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January 31, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014 - , No comments

Institute Français London: "The Fate of Europe's Treasures After WW2 -- Perspectives from France, Germany, Italy, Austria and the UK" Feb. 7 through the 9

Italian journalist Fabio Isman, a specialist in covering antiquities and cultural heritage from Rome, joins other European speakers at the Institute Français in early February to discuss the repatriation of Nazi-looted art after World War II (here's a link to the program's website page):
This launch evening will shed light on looted art – in the context of the recent discovery of the Gurlitt hoard in Munich and the release of Monuments Men – broaching the personal story of art historian and WW2 heroine Rose Valland, and moving personal accounts, fantastic finds and hard-fought legal battles. The debate will be introduced by a rare screening of Anne Webber’s documentary Making a Killing, about the Gutmann family’s 50-year quest to recover their missing art collection. 
Debate with Emmanuelle Polack (Head of the Archives of the Musée des Monuments français), Fabio Isman (Italian journalist, Il Messaggero), Anne Webber (Founder and Co-Chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe), Melissa Müller and Monika Tatzkow (co-authors of Lost Lives, Lost Art: Jewish Collectors, Nazi Art Theft and the Quest for Justice).

January 30, 2014

ARCA'13 Alum Summer Kelley-Bell asks: Is this the program for you? Really now.

A medieval town & its secret passageways
by Summer Kelley-Bell, ARCA 2013

WARNING: this essay is a work of satire.  It will be best understood if read in the voice of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, from Downton Abbey.

As an ARCA alumna, I have come to warn you about all of the things that you will hate about this small program on art crime. In that vein, I here offer you a list of the woes of living in a small Umbrian town the likes of which will keep you up at night as you scroll through old Facebook photos.  A letter of warning, if you will, to all prospective ARCA-ites. Should you choose to ignore my advice, I cannot be responsible for the consequences.

Your first few days in Amelia will leave you with an intense urge to explore and make friends.  The town is ancient, surrounded on most sides by a Neolithic wall with even more history buried beneath it.  There are secret passages and hidden rooms and you’re going to want to grab a new-found buddy and sneak through every one of them.  DON’T.  The more you explore, the more you will love the town, and it will make it that much harder to leave.  Yes, there is a secret Roman cellar underneath one of the restaurants.  Yes, the town’s people do scatter the roads with rose petals in the shape of angels every June.  Yes, there quite possibly is a hidden room in your classmate's flat.  All of these things are beside the point.  Walk steady on the path and avoid all temptations to adventure.

As for friends, stick with people that live near to you back in the real world.  I know Papa di Stefano is fantastic, and yes, he will befriend you in a way that transcends language, but do you really want to miss him when you’ve gone?  And your fellow students?  Well, most of them are going to live nowhere near you.  Do you really need to have contacts in Lisbon and Melbourne and New York and Amsterdam?  No, you don’t.  It’s so damp in the Netherlands and we all know London is just atrocious.  I mean really, all those people. Take my advice, ignore anyone that lives far away from you.  You are here to learn and leave, not make connections that will last you the rest of forever.

You will also want to avoid the town’s locals.  Amelia is tiny, so getting to know most of its shopkeepers and inhabitants will not be very hard, but you must resist the urge to do so.  It’s true that Massimo will know your coffee order before you get fully through his door, and the Count will open his home with a smile to show you around his gorgeous palazzo, but these things are not proper.  Do not mistake their overflowing kindness and warmth for anything other than good breeding.  And when you find yourself sobbing at the thought of saying goodbye to Monica, you can just blame your tears on the pollen like the rest of us.

Your instructors are going to be just as big of a challenge.  The professor’s are really too friendly.  I know that Noah Charney says that he’s available for lunch and Dick Ellis will happily have a beer with you, but is getting to know your professor socially really appropriate?  I mean, we’ve all attended seminars where you barely see the speaker outside of stolen moments during coffee breaks, and that’s the best way for things to go, isn’t it?  Sterile classroom experience with little to no professorial interactions is the way academic things should run.  I know I never saw any of my professor’s outside of class.  And I certainly don’t keep up with Judge Tompkin’s travels through his hilarious emails; that would just be inappropriate.

And then there’s the conference.  It lasts an entire weekend.  Why would I want to attend a weekend long event where powerhouses in the field open up their brains for poor plebeians?  I mean honestly, meeting Christos Tsirogiannis at the conference will be a high point in your year, and it will be too difficult to control your nerdy spasms when Toby Bull sits down next to you at dinner.  And then, when you find out that Christos joined ARCA's teaching team in 2014 and you’ll find yourself scrambling to come up with a way to take the program a second time just so you can pick his brain. Think about how much work that will be.  They aim to make this an easy experience where you rarely have to use powers of higher thinking.  This should be like the grand tour, a comfortable time away from home so that you can tell others that you simply summered in Italy. 

And the program would be so much better served in Rome.  I mean, just think on it.  You would never have to learn Italian because you’d be in a city full of tourists.  You’d get to pay twice as much for an apartment a third of the size of the one you rent in Amelia, and you wouldn’t have to live near any of your class mates.  A city the size of Rome is big enough that a half hour metro ride to each other’s places would be pretty much de rigueur.  This means you wouldn’t have to deal with any of those impromptu dinner/study sessions at the pool house.  And there certainly wouldn’t be random class-wide wine tastings at the Palazzo Venturelli. That’s just too much socializing anyway.  It’s unseemly.

And finally, let’s talk about the classes.  Do we really care about art crime? Sure, Dick Drent is pretty much the coolest human you’ll ever meet, and Dorit Straus somehow manages to make art insurance interesting, but really, do we care?  Isn’t that better left to one’s financial advisor?  And the secret porchetta truck that the interns will show you as you study the intricacies of art law, could surely be found on one’s own.  Couldn’t it?  I think we would all be much better served by just watching the terrible Monuments Men movie, fawning over George Clooney and Matt Damon, and thinking about the things we could be doing all from the safety and comfort of our own homes.  I do so hate leaving home.  The ARCA program involves work, and ten courses with ten different professors, and classmates that will quickly become family. It’s all so exhausting.  I mean really, tell me, does this sound like the program for you?

ARCA Editorial Note:  If you would like more information on ARCA's 2014 program please see our faculty and 2014 course listing here or write to education (at) for a copy of this year's prospectus and application materials. 

January 29, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - ,, No comments

Lipinski Stradivarius violin theft, Milwaukee: Police Chief Says "These are Wildly Valuable to a Tiny Slice of the Art World"

Lipinski Stradivarius/Frank Almond
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn held a press conference Tuesday to announce the theft of the Lipinski Stradivarius violin stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond when he was attacked by a taser after leaving a concert at Wisconsin Lutheran Church Monday night. The Milwaukee Police Department also uploaded a 14-minute video on YouTube (Milwaukee Police, "Rare Violin Taken in Robbery") and published information about the theft on its website.
After a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was assaulted and robbed of a rare, valuable Stradivarius violin built in 1715. At approximately 10:20pm on January 27, Frank Almond was walking to his car after performing at Wisconsin Lutheran College with other musicians. As he approached his parked car, a suspect used an electronic control device on Mr. Almond, causing Mr. Almond to drop the violin he was carrying. The suspect then took the violin and fled in a waiting car driven by a second suspect. 
The vehicle description is a late-80’s or early-90’s maroon or burgundy Chrysler or Dodge minivan.  It appears at this time that the violin was the primary target of this assault and robbery. It is important to note that this violin is valuable to a very small number of people in the world and is not something easily sold for what it is worth. We have a photograph of the specific Stradivarius violin and a car similar to the one used in the crime at the bottom of the screen.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said “Last night, the artistic heritage of the City of Milwaukee was assaulted and robbed.”  Flynn was joined at the press conference by Mark Niehaus, President of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
The Milwaukee Police Department is working with the FBI’s Art Crimes Team out of FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. This team specializes in high-end art thefts, including instruments like the violin taken on Monday. This violin has been entered into the international art theft database. The FBI team works with Interpol to connect with international art dealers who are able to help locate stolen items throughout international markets. 
We are following up on every lead. We encourage anyone with any information about things they have seen or heard that may be related to this assault and robbery to contact the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7360 or the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at 414-226-7838.
During the press conference, Chief Flynn asserted that the violin was the "primary target". Although this violin may be considered 'priceless' by some, practically, Flynn said, a Stradivarius would sell in the "high seven figures" (indicating tens of millions of dollars). Flynn elaborated:
It's important to note that this violin is very valuable but very valuable to a very small population. This is not something that can be easily sold for even a fraction of its monetary value.
Flynn showed a photo of the front and back of this wood violin made in 1715 and identified 'very specific striations that for a violin of this type are virtually the violin's fingerprint.'

The police chief, who was appointed in 2008, asked the media to support the investigation:

I urge the media to please respect the privacy of our crime victim. It is unusual for us to identify the victim in a crime like this. We are doing it because the information was publicly available, but he is still a crime victim. He is still our witness. Please do not put him in a position that he may inadvertently give information that he may give under stress that could compromise the integrity and ultimately the success of this investigation.

MSO's President, Mark Niehas confirmed that Almond is in "good condition" however he is recovering from being tasered and will not be on the stage this weekend. Niehas, in answering questions from journalists, said that the Stradivarius violins need to be played to "live on" otherwise it would "rot". 

Frank Almond posted information about the Lipinski violin here.

Thefts of Other Stradivarius Violins:

The Gibson Stradivarius violin owned by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman was stolen from his hotel room in 1916 and returned hours later. In 1936, while Huberman was playing another rare Stradivarius violin onstage at Carnegie Hall, the "journeyman violinist Julian Atman stole the Gibson Strad and played it -- dirty -- for 50 years. Joshua Bell purchased this violin in 2001 for $4 million to save it from being stored in a museum.
It was reported that the 1927 $3.5 million Stradivarius Violin owned by 91-year-old Erica Morini had been stolen from her Fifth Avenue apartment in October 1995 while the retired violinist was dying in the hospital; the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius violin has not been recovered.
In December 2010, three 'opportunistic' thieves stole a Stradivarius violin from Min-Jin Kym at a Pret A Manger sandwich shop in Euston station in London; two and a half years later, the violin was recovered by police in July 2013 from a property in Midlands with very little damage.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - , No comments

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: The Kunsthal Rotterdam Reopens Feb. 1 after renovation to improve sustainability

The Kunsthal Rotterdam reopens this Sunday, February 1, after a renovation to improve its sustainability.

Adrian Procop, age 21, a Romanian accused of stealing seven paintings from the gallery in October 2012, was arrested in Britain at the Eurotunnel Folkstone outbound terminal on December 6.

Procop is alleged to be one of the two people who actually carried out the heist (, December 6, "Final Rotterdam art heist suspect arrested in Manchester"):
Two of the other suspects were sentenced to six years and eight months in prison by a Bucharest court last month. The 29-year-old Radu Dogaru and 25-year-old Eugen D were found guilty of the theft and of membership in a criminal organisation. Dogaru took part in the robbery in October last year. Eugen D was responsible for transporting the stolen paintings to Romania. The case against three other defendants is continuing.
The paintings have not been recovered amidst rumors that they have been destroyed.

January 28, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - ,,, No comments

Norway: Fire Damaged the village of Lærdalsøyri, part of UNESCO's World Heritage listed West Norwegian Fjord landscape

Borgund Stavkirke, an old church
by A.M.C Knutsson

At 11 pm on Saturday the 18th of January a fire erupted in the village of Lærdalsøyri, in the municipality of Lærdal, Norway. The fire, which is believed to have started in a house on Kyrkjegatan, spread rapidly towards the centre of the village due to strong easterly winds. These winds also hindered the extinguishing work and not until 5 pm the following day the fire was finally under control. [1]

Despite the ferocity of the fire, described by observers as an ‘inferno’, no one is reported to have died or gone missing. However, many people suffered from smoke inhalation and 400 people were forced to seek medical attention.

Whilst Lærdal might be small, it has a grand history. The region is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed West Norwegian Fjord landscape and boasts sites such as the old Lærdalsøyri village and the Borgund Stave Church, the best-preserved stave church in Norway.[2]

Synneva Eris House (Photo Arlen Bidne)
The history of the old village of Lærdalsøyri reaches back about a thousand years. Since the Middle Ages it has been an important trading centre for the surrounding villages. The buildings that make up present day Lærdalsøyri reach back to the 18th and 19th centuries and are an important part of the Norwegian wooden heritage.[3] Among the buildings in Lærdalsøyri there are 161 protected wooden buildings. In a statement from the National Heritage Board about the fire, the site is described thus:
The wooden houses in Lærdalsøyri are among the most important wood-house milieu in Norway, in line with towns like Røros, Bergen and Old Stavanger.[4]
Unfortunately, despite early reports of little damage to the built heritage, several buildings have been severely damaged with some being permanently destroyed. Thirty-five houses are reported to have burnt down of which six or seven have great historical value.[5] Whilst the fire does not appear to have reached the oldest parts of Lærdalsøyri, the true extent of the fire is yet to be established. 

The Local "Norway's News in English" reports "Listed villa destroyed in Lærdal blaze" that the Synneva Eris House was burned to the ground.

Further Reading
List of recognised heritage sites in Lærdal

January 27, 2014

Postcard from Skara, Sweden: An unexpected collection of Swedish art at the Jula Hotell and Konference

Skrämda, Anders Zorn 1912
by A.M.C. Knutsson

Having travelled quite extensively in the last year, I have had the privilege to come across some very interesting places, both planned and unplanned. Some of the least expected being the gallery-hotel, a hotel that houses a large collection of original art. Arriving late one night in one of Sweden’s oldest towns, Skara, I completely missed the large sign hanging by the side of the road announcing that the hotel I was approaching housed one of the largest private collections of paintings by Anders Zorn (1860-1920) in Sweden.

I was therefore completely unprepared for what awaited me upon entering the modern-looking hotel. The walls were tastefully dressed with masterly portraits and enticing nudes. The works accounted for most of the great names in Swedish art from Anders Zorn to Carl Larsson (1853-1919, the figurehead of the Swedish Arts and Crafts Movement).

Steeped, as I irrevocably am, in the world of art crime one of my first thoughts went to the security arrangements of this magnificent collection. My interest was met with great hospitality and the following morning I was met by the hotel manager, Catarine Larsson, for a talk about the collection.

The collection as well as the hotel are the creations of Lars-Göran Blank, founder of the Swedish company Jula, founded in 1979 to sell woodcutters now has shops across Sweden, Norway and Poland, supplying everything related to house and garden maintenance.

Watercolour by Carl Larsson
Lars-Göran Blank inherited his interest in art from his father and spent most of his childhood frequenting museums. Due to his entrepreneurial success, he suddenly found himself in a position to be able to act on his interests. In 2007 Jula Hotell and Konference was built and before long exquisite art started appearing on its walls. The employees, which included Catarine Larsson, were at first unsure how to react to the art that appeared around them. They had never been involved in protecting valuable art before. ‘We were worried,’ Ms. Larsson explained, ‘we didn’t know if we could tell anyone about the paintings. But then the owner put up a huge sign by the road, so then we understood that it was fine.’ 

Mr. Blank is proud of his collection, and rightly so. In addition to probably the largest private collection of Zorn paintings in Sweden, paintings by Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939, Wildlife painter), and some paintings by Blank’s own hand can be found in the hotel.

Through the help and assistance of the Jula Security department and an insurance company, an all-encompassing security policy has been developed for the collection. When the hotel was renovated in 2012, it was designed with the safety of the collection in mind; subsequently, a large portion of the paintings were moved from the dining room to a specially constructed art gallery. The hotel consulted a local museum about how to properly hang and display the collection which resulted in a tasteful and safe new home for the paintings. Great care was taken to secure both the paintings and the rooms themselves. Each painting is alarmed directly to the police and covered with protective glass to protect against all kinds of sticky fingers. When Ms. Larsson notes that ‘the paintings are as safe here as anywhere else’: with around the clock surveillance and reinforced night guards, the art as well as the guests can rest safely.

New art gallery completed in 2012
The hotel maintains good relations with the national police force and would be contacted directly if there were any rumours about an art-coup taking place in the area, allowing Ms Larsson to reinforce her security measures. The hotel works with its collections in various ways, including holding conferences in the art gallery and hosting art talks with speakers from the Zorn Museum. They are mentioned in local guidebooks -- even pre-school classes come to draw in the gallery.

This magnificent collection manages to straddle both the definition of public and private collection. Despite being a privately owned assembly of works, it remains accessible to the public. Over a glass of wine in the evening or a cup of coffee at breakfast, the visitors to Jula Hotel can enjoy art in the same way as a private collector but for the price of the beverage in hand.

The phenomenon of art in hotels takes on various forms, from being a tool of barter in Les Templiers in Collioure, France, to a cheap Van Gogh print in a forgettable place in New York. Most interestingly the practice of housing private collections in hotels could possibly negate the criticism of the private collection as elitist, as the paintings might even prove more accessible than in a museum, and might in actual fact convey art to a new kind of audience, that normally would not put their foot in a museum.

Even as I struggle to stay awake, solving my last Sudoku for the evening, my eye is caught by the nudes walking down towards the lakeside in Zorn’s 1912 masterpiece Skrämda. The very painting that Ms Larsson confessed to be her favourite, and which she would take if she would have her pick in the collection.

A.M.C. Knutsson earned a Master of Arts in General History from the University of St. Andrews and completed ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage in 2013.

January 25, 2014

Damage to Cairo's Museum of Islamic Art: Why Does Art Always Take in on the Chin?

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA's CEO

As news of the explosion affecting Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art has spread and images of the destruction were replicated across social media sites few people or news agencies paused to mention what objects were actually inside one of Egypt’s spectacular museums or talk about the heart of Islam the collection represents. 

Started in 1881, the Museum of Islamic Art initially was housed within the arcades of the mosque of the Fatimid caliph Al-HakimBi-Amr Allah. Commencing with 111 objects, gathered from mausoleums and mosques throughout Egypt, the original collection has grown substantially over the last 130 years. 

Today the objects in the Cairo museum represent one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art in the world. With more than 103,000 artifacts housed in 24 halls, its collection celebrates every Islamic period in Egypt covering the Fatimids, the Mamluks, the Abbasids, the Ummayads, the Tulunids, the Ottomans, and the Ayyubids dynasties.

Photo Credit:
The museum’s glass collection alone counts 5,715 pieces in its inventory.  Some are very rare, others, like this glass vessel fragment, are more commonplace. Notwithstanding, each piece helps visitors and scholars embrace and understand the history of the region and its people.

Some of the glass enameled lamps in the museum come from the mosque of Sultan Hassan who ruled Egypt twice, the first time in 1347 when he was only 13 years old.  One of the most outstanding of these glass pieces is an eight-sided chandelier made up of three layers with a dome-shaped cap and detailed Islamic decorations imprinted on its glass.

Some of the museum’s glass comes from excavations undertaken at Al-Fusṭāṭ, on the east bank of the Nile River, south of modern Cairo.  As the first Muslim capital of Egypt, Al-Fusṭāṭ, was established by general ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ in AD 641 and was the location of the province’s first mosque, Jāmiʿ ʿAmr.

Glass vessels, phials and fragments excavated from the former capital and on display at the museum give the world an understanding of the chronology and origin of the Islamic glass industry as well as the history of Islam during the Umayyad and ʿAbbāsid caliphates and under succeeding dynasties.

Until the 9th century Islamic glass artisans used the Roman technique of making glass mixing calcium-rich sand and Natron, a salt substance used in Egypt to preserve mummies.  At the turn of the millennium, they opted to use plant ash for the soda component in their formula for glass making and experimented with colors, shapes, techniques, and surface decoration. 

From the piles of shattered glass, pieces of bricks and smashed cases seen in the first images released by Monica Hanna after the bombing it seems that the damage to the museum’s collection may be significant, though for now how significant has yet to be established with detailed clarity.  Talking heads on news sites triage the damage from horrifying to optimistic though without any formal inventory of which rooms were damaged and the objects purportedly on display in that room, it’s hard to know if the pulverized glass we see in initial photos comes from broken windows and collection storage cases or damaged artifacts. 

To rectify that gap in knowledge, museum staff and volunteers worked under difficult conditions and despite safety hazards from a partially collapsed roof before sealing the museum as per security directives.  Their goal: provide an initial assessment and to secure the collection to prevent further damage or possible theft.  Until a formal reporting is given, all we can do is hope that things remain calmer so that the Ministry of Antiquities can salvage as many of the museum's artifacts as possible.

January 24, 2014

Rembrandt Authentications: National Gallery of Scotland reattributes 2012 donation from Rembrandt to Captain William Baillie

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

In early 2012, Glasgow's Evening Times reported that a wealthy 101-year-old woman, Jessie Steen, had bequeathed a valuable Rembrandt etching to the National Gallery of Scotland. However, the attribution has been changed. In a response to an emailing inquiring about the donation, Dr. Tico Seifert, Senior Curator of Northern European Art, wrote from Edinburgh:
The print bequeathed by Miss Steen in 2012 is a copy after an etching by Rembrandt. It was made by Captain William Baillie (1723-1810), an art dealer and printmaker who made several copies after Rembrandt etchings and owned some of the original plates. The latter he reworked and printed new impressions from, most famously of the ‘Hundred Guilder Print’. As far as we know, Rembrandt’s ‘Landscape with a Hay Barn and a Flock of Sheep’ was copied four times, by different artists, Baillie’s being the second in sequence.

Rembrandt’s etchings were copied a lot, particularly in the eighteenth century, when collectors grew insatiable. Copies partly went for the ‘real things’ but more often they were (cheaper) substitutes for the increasingly rare and expensive originals by Rembrandt.

Unfortunately, we did not receive any information at the time on where or when Miss Steen had acquired this print.

Regarding the value, as an employee of the National Galleries of Scotland, I am not supposed to give valuations and I would kindly ask you to refer to an auction house or dealer in this field.
The work had not yet been photographed.

Thank you to Dr. Seifert and to the registrar at the gallery who promptly responded to this inquiry.

January 23, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - , 4 comments

Rembrandt Authentications: Curator at Scottish National Gallery discovered red-ink drawing in its collection -- a rare find in a murky world of authenticating Rembrandt's prints

Scottish National Gallery, Rembrandt 98A:
Jan Cornelius Sylvius
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Dr. Tico Seifert, a senior art curator for northern European art at the Scottish National Gallery, identified a Rembrandt etching in the collection: the "rare red-ink picture" authenticated by specialists in Amsterdam, reports Edinburgh Evening News, is a portrait of Jan Cornelis Sylvius, a relative of Rembrandt's wife Saskia and godfather to their daughter Cornelia.
He said: “I was going through the boxes of copies of Rembrandt when the first thing that caught my eye is that it is an impression in red ink. “Normally prints, engravings or etchings are produced in black ink. This particular impression is in a brownish red ink which is pretty rare. That was what first made me hesitate going through to the next one.
“I checked the handbooks for what kind of copy this might be and they said the copies are always in reverse. 
“When I saw it wasn’t, I thought this is most likely not a copy.”
The Scottish National Gallery reports that the etching's provenance is unknown. In the collection posted online, the gallery shows 12 other works by Rembrandt, including an oil on panel of Hannah and Samuel; and two oils on canvases, A Woman in Bed; and Self-Portrait, aged 51.

"The National Galleries of Scotland hold about 100 etchings by Rembrandt, several of which are of superb quality," Dr. Seifert wrote in an email to the ARCAblog.

In 2010, Jenna Johnson for the Washington Post reported in "Etching found at Catholic University may be a Rembrandt" the story of the college's president discovering a framed etching and the process and valuation of a possible Rembrandt work. In July 2012, Dalya Alberge reported for the guardian in "Rembrandt drawing found in Scottish attic" that Christie's would sell the newly discovered artwork.

Here's a link to the Rembrandt Research Project, chaired by Ernst van de Wetering, 'widely accepted as the Rembrandt expert. Mr. van de Wetering authenticated a Rembrandt painting from Buckland Abbey in Devon in 2013. The DVD, Out of the Shadows: Hidden Masterpieces, is produced with the Rembrandt Research Project and the University of Delft. And this video here explains how Rembrandt sold his plates and later drawings were made in the 18th century.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has published on the questions of authenticity in regards to Rembrandt's work. 

At the 2011 Art Crime Conference in Amelia, photographer and researcher Sarah Zimmer spoke about the event of a missing or lost Rembrandt etching in "The Investigation of Object TH 1988.18: Rembrandt's 100 Guilder Print."

The Cleveland Art Museum exhibited "Rembrandt in America" in 2012, discussing what is and what isn't a Rembrandt. The exhibit also visited North Carolina and Minnesota as the 'largest collection of authentic Rembrandt paintings'. The Morgan Library and Museum also showed an exhibit, Rembrandt's World, of the artist's drawings from the Clement C. Moore collection.

In August 2012, a Norwegian art gallery lost an Rembrandt etching in the mail (Reuters, "Norwegian gallery loses a Rembrandt in the mail," August 23, 2012).

In this article, "The 'kissing couple' bride: A remarkable war story remembered", by Debora van Brenk in the London Free Press, a story is told that an 'enterprising wife arranged for delivery of some Rembrandt etchings to high-placed German officers' to free her husband during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands.

January 19, 2014

Mark Durney's "Reevaluating Art Crime's Famous Figures" published in the International Journal of Cultural Property

The International Journal of Cultural Property published "Reevaluating Art Crime's Famous Figures" by Mark Durney in its May 2013 issue.

Mark Durney, the creator of the ARCA Blog and of Art Theft Central, studied history (undergraduate) at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and archaeology (masters) at the University College of London. Noah Charney interviewed him in 2011. Mark spoke about the importance of "Collection Inventories" at ARCA's International Art Crime Conference that same year. Mark previously served as ARCA's Business and Admission's Director.

Here's the abstract:
This article seeks to demonstrate that the figures used to describe the size and scope of cultural property crimes—that it is a $6 billion illicit industry and that it ranks among the third or fourth largest criminal enterprise annually—are without statistical merit. It underscores the ambiguities inherent in the figures and uses the 2003 theft of the Duke of Buccleuch’s painting by Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, to illustrate the difficulties related to establishing monetary estimates for cultural property crimes. It calls for a more empirical approach to measuring the magnitude of the problem on the part of cultural property crime experts. Finally, it examines the reporting methods of the world’s largest cultural property crimes law enforcement agency, the Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, in order to provide a model for others to follow in the effort to communicate the severity of the problem and to increase its financial, social, and political support.
The article discusses cultural property crime data, the "multibillion dollar industry", and the value of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Yarnwinder stolen in Scotland in 2003 and recovered four years later:
The example of Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Yarnwinder, which was stolen in a daytime raid from Drumlanrig Castle, Scotland, in 2003 and recovered in 2007 underscores the difficulty with estimating an object’s value in order to account for its contribution to the annual illicit cultural property trade figure. For tax reasons, the Duke of Buccleuch insured the painting for only a quarter of its 1996 valuation—£15 million.27 Other estimates for the painting’s value published by the media ranged from £20 to £50 million.28 Immediately after the theft, the Buccleuch’s insurer offered a £200,000 reward, which was later increased to £1 million. In 2007, Robert Graham and John Doyle, private investigators who operated a stolen property recovery website called Stolen Stuff Reunited, were contacted by mysterious intermediaries known only as J and K, who had access to the stolen da Vinci. According to court records, the painting had been used as collateral for a £700,000 property deal and the individuals, who accepted the painting as security sought to recoup their money. Graham and Doyle contacted their solicitor Mar- shall Ronald. Ronald involved Glasgow solicitors Calum Jones and David Boyce in order to ensure the recovery dealings were legal under Scottish law. Ronald, on behalf of his clients, negotiated with the intermediaries to return the painting for £350,000. During the recovery process he notified the Buccleuch’s insurance loss adjustor, Mark Dalrymple, in order to return the painting through an informal mediation process.29 In negotiations between Dalrymple and John Craig, who was an undercover police officer posing as the Buccleuch’s representative, Ronald requested a total of £4.25 million as a reward and to cover his and his clients’ expenses.30 However, before negotiations evolved any further, police arrested Ronald, Graham, Doyle, Jones, and Boyce and charged the group with conspiring to extort £4.25 million from the Buccleuch family for the painting’s return.31 After an eight- week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, a not-proven verdict was returned on Ronald, Graham, and Doyle. Both Jones and Boyce were found not guilty of the same charge. It was later revealed by the Scottish Legal Aid Board that £984,636 was paid to cover legal expenses of all the accused, which was a loss incurred by the Scottish taxpayer.32 

As illustrated by the case of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder, illicit art’s monetary value can be based on its insurance claim, its value as collateral in illicit transactions, or the cost of its recovery. Also, its value can be based on its estimated value. In this example, the painting’s estimated value would be difficult to determine due to the fact that it is a rare work by one of history’s most famous artists and has not been on the market since the eighteenth century when it was first acquired by the Buccleuch family. 
In the section, "New Methods of Measuring the Problem", Mr. Durney discusses Italy's Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale:
Italy’s Comando Carabinieri per la Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale, which is the largest cultural property law enforcement unit in the world and has been very successful at policing such crimes since 1969, maintains a vast stolen cultural property database called Leonardo.45 The Carabinieri publish an annual report titled Attivita’ Operativa, which provides theft and recovery data as well as con- tributes insights into its cultural property protection efforts over the past year.46 The Carabinieri’s success at recording, publishing, and analyzing crime data is likely due to the fact that it has a uniform reporting system in place across its 14 regional units. In order to measure the unit’s performance, it compares the latest data with that from the previous year. While the annual report includes a mon- etary estimate of the total value of cultural objects recovered or seized, it supplements the data with more significant figures including those related to cultural objects recovered or seized by the Carabinieri.47 Also, the Carabinieri’s annual report incorporates the number of individuals referred to the judicial system from its actions; a detailed account of its preventive activities carried out, such as the review of businesses, markets, and fairs, as well as the inspection of the safety and security measures at museums, libraries, state archives, and archaeological sites; and a summary of its training activities with domestic and foreign law enforcement organizations.48

In addition to providing in-depth recovery data that is even segmented by re- gion, the Carabinieri’s report includes annual theft data. For example, there were 817 cultural property thefts reported in 2010 to the Carabinieri.49 The juxtaposition of the reported thefts against the number of objects recovered or seized pro- vides statistical evidence that leads one to conclude that a substantial number of thefts are underreported or unnoticed. This method of reporting better conveys the severity and scope of the illicit cultural property trade than any dollar amount could achieve.

January 18, 2014

Unsolved Museum Thefts: The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

PARIS - My visit to the Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris yesterday reminded me of another museum with not one but two unsolved thefts.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was robbed in 1972 and had 18 paintings stolen by three thieves who have never been convicted and the paintings have not been seen since the thieves failed to show up to collect a ransom for the kidnapped paintings (you can read about Canada's largest theft here).

In October 2011, a man walked out of the museum in Montreal with two objects from antiquity.

Can you think of other unsolved museum thefts?

How about the 1990 theft of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum?

Those are the mysteries that bother me the most -- what are your most problematic museum thefts?

January 17, 2014

Postcard from Paris: Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris -- galleries restructured and permanent collection displayed away from open windows

Museum view of Eiffel Tower & Siene
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

PARIS - Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris has undergone a restructuring of its galleries since a thief stole five paintings -- never recovered -- in May 2010. The biggest visible change to visitors today is that the long downstairs gallery facing windows overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower is now a big open space with large, immobile paintings too big to be carried away by one person.
Open gallery with large paintings

Four years ago, portable works by modern paintings hung in the lower level that had access to an outdoor terrace and down steps to the street that runs south along the Seine. Admission to the museum, then and now is free, so it would not have cost a prospecting thief any money to scope out the small works that were be easily removed in the early morning hours while security personnel waited weeks for a part required to fix the security
Shiny lock, sharp shutters
Entrance to the permanent collection

Today the museum appeared to have installed large outworks in the area that had been violated, tore down the wall dividers, and opened up the space. The inside metal shutters vulnerable in the break-in appeared well-maintained and locks nickel sharp.

The permanent collection is now displayed away from the large floor to ceiling windows into small rooms carved out of the middle of the building. More paintings, including some by the artists Picasso and Matisse who's works were stolen, appeared to be on display than even two years ago. This afternoon, with the bookstore full of customers and visitors eating and drinking at the cafe, this museum appeared to have no visible scars of the theft. However, I still can't bear to believe that those paintings, including the one by Braque that I so admired, were really thrown in the trash

The Art Newspaper reports rumours that Britain is trying to sell antiquities of 'disgraced dealer Robyn Symes'

In today's article in The Art Newspaper online, "Italy threatens to sue UK firm over ancient 'loot'", Cristina Ruiz and Javier Pes write about the 'Government's liquidator rumoured to be selling disgraced dealer Robin Symes's antiquities'.
Italy is demanding the immediate return of a cache of antiquities stored in London and warning that if it does not receive information about the status of the collection within 30 days, it may sue the firm responsible for the objects. 

Italy’s state legal counsel was planning to send, this month, a final warning to the liquidator responsible for the assets of the disgraced antiquities dealer Robin Symes, who was declared bankrupt in 2003. Italy’s letter includes a detailed list of around 700 ancient objects, including sculptures and jewellery, that Italy is claiming because it believes they were taken from its territory illegally. The action is taking place amid rumours that the liquidator, the British firm BDO, is selling the material in the Middle East on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), which is attempting to recoup tax owed by Symes’s firm, Robin Symes Ltd, which is now in liquidation. If BDO fails to respond to Italy’s warning by the end of the month with detailed information on the status of each item on the list, Maurizio Fiorilli, Italy’s state legal counsel on the Symes case, will notify the public prosecutor at the Criminal Tribunal in Rome.
According to University of Cambridge's Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis (in an email to the ARCAblog) that corrected a quote in the article:
It is a scandal for the British government, IF antiquities from the Symes warehouses are being offered for sale. At the moment I do not have any information that the British government is already selling antiquities from these warehouses. But, the delay to send to Italy the antiquities that have certainly been identified as illicit is already scandalous.
Dr. Tsirogiannis' work in helping the Greek police in cultural ministry in investigating the source of antiquities that passed through the dealership of Symes is documented in the book by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy's Tomb Raiders in the World's Greatest Museums.
Here's a 2008 article in Britain's Telegraph by Alastair Smart introducing readers to Maurizio Fiorilli. And here's an earlier post this year about the antiquities lack a legal collecting history that have been subscribed to Symes.

January 16, 2014

Document Theft at the Maryland Historical Society: The Thief that Gives Back?

by Kirsten Hower

Normally when something is stolen from a cultural institution, the odds of the objects being returned is minimal, and often nothing is returned.  It is nearly unheard of for the objects to be returned…let alone for additional objects to be brought along in the return.  Oddly enough this is the case with museums in Maryland and New York, and document thieves Barry H. Landau and Jason James Savedoff.

Over the course of eight months, Landau and Savedoff stole ten thousand historical documents from cultural institutions such as the New York Historical Society and the Maryland Historical Society.  One of the documents stolen is a letter from Benjamin Franklin to John Paul Jones, a naval fighter in the American Revolution, dated April 1, 1780 which was stolen from the New York Historical Society.  The thousands of other historical documents included letters and other written pieces by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. 

It was not until July 2011 that both Landau and Savedoff were caught sneaking documents into specially tailored coats at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland.  Had it not been for the vigilant observations of one of the Society’s employees, the two men may never have been caught and the extent of their thefts never uncovered.  However, they were caught and subsequently charged for the thefts resulting in a seven year prison sentence for Landau and a one year prison sentence for Savedoff, who was released this past November.

What is particularly interesting about this case was that once the documents were returned, additional documents were discovered.  The “Baltimore Sun” reported that ten percent of the returned documents do not have traceable origins and are therefore homeless for the time being.  After temporarily staying at the National Archives in College Park, the documents were taken to the Maryland Historical Society in August where they will remain until they are claimed by their rightful owners.

News source:
Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun, "Theft case leaves additional documents at Maryland Historical Society," December 31, 2013