Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UK. Show all posts

February 13, 2017

Theft: Antiquarian Booksellers Association's reports dramatic book thief heist of 160 texts, some from the 15th and 16th centuries


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and the Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard have confirmed a brazen the theft at a storage facility in Feltham, west London near Heathrow during the late evening and early morning hours of January 29-30, 2017. 

In what is being characterised as a well-planned and savvy burglary, thieves somehow avoided detection despite a 24-hour monitored intrusion detection system which included CCTV cameras and infrared motion detectors.  Entering the bonded warehouse by scaling up to the roof, the culprits breached the warehouse’s reinforced glass-fibre skylights, dropping down into the storage facility from above.

Once inside, they cherry picked books, some of which are incunabula, meaning they are editions printed in the first half-century of printing – the second half of the 15th century. Once the books were chosen, they were hoisted back up through the skylight and loaded onto a waiting vehicle. 

The thieves made off with 160 historic texts.  Bypassing other items, they specifically targets books from six sealed trunks belonging to three dealers,whose inventory was being held at the storage facility in advance of California's 50th International Antiquarian Book Fair.  

Some of the more recognizable (but not necessarily the most valuable) texts stolen during the brazen burglary are:


Two rare editions of Dante Alighieri's narrative poem "La Divina Commedia" (Divine Comedy), one published by Giolito in Venice in 1555 and another in Venice by Domenico Farri in 1569

Copernicus' major theory De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published in the year of his death, 1543. 

an early version of Italian polymath Galileo Galilei's famous Opera , (pictured below) who was tried for heresy in 1633 and sentenced to house arrest for his admiration of Copernicus.  This edition, by Carlo Manolessi, contains many unpublished writings, as well as various writings of opponents of Galilei, Capra, Colombe, Grazia, Grassi and others, with their with their refutations. Zeitlinger: "The first collected edition of Galileo's work". Lacking Dialogue of Maximum Systems and the Letter to Christina of Lorraine, then still at the Forbidden Index and which will have to wait until 1744 and respectively 1808 to be reprinted. However, the allegory of Della Bella, disguising the heliocentric system by Medici coat of arms, he succeeded to declare openly in the Frontispiece the Copernican heresy. Galileo is kneeling at the feet of three female figures inpersonificanti Astronomy, Optics and Mathematics; to them with his hand raised, shows the coat of arms from the center of which depart the light rays and the planets are arranged like the six globes of the coat of arms of the Medici. Riccardi: "This year, though less abundant of succeeding, and bran, it is nevertheless highly esteemed, and not easy to be complete, because the various treaties having numbering and frontispiece particular, they were often distracted by the whole body of works." "Questo esemplare corrisponde perfettamente a quello censito in Iccu. Cinti, 132; Gamba, 482; Zeitlinger, I, 1435-6; Riccardi, I, 518-9, n. 17; De Vesme, p. 255, n. 965; IT\ICCU\UFIE\000447.



An impressive copy of Jo(h)annes Myritius' "Opvscvlvm geographicvm rarvm, totivs eivs negotii rationem, mira indvstria et brevitate complectens, iam recens ex diversorvm libris ac chartis, summa cura ac diligentia collectum & publicatum. (Pictured below). Ingolstadt, Wolfgang Eder, 1590. In a contemporary vellum binding made with parts of a 15th-century missal mss., water-stained and wormed, some slight damage to spine, lack epistles & a full-page heraldic woodcut, and pp. 131-136 with the portrait and another full-page heraldic wood-cut, the penultimate leave with colophon and printer‘s device, and the final blank) 


Sir Isaac Newton's "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." (pictured below) Translated into English, and illustrated with a commentary, by Robert Thorp, M. A. Volume the First [all published]. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand, 1777. (and) Newton, Isaac. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy translated into English and illustrated with a Commentary by Robert Thorp, D.D., Archdeacon of Northumberland. London: T. Cadell Jun. & W. Davies, 1802. The translator Robert Thorp's copy, with his name on title, extensively annotated by him in the mar-gins with diagrams.




Alessandro Meda Riquier of Meda Riquier Rare Books Ltd., in London lost a total of 51 books in the theft.  He estimates his company's losses at close to £1 million.

Speaking with Sky News Mr Riquier stated that 90% of German colleague Michael Kühn of Antiquariat Michael Kühn's books were taken, while Italian bookseller Renato Bado of Antiquariato Librario Bado E Mart S.A.S., from Padua estimates he has lost 60 percent of his holdings including the precious Copernicus.  Bado's stated losses are approximately £680,000. 

But why were the books at a storage facility in the first place? 

Storage facilities such as these are used for off-site storage of valuable rare books and archives in transit and in storage as they provide owners with condition reporting as well as a climate controlled settings to store objects at a museum-approved humidity. High relative humidity (RH) along with high temperature, can encourage potentially devastating biological damage to older texts.  Lower humidity or more accurately, controlled moisture content in equilibrium with lower RH slows can slow chemical deterioration and helps preserve historic texts. This makes bonded warehouses suitable for archives repositories, as well as for shipment intermediary points for historic books that are fragile.  

That is, of course, if the storage facility's security does what it is intended to do.

Theft to order or insider job?

A book antiquarian ARCA spoke with, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that he believes that the theft was ordered by a specific collector, since the stolen texts are quite recognisable and well documented.  Also with the announcement of the theft and the itemization of the texts stolen in the heist, they will be impossible to sell on the open market through legitimate auction houses or through book antiquarians.

Given the thieves went straight for the books, and appeared to know the vulnerabilities of the warehouse's security, it is plausible to consider that the thieves had awareness of what was being stored and how to enter the facility without being detected. 

Why steal rare books? 

Although the bulk of Nicolaus Copernicus’s book, demonstrating that the earth rotated around the sun, instead of the sun around the earth, was already finished in 1535, it was only printed in 1543, the year of the Polish astronomer’s death.

The first edition was printed in Nuremberg in 1543 and a second printing in Basel in 1566.  Around the globe, there are only 560 known copies of these two editions.   Purchased legitimately, like Lot 110 pictured below from a Christie's 2013 auction, first edition texts like this one are not only historically significant, but extremely valuable. 


The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers has published a lists detailing all the texts believed to have been stolen during the burglary.  They can be accessed here.

This listing which contains books and manuscripts from the 15th to the 20th century, covering a variety of topics including mediaeval book art, natural history, science, early renaissance printing, and travel has been logged with The Metropolitan Police's Stolen Art Database and stolen-book.org run by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Book and manuscript thefts have long been a problem for national libraries and private collectors.  Unfortunately when rare texts go missing, the actual monetary value of these works stands in second place to the incalculable history that is lost.

Since many of these texts may be identified by individual characteristics ARCA urges individuals involved in the rare book trade; collectors, institutions and book merchants to carefully check and verify all provenances, especially on historic texts printed in the second half of the 15th century.

The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association asks for the book collecting public to be on alert and if anyone offers any of these titles, please contact the Metropolitan Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For further details on the theft please contact ABA Secretary Camilla Szymanowska on 020 7421 4681 or at secretary[at]aba.org.uk or ABA Security Chair Brian Lake on 020 7631 4220 brian[at]jarndyce.co.uk.

By: Lynda Albertson

February 4, 2017

Conference - From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective.


Location: 
University of Cambridge
Newnham College - Cambridge Lucia Windsor Room
Cambridge, UK 

Dates:  
March 23-24, 2017 

Cost: 35£ (25£ for students)
Attendees are asked to register by 1 March 2017 by emailing the conference organizers 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Opening remarks

Panel I. A Paradigm Shift? From Legal to Moral Solutions in Restitution Practice

Commentator: Victoria Louise Steinwachs (Sotheby’s London)

– Debbie De Girolamo (Queen Mary, University of London), ‘Fair & Just Solutions – A Moniker for Moral Solutions?’

 – Tabitha I. Oost (University of Amsterdam), ‘Restitution policies of Nazi- looted art in The Netherlands and the UK. A change from a legal to a moral paradigm?’

 – Evelien Campfens (Leiden University), ‘Bridging the gap between ethics and law in looted art: the case for a transnational soft-law approach’

Panel II. Loosing Art/Loosing Identity: the Emotions of Material Culture

Commentator: Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge/Konstanz)

– Emily Löffler (Landesmuseum Mainz), ‘The J-numbers-collection in Landesmuseum Mainz. A case study on provenance, material culture, & emotions’

 – Michaela Sidenberg (Jewish Museum, Prague), ‘Rescue/Ransom/Restitution: The struggle to preserve the collective memory of Czech and Moravian Jews’

 – Mary Kate Cleary (Art Recovery Group, New York), ‘Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: self-portraits of a woman artist as a refugee’

Roundtable I. From Theory to Practice: Provenance Research in Museums

Chair: Robert Holzbauer (Leopold Museum, Vienna)

– Tessa Rosebrock (Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe), ‘Inventory records as a dead-end. On the purchases of French drawings by the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe from 1965 to 1990’

 – Laurel Zuckerman (Independent Researcher, Bry sur Marne), ‘Art Provenance Databases: Are They Fulfilling Their Promise? Comparative evaluation of ten major museum databases in the USA and the UK’

 – Shlomit Steinberg (Israel Museum, Jerusalem), ‘What started as a trickle turned into a flow- restitution at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’

 – Emmanuelle Polack (Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris), ‘Ethical issues regarding the restitution of Henri Matisse’s Blue Profile in front of the Chimney (1937) or Profil bleu devant la cheminée (1937)’

Friday March 24, 2017

Panel III. The Postwar Art Market: The Impact of a Changing World

Commentator: Richard Aronowitz-Mercer (Sotheby’s London)

– Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam), ‘Switzerland and Britain: Recontextualizing Fluchtgut’

 – Maike Brueggen (Independent Provenance Researcher, Frankfurt), ‘Arthur Kauffmann – dealing German art in post-war London’

 – Nathalie Neumann (Independent Researcher, Berlin), ‘Have the baby born in England!’ The trans-European itinerary (1933-1941) of the art collector Julius Freund’

 – Diana Kostyrko (Australian National University, Canberra), ‘Mute Witness: the Polish Poetess’

Panel IV. Restitution Initiatives and Postwar Politics in the United Kingdom

Commentator: Simone Gigliotti (Royal Holloway University of London)

– Elizabeth Campbell (University of Denver), ‘Monuments Woman: Anne O. Popham and British Restitution of Nazi-Looted Art’

 – Marc Masurovsky (Holocaust Art Restitution Project), ‘Operation Safehaven (1944-49): Framing the postwar discussion on restitution of Nazi looted art through British lenses’

 – Angelina Giovani (Jewish Claims Conference - Jeu de Paume Database), - A case study: ‘Looting the artist: The modern British paintings that never came back from France’

Panel V. Conflicting Interests: Restitution, National Politics and Vergangenheitsbewältigung across Postwar Europe

Commentator: Lisa Niemeyer (Independent Researcher, Wiesbaden)

– Ulrike Schmiegelt-Rietig (Wiesbaden Museum), ‘Pechora monastery, Russian collection looted by ERR and landed in Wiesbaden CCP’

 – Jennifer Gramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), ‘Dangerous or Banal? Nazi Art & American Occupation in Postwar Germany and US’

 – Agata Wolska (Independent researcher, Krakow), ‘The Vaucher Committee as International Restitution Body – the Abandoned Idea’

 – Nicholas O’Donnell (Sullivan & Worcester LLP, Boston), ‘Comparison of statutory & regulatory origins of restitutionary commissions in Germany, Austria, NL & UK after WWII’

Roundtable II. From Theory to Practice: Provenance & the Art Market

Chair: Johannes Nathan (Nathan Fine Art GmbH, Potsdam)

– Friederike Schwelle (Art Loss Register, London), ‘The difference between US and UK in resolving claims for Nazi looted art’

 – Isabel von Klitzing (Provenance Research & Art Consulting, Frankfurt) and Pierre Valentin (Constantine Cannon LLP, London), ‘From Theory to practice – when collectors want to do the right thing?’

January 7, 2017

Saturday, January 07, 2017 - ,,, No comments

The officers who serve to protect art in the UK Military: A personal account by Lt Col Tim Purbrick

This article is republished with permission from the official British Army Blog viewable here.

During the latter stages of the Second World War a group of American and British archaeologists, museum curators and architects formed up as a curious military unit called the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section which became known as the Monuments Men. Their job was to protect the cultural property wherever the conflict was being fought. This included places as diverse as North Africa and Italy, northern Europe, Greece and the Far East. The wartime activities of this specialist Allied military unit have been written about extensively and were recently portrayed by George Clooney, Bill Murray, Hugh Bonneville, Matt Damon and others in the movie Monuments Men.

Lt Col Tim Purbrick
After the war the nations of the world considered the implications of the damage, destruction and looting of cultural property which had taken place during the Second World War. It was felt that the international humanitarian law extant during the war for the protection of cultural property during conflict could be strengthened. This led to the introduction of the Hague Convention (1954), which was followed by its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999. The UK signed the Convention in 1954 but did not ratify it, which means that the Convention was not brought into UK law. In 2004 the Government decided that the effect of the 1999 Protocol met the criteria for ratification and announced that the Convention would be ratified at the earliest opportunity that Parliamentary time permitted.

US Military personnel recover paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration/American Jewish Historical Society/Center for Jewish History

At the back end of 2013 I was standing at the magazine racks next to my desk at Army HQ congratulating myself as I read an article which I had written on green energy in the British Army Review (BAR). The BAR is a largely internal Army magazine which was then published by the Army HQ Concepts Branch where I work for a day a week as an Army Reserve. Flicking through the other pages of the same issue of BAR I came across a far more interesting article about what activities the military should undertake for the protection of cultural property during conflict. It had been written by Professor Peter Stone OBE of Newcastle University.

To understand why I was fascinated you need to know the three pieces of baggage that I brought to the start of Prof Stone’s article. Our family company, which I now work for, are private art dealers in London. We deal in Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary art. I have been hanging around the business for 25 years and some of it rubbed off on me over that time! I had also spent 12 years tracking down stolen plant and equipment and stolen art and antiquities for The Equipment Register and The Art Loss Register so I had some understanding of the issues around cultural property theft. Underlying these was been my long term interest in the activities of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives sections during the Second World War, an interest which had been triggered by reading Lynn Nicholas’s outstanding book The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe’s Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War. It led me to many other books on the same subject.

Fortuitously, my current post is in the Concepts Branch of Army HQ. Our job is to work with academics, think tanks, military scientists and subject matter experts to attempt to understand what the future environment looks like so that we can propose how best to shape the Army to meet the challenges of that future environment. By the time I came across Prof Stone’s article I had already written one of our papers, which we call analytical concepts, on the future of the media and Army media operations. A second paper, on the future employment of cyber at the tactical and operational level, was already on circulation for comments by senior officers. These analytical concepts are highly detailed pieces of research work akin to a university dissertation or even, I kid myself, a Phd as it is generally a unique, first time look, in depth at a key issue for the future development of Army capability. Could cultural property protection (CPP) be my next analytical concept?

Literally the moment that I had finished reading the article I tracked down Prof Stone’s telephone number at Newcastle University and rang him up. Prof Stone and I had one of those interesting conversations: ‘you don’t know who I am’, I said, ‘but I have read your article in the British Army Review, I work at Army HQ and I think that there’s something that we may be able to do about your proposals.’ Prof Stone is also head of the UK Committee of the Blue Shield, an organisation which works with Governments to advise on the protection of cultural property during conflict. The Prof had some experience with the Armed Forces having advised NATO on what and where not to strike in Libya during OP ELLAMY in 2011. He had been trying to persuade the Armed Forces to take more of an interest in CPP so he was quite surprised to have someone from the Army calling him out of the blue to suggest that we could possibly do something about protecting cultural property during conflict.

I drafted a proposal for an analytical concept paper and took it to my Concepts Desk boss, Col Tim Law. Col Tim immediately agreed to let me write the proposed paper. Even though this issue was more current and not one of our future concept papers which look out 20 years, Col Tim and his boss, Brig Simon Deakin, saw the merit of the recommendations in Prof Stone’s article and in the Concepts Branch writing and circulating a paper. Over the coming weeks this became a draft document titled Delivering a Cultural Property Protection Capability. In the way that happens with all our papers, in a process that was to take to the end of July 2015, it was first circulated around Army HQ at Colonel level, comments were received back from these officers, the paper was amended, then it was sent out to Brigadier or 1 star level, comments were received and so the process went on until it had been all the way to the top of the Army where it was seen by Lt Gen Sir James Everard KCB, Commander of the Field Army.

Alongside the start of this internal circulation, with such a complex issue and with such little expertise on it within the Armed Forces, it was important for the paper’s credibility to have it validated by the real experts in academia, museums and amongst our Allies who had either already been involved in CPP for years or who had cultural property protection policies and plans in place for armed conflict. So, I shared the draft paper widely with many of those who quickly became key advisors, amending technicalities and suggesting generalities, giving the paper credibility inside and outside the Army and also giving us all a stake in the paper’s success.

In parallel to the paper and further afield I met up with a group of cultural property experts at the Defence College in Shrivenham. The group included Prof Stone, Richard Osgood, the MOD’s senior archaeologist at the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Victoria Syme-Taylor from King’s College London, and Dr Nick Marquez-Grant and Prof Andrew Shortland from Cranfield University. Also attending were military educator Maj Dave Mason from the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) at RAF Henlow, to assist with identifying and drafting the individual skill sets required by cultural property protection officers, and Lt Col Alasdair Morrison, a military lawyer from the Operational Law Department in Warminster, to advise on military and international law.

This group became the Military Cultural Property Protection Working Group and it met for the first time in early 2014.

December 6, 2016

Recovered: Two stolen Roman leaden coffins, one recovered from an auction house in Cirencester, UK

Looted from a 2004 excavation at a building site off Napier Road in Colchester, UK, two Roman-era decorative leaden coffin lids have been recovered by PC Andy Long, the Wildlife, Heritage and Environmental Crime Officer for the Essex Police. 

According to UK news website The Daily Gazette one coffin had been placed up for sale at an unnamed auction house in Cirencester.  The second was found at the house of the consignor, 140 km away near Melton Mowbray.  The news website states that the would-be seller, who reportedly has dementia, told law enforcement authorities that he was unaware of the fact that the two coffins had been stolen from an archaeological site.  Quoting a statement made by PC Long the gazette wrote “He bought them from a digger driver who was working on a building site in Colchester in 2004. He was told they had been offered to the museum and they didn’t want them.”

A quick search of auction houses in Cirencester, who happen to be selling Roman coffin lids, revealed just one: Dominic Winter Auctions.  The item once listed on their October 06, 2016 auction has had all of its details deleted,  leaving only a simple notice saying "withdrawn".

A quick check using Google's cache gives us the missing auction listing whose photos match the image appearing in the Gazette with Officer Long and Emma Holloway of the Colchester Archaeological Trust.



Interestingly the provenance details supplied by the auction house (see screen shot below) differ considerably from the details given by the consignor in the news article.  The Lot details at the Dominic Winter Auction states:

Roman Coffin. A museum quality Roman lead tapering coffin lid, probably 4th century, wet sand-cast lead with cast decoration comprising bead and reel borders dividing into three sections, central section with scroll pattern, end sections divided with saltire cross of bead and reel, three of the quadrants filled with scallop shell (pecten), the last with a circle, sometime broken into three sections, 119 x 34 cm (47 x 13 ins) Rare. Purchased by the present owner from metal detectorist Alan Pickering who discovered the piece together with another similar in Suffolk in the 1970s. In 1977 Toller recorded just 243 Roman lead coffins in Britain and only a handful more have been discovered since. (1)


So who misled who?  Did the consignor give the law enforcement officer one story in a forgetful state and the auction house another?  A find spot in Suffolk around 1970 is quite a contrast to 2004 Colchester when the objects had been left in situ ahead of the redevelopment of the site. 

Or was Alan Pickering nighthawking? 

According to visitor guides produced by the friends of the Colchester Archaeological Trust 



As Hugh Toller noted in his 1977 catalog of lead coffins of Roman Britain that the distribution of lead coffins was likely reflective less of the location of lead resources of a given geographical area, than it was of the ‘wealth in Roman Britain’.  According to this researcher, the majority of the 243 lead coffin pieces found leading up to the writing of his book were found in graves located in south-eastern and southern Britain, with nearly 55% of these coming from cemeteries directly associated with major urban centers, particularly Colchester, Dorchester, London, and York.

To more closely identify the find spot of the object once on auction, let's compare the decorative details on the leaden lid pictured in the Gazette's tweet with Officer Long and Emma Holloway of the Colchester Archaeological Trust.  This object's relief illustrates beading layed out in a "X" motif alongside a scallop shell.
The design work matches similarly with artwork appearing on another leaden coffin excavated from the historically rich St. Mary's area in Colchester. 

Colchester garrison site excavated by Colchester Archaeological Trust
Given the closely matching decoration of the seized objects to those previously studied by archaeologists, it is possible to assume that both objects may have been designed by the same craftsman.  But to know for sure, one would need to try and date both objects.   To do so with accuracy would require a find spot and an osteoarchaeologist familiar with bones and human remains who could help us build a picture of the person once buried inside the ancient coffin.

But then again, we have no idea where the human remains once held in the looted coffins were dumped.  When archaeologists argue about the importance of context and why looting is detrimental this is a powerful example.

Was it really worth £1000-£1500 to disturb someone's final resting place?

Sometimes in archaeology, the truth is found in our bones, and either out of respect for the dead or respect for the culture of Roman Britain, these coffins, and the persons once buried inside them, deserved more care and respect. 

________________________________

Toller, Hugh, 1977. Roman Lead Coffins and Ossuaria in Britain. BAR British Series 38. Oxford.

Russell, Benjamin, 2010. Sarcophagi in Roman Britain. In: Bollettino di Archeologia On Line, Vol. Special Volume.

November 12, 2016

Art Restitution: Tate Completes Restitution Process of Looted Constable Painting

Constable's 'Beaching a Boat, Brighton' (1824) will be returned to
its heirs on the recommendation of the UK's Spoliation Advisory Panel
London’s Tate Museum has, at long last, restituted John Constable’s painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton to its rightful owners. The Tate returned the painting to the heirs of Baron Ferenc Hatvany, a Hungarian Jewish painter and art collector, after it emerged that the work had been looted during the second World War.  The painting was once part of  Baron Hatvany’s larger collection, one of the finest, if not the largest (a distinction belonging to the Herzog’s) art collections in Budapest.  By the early 1940s, his collection comprised of some 750-900 works of art.  

Hatvany was forced to store this, and several other artworks, in a Budapest bank vault against the threat of possible Allied bombing, before ultimately being forced to flee the city when the Nazis arrived. The Russian Army then entered Budapest in 1945 and seized the Hatvany collection, leading to long-standing legal disputes over the property rights of many of the pieces of artwork it contained.

The heirs of Baron Hatvany filed a claim with Britain's eight-member Spoliation Advisory Panel — a panel created by the British government to mediate looting claims on art works in public institutions in 2013—after someone recognized the Constable painting as having been looted whilst visiting the Tate's London collection in 2012. 


In May 2014, at the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three of Hatvany’s heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland.  Then, alarmingly, the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

SAP met again in September 2015 to reexamine the original facts in the case, along with the added Hungarian Museum documentation, and in a lengthy 81-page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.” SAP then once again urged the return of the painting to the Baron’s heirs.

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery and represents the three Hatvany heirs, has said that the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is unfortunately often the case when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale. The heirs of WWII looted art are often numerous or often, not necessarily wealthy.  Sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artworks is to witness its sale.

Baron Ferenc Hatvany’s Constable painting, Beaching a Boat, Brighton will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th.  It is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

By: Summer Clowers










At the urging of the SAP, the Tate formally authorized the painting's return to three heirs — descendants who live in Paris and Switzerland in May 2014.  Then alarmingly the museum reversed course one week later after officials from the Hungarian Museum of Fine Arts produced an apparent 1946 export license for the painting.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel met again in September 2015 and reexamined the facts in the case along with the added documentation and in a length 81 page report again concluded that “No link has been established between Baron Hatvany and the two persons named as applying for the export license.”

Agnes Peresztegi, a lawyer who works for the nonprofit Commission for Art Recovery, who represents the three Hatvany heirs since 2012 has said the case illustrated the need for museums to conduct better due diligence when checking the provenance of paintings. “Research,” she stated, must “conform to a higher standard and there is a need for more transparency.”

As is often the case, when World War II restitutions are eventually made, the Hatvany heirs have decided to put the Constable painting up for sale.  The painting will go on the auction block at Christies in London on December 8th and is expected to sell for between GBS £500,000 and GBA £800,000.

Because the heirs of the looted art are numerous or not necessarily wealthy, sometimes the only practical solution for dividing the value of inherited artwork is to witness its sale. 





October 28, 2016

Looting Matters posting on the UK Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

For nine years Professor David Gill’s blog Looting Matters has been the place to turn for thoughtful discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities.  As a Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at the University of Suffolk and a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, as well as a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award recipient, it's safe to say that Dr. Gill has the credentials and expertise necessary to have an informed and measured opinion on the multiple threats facing our cultural heritage.

Dr. Gill has published widely on archaeological ethics, often with Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge).  Frequently on Looting Matters, as he has done today, he is the first in the heritage crimes field, to announce important news that we should all be paying attention to, often paces ahead of other researchers, including myself. 

Today Dr. Gill reminds us that on Monday, October 31, 2016 the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [HL] 2016-17 will have its 2nd reading in the UK’s House of Commons. 

In its current form, the Bill is an nobile effort to establish the United Kingdom's place as a champion for the world’s cultural heritage by introducing the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the Hague convention and its two protocols.   The bill seeks to introduce the necessary domestic legislation to enable the UK to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict, a convention the UK signed in December 1954 and has been publicly committed to ratifying, along with its two Protocols since 2004. 

As of March 2016, 127 states are party to the Hague treaty, while 4 others (Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the United Kingdom) have signed, but not ratified. Additionally, there are 104 States Parties to the First Protocol and 69 State Parties signatories to the Second Protocol

If passed this UK bill will not be retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 will make it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad.

To read up on this bill and its significance please see Dr. Gill's blog and the hyperlinks he has already posted.  While you are at it, I suggest you also follow his ongoing academic research here and perhaps take a look at his standing column "Context Matters" which he writes two times per year in the Journal of Art Crime speaking out about the material and intellectual consequences of heritage looting and illicit trafficking. 

By Lynda Albertson



October 3, 2016

Conference: The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF)


The International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum (IAASF) will be hosted at the NewcastleGateshead Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne, Friday, November 11, 2016 and will focus on various topics related to texisting or emerging threats and risks for those in the field interested in the protection of arts and antiquities.

Of benefit to security professionals and the wider heritage protection sector including, gallery owners, shippers, insurance companies and curators the event will include presentations on the importance of security in protecting culture and art, the scale of threat to UK arts and antiquities, the threat of terrorism as it relates to art and antiquities, operational best practices in crime prevention for museums and houses of worship, (both physical & technical) as well as how to protect art and antiquities during transit and the ever increasing roll of conservators in the field of heritage protection.

The content of the presentations has been specifically designed to enable everybody to take away a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the issues that exist, experiencing best practises and being exposed to great innovations; both technical and operational that will help reduce and manage risk.

The IAASF event will bring together an international range of presenters including

Director of Security, UK Christie’s London

National Security Adviser, Arts Council England

Owner and Managing Director of Trident Manor and Chair and IAASF Chair, IAASF

Founder and Director of AA&R -Art Analysis & Research Ltd.

Sr. Insurance Consultant, Former CEO, AXA Art

Security & Safety Manager, National Gallery of Ireland

Detective Superintendent - Major Crime, Organised Crime and Special Branch, Durham Constabulary

Archaeologist, Specialist in Conflict Antiquities

Executive Director, National Maritime Museum - Amsterdam and Advisor to the Dutch Government on Cultural Operations

Committee Chair, Cultural Properties – Houses of Worship, ASIS

Member of the Cultural Heritage Council, ASIS International

Paid registration to the International Arts & Antiquities Security Forum includes: 

  • Full day of presentations
  • Tea, coffee, snacks and lunch
  • Drinks reception served in the Riverside Terrace
For more information please see the Forum's website here. 

September 6, 2013

Christos Tsirogiannis, 2013 winner for ARCA's Award for Art Protection and Security, speaks out against metal detecting in treasure hunting

Christos Tsirogiannis (Photo by DW, J. Di Marino)
Christos Tsirogiannis, winner of the 2013 ARCA Award for Art Protection and Security, weighs in on the subject of metal detecting enthusiasts in "UK treasure hunters make archaeologists see red" for Deutsche Welle (DW):
It's estimated that there are now more than 10,000 metal detector users in England and Wales alone. They've been making an impact. In 2011, close to a million artifacts were found by hobbyists. Nearly 1,000 of those could be classed as treasure - precious metals discovered by metal detector users. 
No harm done? 
But not everyone is pleased. Archaeologist and illicit antiquities researcher at Cambridge University, Christos Tsirogiannis, is one of those concerned. He says the amateur archeologists are damaging important sites. 
"Every object has an amazing historical value, especially when it's found in its actual and original archeological context," Christos Tsirogiannis explains. "If something is extracted violently and by an uneducated, non-specialist person from its original context, this cannot be reconstructed."
Mr. Tsirogiannis is quoted by DW as recommending the banning of all metal detectors:
"I'm sure that there are several people who are operating metal detectors and they do it just for excitement," he says. "But even in a legal way, the destruction that they generate is really big, and it is an unfortunate phenomenon that it is still legal."