media believed him. He hired an attorney and confessed to making phony Picassos and Rembrandts. The police searched his house and found evidence that led to an investigation commission and a trial.  Lothar and Fey were sentenced to eighteen months and twenty months, respectively, in jail.

At Marienkirche, the forged murals in the choir were plastered over but the forgeries in the nave – which Malskat had quickly repainted on the reprimed brick surface – are referred to in guidebooks as Goth frescoes with no mention of Malskat or the forgery conviction.

As for Malskat, before he could serve his jail sentence he fled to Sweden for a few years. Keats writes:
He decorated Stockholm's Tre Kroner Restaurant in the 14th-century Gothic style and recycled his Schleswig turkeys in ersatz murals for the Royal Tennis Court. Extradited to Germany in late 1956, he served his jail term and then faded into obscurity, eking out a living as a self-styled expressionist for his remaining thirty-two years.
Keats adds in a footnote:
Obscurity, not anonymity. A couple of years before Malskat died, the German author Günter Grass (a Lübeck resident) revisited the Marienkirche scandal in a novel called The Rat.
Book reviewer Malcolm Boyd for the Los Angeles Times in 1987 describes Grass' character Malskat as 'an honest man who forged cathedral artworks.'

FORGED was published two months ago by Oxford University Press. I purchased my copy from City Lights Books of San Francisco where Keats spoke in January. You can also read Keats on this subject in Art & Antiques here.

February 17, 2013

Cambodia Says Sotheby's Jane A. Levine Should Leave Culture Panel

Cambodia's minister of culture and fine arts protested the inclusion of Jane A. Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby's, on the U.S. Cultural Property Advisor Committee, according to a letter written to the U. S. State Department last fall (Tom Mashberg, "Cambodia See Ethical Conflict in Import Panel", New York Times, Feb. 15).

The panel is scheduled to discuss the regulation of Cambodian and Khmer Empire cultural artifacts, Mashberg reports, but Sotheby's says that due to a scheduling conflict Levine will not attend the meeting next month. Mashberg re-accounts the current legal dispute:

Sotheby’s and the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York are currently awaiting a judge’s ruling on whether to permit a lawsuit over a 10th-century Khmer statue, valued at $3 million, to go to trial. 
At Cambodia’s request, the American government sought last April to seize the hulking sandstone sculpture, depicting a mythic Hindu warrior, from Sotheby’s. Cambodia said the statue was looted in the 1970s from a crumbling temple in an ancient complex called Koh Ker. 
Sotheby’s has said that there is no proof that the statue was removed from Cambodia after 1970, and that its Belgian consignor’s husband, now deceased, had bought it in good faith from a London antiquities dealer in 1975.

Here's a blog post from October 2011 regarding Sotheby's sales history of objects from Cambodia based upon the work of Tess Davis of Heritage Watch.

February 15, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013 - No comments

NZ's Sunday magazine features international art theft expert and ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins

Here's a link to an article in the magazine of the Sunday Star-Times in New Zealand featuring ARCA Lecturer Judge Arthur Tompkins on how an Interpol DNA monitoring expert group in Lyon in 2007 led to an expertise on international art theft.

Judge Tompkins had taught a course, "Art Crime during Armed Conflict", in NZ; written about a proposed International Art Crime Tribunal; and taught in Amelia since 2010.

February 14, 2013

Non-profit Sustainable Preservation Initiative Launching Crowdfunding Campaign for Two Projects in Peru

by Rebekah Junkermeier, Sustainable Preservation Initiative

In two previous guest blog posts in May of 2012, I introduced the unique way the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI), a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, approaches the problem of cultural heritage site degradation. Often, this degradation is caused by residents of communities near the site that live far below the poverty line. In an attempt to provide themselves and their family with the essentials, they loot the site or use it for other purposes (grazing animals, growing crops, etc.). SPI fights looting and site devastation by empowering local residents through entrepreneurship. By investing in local businesses whose financial success is tied to preservation of the site, SPI preserves cultural heritage and alleviates poverty in these communities. Eight months later, I’m here not only to report the astounding results of our first two projects at San Jose de Moro, Peru, and Pampas Gramalote, Peru, but also to announce the launch of SPI’s crowdfunding campaign on to raise money for our two newest projects at Bandurria, Peru, and Chotuna, Peru.

San Jose de Moro
San Jose de Moro is home to one of the most important ancient cemeteries in all of Peru and a ritual center of the ancient Moche civilization, which flourished from 100-800 AD. Excavations have not only uncovered evidence of the Moche’s finely painted ceramics, but also their ritual of human sacrifice. Despite its rich cultural heritage, San Jose de Moro is also home to an impoverished community. Our project there has transformed the lives of local residents, creating over 40 jobs and generating over $16,000 in an impoverished community where the daily wage is only $9.50. Local archaeologists have reported that looting and destructive practices at the site have come to a halt as local residents now view the site as an economic asset.  After just one year of operations, the project is completely economically sustainable, no additional funding needed. 

Our second project at Pampas Gramalote, Peru, is well on its way to the same type of success. It has created 10 permanent jobs through a touristic and artisanal program, with trainees receiving practical lessons on how to carve gourds, their traditional uses in Peru and other countries, and their role at the archaeological site of Pampas Gramalote. It is providing the basis for further nondestructive and sustainable economic development. 2012 year-to-date sales have exceeded $3,000, with over $1,000 of online sales through NOVICA, an online global platform that connects local artisans to customers around the world. With such economic opportunities for local residents, we’re transforming lives in the surrounding community AND preserving its archaeological site.

This week, SPI is launching its first crowdfunding campaign on to raise the $49,000 needed for our two newest projects in Bandurria and Chotuna, Peru. Both sites are home to poor communities and rich cultural heritage. 

Bandurria Pyramids
Bandurria contains pyramids in Peru older than those of ancient Egypt. Excavations have revealed evidence of the origins of civilzation in the Andes. Chotuna is a 235-acre monumental temple and pyramid complex where several ancient royal tombs have been discovered. Just this past August, archaeologists discovered a remarkable burial over 1,000 years old containing such precious items as pearl and shell beads and gold earspools amongst four corpses -- the face of one covered with a copper sheet. Unlike any other tomb of a revered person in the region, this one was likely built by an ancient water cult and meant to be flooded periodically, perhaps as a means of ensuring the region’s agricultural fertility (see National Geographic article here).

Neither place, however, can afford such basics as running water and electricity or has a sewer system. There are few jobs, little income and no opportunity to escape this cycle of poverty. At Bandurria, our project will construct a communal artisan center where locals can produce their traditional reed weaving handicrafts and train future artisans, creating more local jobs in the community. The project includes a store for the sale of the handicrafts, a snack bar, and clean toilets for tourists. Our project at Chotuna empowers the local textile, gourd carving and other artisans by constructing a facility for artisan training and production as well as a small picnic and sales area for their work near the archaeological site.

By collaborating with local archaeologists, archaeological projects, and the local community, our project aims for nothing short of alleviating poverty and saving these archaeological sites, and we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to come on board.

Help us save sites and transform lives! Click here to makea tax-deductible contribution at today and spread the word by liking our campaign on Facebook, retweeting us on Twitter, or pinning our project video on Pinterest!

February 13, 2013

ARCA Alum Julia Brennan Invited to Speak at the Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia, Feb. 15-18, 2013

Julia Brennan
ARCA Alum (2009) and textile conservator Julia Brennan will be one of the speakers at the Conference on Protection of Cultural Property in Asia in the Kingdom of Bhutan this week.  Ms. Brennan has worked in Bhutan and Thailand for more than a decade. She will be speaking on "Deterring the Illicit Art Trade and Preserving Cultural Heritage: The Essential Role of Collection Care Professionals and Preventive Conservation" on a panel moderated by Professor Wendy Larson, a specialist in East Asian Language and Literature at the University of Oregon.

Here's a link to the final agenda for the conference to be held Feb. 15-18.  Speakers include: Mr. Etienne Clement, Deputy Director, UNESCO, Bangkok, "International Convention on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Objects and other specific action by UNESCO"; Jean-Robert Gisler, Switzerland, "Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property in Switzerland as a Market Country: Organization, Perspective and Institutional Policy"; Karl-Heinz Kind, Germany: "Role of INTERPOL in the Fight Against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property"; Tshewang Gyalpo, Bhutan: "Protecting Moveable Cultural Properties in Bhutan"; Martin Finkelnberg, The Netherlands, "Technical Aspects of Protecting Cultural Property - Networking: A case of The Netherlands"; Ann Shaftel, Canada, "Need for Implementing Security Training in Traditional Buddhist Monasteries and Nunneries"; Dr. Iain Shearer, "The Trade in Illicit Afghan Cultural Property in London: The Response of Key British Institutions Since 2006"; Duncan Chappell, Australia and Damien Huffer, "Bringing Them Home: Some Contemporary Australian Perspectives on the Investigation, Prosecution, Seizure and Repatriation of Looted Asian Region Human Remains and Artefacts"; Major Guy Tubiana, France, "Experience of a Police Officer in the Protection of Cultural Property"; and Fabrizio Panone, Italy, "Fight Against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage: Oppositional Activities at International Level".

February 12, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - , No comments

Update on King Tut: From Harvard to Highclere (location of Downton Abbey)

The burial mask of King Tut
Recent DNA analysis indicates King Tut was the son of Nefertiti and her first cousin Akhenaten, French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde told an audience at Harvard's Science Center last week.

Here's a link to Alvin Powell's article in the Harvard Gazette, "A different take on Tut" which also notes that Gabolde told the audience that the tomb discovered in 1922 of the boy king Tutankhamun may have been hurriedly prepared when King Tut suddenly died of infection after breaking a leg.

Other details of Tut’s life, which Gabolde has pieced together from carved images and inscriptions, include a military campaign in Syria, in which he likely didn’t personally take part. Tut also was interested in Nubia, a region in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Inscriptions on a fan that belonged to Tut showed him hunting ostriches, whose feathers were used to make the fan. In addition, Gabolde said, a staff found in Tut’s tomb had inscriptions that showed it was made of a tall reed, cut by Tut himself in a city on the Nile delta.
Gabolde also traced an ornament that was found with Tut when he was discovered in 1922, but had since disappeared. Gabolde said he believes the golden hawk-head clasp, part of a broad collar worn by Tut, is in a private collection, sold by Tut discoverer Howard Carter to pay for surgery later in his life. The rest of the broad collar was stolen during World War II, Gabolde said.
A tour of King Tut's treasures ended last month in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center.  Here's a link to a video on the Today in 2005 which covered the exhibit before it opened at the Los Angeles County Museum.

The home for King Tut's treasures is at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Here's the link to the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

But for those readers who want to combine a little Downton Abbey field trip with their Egyptian fix, visit the basement exhibition of reproductions at Highclere (where the show is filmed on location).  It was Lord Carnarvon's ancestor who opened King Tut's tomb with Howard Carter.

February 11, 2013

Paris Match Reports Jean Jacques Fernier's confirmation that found painting belongs to Courbet's "L'Origine du Monde'

Courbet's L'Origine du Monde (1866) on display
in 2009 at Musée d'Orsay in Paris
/Photo by C. Sezgin
The feminist painting L'Origine du Monde in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris now has a face according to Courbet expert Jean Jacques Fernier (he continued the work of his father Robert who published the artist's catalogue raisonné).

In 1866, Courbet painted a woman's torso with her vagina on display and her legs opened for Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil-bey who sold the work two years later before becoming ambassador to Vienna. The painting was owned by five private collections before entering the Musée d'Orsay in 1995.  Khalil-bey reportedly contracted syphilis from a prostitute in St. Petersburg and sold the painting in 1868 to settle gambling debts. 

Last week Paris Match posted Fernier's video explaining why the newly discovered painting of a woman's head belongs to the model in L'Origine du Monde. The work was reportedly purchased for 1,400 euros from a Parisian antiques dealer in 2010.  Fernier believes that the unsigned painting was cut off from the canvas of L'Origine du Monde.  The model is believed to be Joanna Hiffernan, an Irish artist's model romantically linked to both Courbet and the American painter James Abbott Whistler. It should be noted that a critic quoted in a competitive media outlet, Le Figaro, disputes the attribution of the painting. 

Here are some thoughts from ARCA Lecturer Tom Flynn on the discussion with a focus on psychoanalysis and the painting.


February 8, 2013

Bosnian Culture Heritage Survived the War but will it Survive the Nation's Peace?

by Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO

Bosnia's shuttered national museum in Sarajevo and the Bosnian Commission for Historic Monuments say they cannot loan The Metropolitan Museum of Art its Sarajevo Haggadah, a rare medieval illuminated manuscript that contains the illustrated traditional text of the Passover Haggadah, read during the Jewish Passover Seder.

They say the manuscript cannot be loaned because of the unresolved status of its home.  The 125-year old institution, The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Zemaljski Muzej), has been left without funding as a result of the 1995 Bosnian peace agreement.  The signing of the Dayton Accord may have brought an end to the region’s conflict but it also effectively fractured the country into two parts: the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina linked by a weakened central government. 

In the war’s aftermath, the crucial priorities of the country’s postwar leadership were rebuilding the economy, resettling an estimated one million refugees and establishing a working government amongst the ethnically mixed populace.  While the accord heralded a much-needed peace, it also created a constitutional vacuum, open to conflicting interpretations over the maintenance of the country’s cultural legacy. 

Within Bosnia and Herzegovina there are those who insist that the situation should be resolved giving responsibility for key cultural institutions to the state.   Others argue that since nothing is mentioned in the country’s constitution, the administration should remain with lower levels of government and its expenses should not fall on the common budget.
Many in Sarajevo hope that by rejecting the Met’s lending request, the situation will put pressure on the government to try to step in to resolve the issue, saving the museum and other key cultural institutions facing potential closure due to lack of funding and oversight.

Like with the more recently publicized Arabic manuscripts in Mali, this Sarajevo Haggadah’s preservation history is a testament to the lengths citizens from various countries have gone to protect their cultural heritage during times of conflict.

Handwritten on bleached calfskin and illuminated in copper and gold, the manuscript is believed to have originated in Catalonia in the mid 14th century.  Splashed among the pages are droplets of red wine, a testament to its use, most likely by a Sephardic family.  Historians believe that the manuscript was spirited out of Spain after King Ferdinand decreed that Jews should be expelled in 1492.

During this exodus, many Sephardic Jews relocated first to Provence and later to Venice. The Sarajevo Haggadah surfaced in Venice in 1609, during a period when Jews were prohibited from printing books and restricted to the islet of Cannaregio.  Subject to inspection during the inquisition, where texts perceived as dangerous to the Church were burned, the book was ultimately spared, as witnessed by the handwritten notation on its pages which was signed by the Dominican inquisitor of Giovanni Vistorini, censor of Hebrew texts.

The manuscript made its way eventually to Sarajevo, where it was housed but not displayed publically at the Archaeological Museum, now National Museum in Sarajevo.

During the Second World War the manuscript was hidden from Nazi forces through the ingenuity of the museum’s director, Jozo Petrovic, and Dervis Korkut, an ethnic Albanian Muslim who served as the museum’s chief librarian.  With the help of a Muslim imim in Zenica the Sarajevo Haggadah was hidden in a mosque’s library until after the war.

During the 1992-1995 Bosnian war the manuscript was again subject to great risk. Sarajevo was on the front line and constantly under siege by Bosnian Serb forces.  To keep the text safe from harm or potential looting the director of the Museum, Enver Imamovic under armed guardsequestered the manuscript in an underground vault at the National Bank. Despite being safe, several newspaper articles around the world speculated that the Sarajevo Haggadah  had been secretly sold and used to buy arms to support the ongoing conflict.  This rumor was proved false when the newly instated president of Bosnia presented the manuscript publicly at a community Seder in 1995.

In 2001 Jacques Klein, the head of the U.N. mission in Bosnia along with two international experts examined the Haggadah at the invitation of UNESCO. Through the joint efforts of the UN Mission, which donated $50,000,  Klein himself, the German Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Bank and Bosnia's Jewish community minor repairs were undertaken on the Haggadah, primarily working to conserve its binding.   A space to permanently exhibit the Haggadah was also established and the manuscript at last went on public display in December 2002.

In the last ten years Sarajevo's National Art Gallery, its National Library and the Historical Museum, have joined the National Museum in slow decline due to lack of funding.  Resourceful staffers first tried to squirrel away resources by cutting their heating, then staff salaries or in some cases, opening their doors to the public only a few days per week.  Eventually, failing to find alternative funding solutions, the National Museum was forced to lock its doors.

According to, February 4, 2013 marked the National Museum in Sarajevo’s 125th anniversary.  Wooden planks were nailed over entrance last October despite pleas for civic intervention to save the museum and its collection. At this birthday celebration all well-wishers could do was light 125 candles and lay 125 roses.

The museum's deputy director, Marica Filipovic, said that the institution had survived two world wars and the Bosnian conflict: "But it seems it will not survive the peace.”

Here's a link to a report from Radio Free Europe last April on the Sarajevo Haggadah.

February 7, 2013

Portrait of a Museum Theft Case: The 2007 Robbery of the Museum of Fine Arts in Nice

Jan Brueghel the Elder's
 "Allegorie de la terre"
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last night after looking up stolen snuffboxes on INTERPOL's Works of Art database, I curiously looked up Recovered Items and found a pair of paintings by Brueghel, Allegorie de la terre and Allegorie de l'eau, recovered in Marseille in June 2008. INTERPOL provides thumbnail images of the paintings; descriptions (in this case, for example, exterior scene with figures and animals, not religious); measurements; and the date of recovery. The rest of the information can be found from articles published online:

Brueghel's "Allegorie de l'eau"
On August 5, 2007, at about 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, five masked thieves with weapons entered the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nice and left five minutes later with the two paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder and two Impressionist works: Claude Monet’s 1897 “Cliffs Near Dieppe” and Alfred Sisley’s 1890 “Lane of Poplars at Moret-sur-Loing” ("Four Masterpieces Stolen from French Museum", The New York Times, August 7, 2007).

Alfred Sisley's "Lane of Poplars at Moret"
Ten months later, French police recovered the four paintings in Marseilles and detained more than 10 people in Nice and Marseilles ("French police recover stolen art by Monet, Brueghel", Reuters, June 4, 2008).  The sting operation had involved undercover FBI Agent Robert Wittman posing as an American art dealer ready to purchase the stolen art for more than $4 million in cash ("From the Art World to the Underworld", Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2008).  In Wittman's memoir Priceless (Crown Publishers, New York, 2010), the then senior investigator of the FBI's Art Crime Team says that as of March 2007 he had "spent nine painstaking months undercover" as "some sort of shady American art dealer" trying to recover the paintings stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

In a Factual Proffer (United States v. Bernard Jean Ternus), the defendant, in an effort to cut a deal with prosecutors and avoid a trial, admits that from August 2007 to June 2008 he and his "co-conspirators" "knowing that the Nice paintings had been stolen" "brokered the sale" of the four works to undercover FBI and French National Police agents (the legal statement details those negotiations).  When the Nice paintings were recovered in Marseilles, Ternus was arrested in Florida. On July 8, Ternus pleaded guilty to "conspiring to transport in interstate and foreign commerce four stolen paintings knowing that they were stolen":
According to plea documents, on Jan. 19, 2008, Ternus met in Barcelona with undercover FBI agents and with an unindicted co-conspirator. At the meeting, Ternus and his unindicted co-conspirator negotiated a two-part transaction with the undercover FBI agents. They would sell all four stolen paintings to the undercover agents for a total of 3 million Euros. Two of the paintings would be transferred in exchange for 1.5 million Euros, and the remaining two paintings would be transferred on a separate date for 1.5 million Euros. According to information entered at court, the defendant and his unindicted co-conspirator structured the two-part transaction to retain leverage with law enforcement in the event anyone was arrested upon the sale of the first two paintings. If this occurred, they intended to use the remaining two paintings to bargain for the release of anyone who was arrested. (Department of Justice)
Ternus had a criminal history:
In addition to the conspiracy charge, Ternus also pleaded guilty to a visa fraud charge before U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia A. Altonaga in Miami. During the plea, Ternus admitted that he fraudulently concealed his French criminal history to obtain a U.S. visa, which he then used to enter and remain in the United States. During the plea, Ternus admitted that, prior to applying for his U.S. visa, he had been arrested in France on at least seven separate occasions, and that he had been convicted in France of assault with a deadly weapon. Ternus also admitted that he knew the visa he obtained and used had been procured by falsely claiming to have no French criminal history. (Department of Justice)
In this April 2009 article by Michael J. Mooney of The Broward Palm Beach New Times, "Trail ends in Florida",  the Nice museum thieves are identified as Pierre Noël-Dumarais "an escaped felon with a long record"; a former boxer; an "Armenian drug dealer living in Marseilles"; and two others.  Mooney tells of a fifth painting targeted in the theft but left on the floor when it couldn't fit into the bag for stolen loot.  According to Mooney, Ternus, living in Florida, got involved in brokering the sale of the Nice paintings via the Armenian drug dealer two months after the theft.  Ternus, according to Mooney, came to the dubious art broker from Philadelphia (Wittman) through local drug traffickers involved in selling cocaine from Colombia. In September 2008, Ternus was sentenced to five years in prison at the Federal Detention Center in Miami.

In March 2010, Ternus' conviction was affirmed ("Art thief appeals verdict") by the Eleventh Circuit:
Ternus challenges his conviction, arguing that the foreign commerce element in 18 U.S.C. § 2314 is “jurisdictional.” He contends that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case because there was insufficient evidence in the record that he conspired to transport the stolen paintings in foreign commerce. Ternus’ guilty plea waived all non-jurisdictional defects in the proceedings against him.

In November 2011, the seven men on trial in Aix-en-Provenance claimed that the FBI had instructed them to steal the four paintings from the museum in Nice four years earlier.  A few days later, the French court passed out sentences of two to nine years to the guilty (Noël-Dumarais, who had used a weapon in the heist, received the longer term).