Since the end of communism in Albania, an increasing number of priceless works of art have been stolen from Orthodox churches. Now, a theft that left historic frescoes destroyed has finally caused an uproar.
With knives and axes, art thieves destroyed historic frescoes in a small church in Elbasan in central Albania in January. In trying to remove the wall painting, they ended up shredding it. In February, robbers similarly descended on a church in southern Himara. The churches in both cases were Orthodox, the richly decorated interiors of which are particularly attractive to art thieves.
Many of the destroyed works were by Onufri, a famous icon painter of the 16th century anhd the best-known medieval artist in Albania. The thefts sparked broad outrage in the media, especially among archaeologists. Read more
The Latest Threat to Pompeii’s Treasure: Italy’s Red Tape
Destroyed by the eruption ofMount Vesuviusin A.D. 79, Pompeii survived excavation starting in the 18th century and has stoically borne the wear and tear of millions of modern-day tourists.
But now, its deep-hued frescoes, brick walls and elegant tile mosaics appear to be at risk from an even greater threat: the bureaucracy of the Italian state.
In recent years, collapses at the site have alarmed conservationists, who warn that this ancient Roman city is dangerously exposed to the elements — and is poorly served by the red tape, the lack of strategic planning and the limited personnel of the site’s troubled management. Read more
Hopi Masks Auctioned in Paris amid Outrage and Legal Objections
The gavel came down on 70 sacred Hopi Indian masks at the Drouot auction house in Paris on Friday, generating $1.2 million for the owners and auctioneers – and anger and emotional cries from protesters who said it was a sacrilege that violated tribal rights and the Hopi religion.
The Associated Press reported that the auction proceeded after a French court rejected requests from the Hopi tribe and U.S. government to stop the sale; in its ruling, the court said that U.S. laws governing the sale of Native American religious objects are not applicable in France.
The Associated Press reported that after the most valuable piece was sold — a “Mother Crow” mask dating from about 1880 that fetched $209,000 –a woman protester shouted, “this is not merchandise, these are sacred beings!” and was led from the room in tears. Read more
Tuesday marks 10 years since the destruction of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. American troops stormed the area on April 9, 2003 and toppled the statue of Iraq’s former dictator, marking the symbolic collapse of his regime.
Hussein, who came to be known as the “Butcher of Baghdad,” was hanged in Baghdad in December 2006 for crimes against humanity committed during a 24-year reign of brutality that ended with the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Global News takes a look back at other well-known political monuments that were defaced. Read more
That’s why it’s strange that he now wants to donate four ancient buildings from Huangshan, a mystical mountain in Anhui province, to a university in Singapore. It’s an irony that hasn’t been lost on mainland internet users, many of whom are perplexed and outraged that Chan would give Chinese cultural relics to foreigners. “Huangshan people strongly demand the buildings return home,” a user called Huizhouxiaobuyi wrote on a Weibo micro-blogging service.
The houses, which Chan bought for his now-deceased parents 20 years ago, were ravaged by termites in the last few years, leaving Chan fumbling with how properly to care of the remaining structures. The martial arts phenom now believes that Singapore University of Technology and Design will be able to preserve the houses. Read more
A painting byRussian-bornFrenchartist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) that was stolen in 2002 from a U.S.-flagged yacht anchored in the northern Italian port of Savona was recovered by police, a police spokesman said Monday.
“Le Nu au Bouquet,” which was painted in 1920, is worth 1.2 million euros ($923,297), Italian media reported.
The painting was found at the house of former Juventus player Roberto Bettega, who bought the work at a gallery in the northeastern city of Bologna in 2003 for nearly 175,000 euros ($134,647 at the current exchange rate) and was unaware it was stolen. Read more
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Ancient Damascus Synagogue Hit by Looting, Shelling in Syrian Conflict
Theft and shelling have damaged a 2,000 year-old synagogue in Damascus, one of the oldest in the world, Syrian government and opposition activist sources said on Monday.
Syria’s historic monuments have increasingly become a casualty of the civil war has killed more than 70,000 people. Parts of Aleppo’s medieval stone-vaulted souk have been reduced to rubble, and many ancient markets, mosques and churches across the country are threatened with destruction.
The damage has so far been light at the Jobar Synagogue, built in honour of the biblical prophet Elijah, according to Mamoun Abdulkarim, the head of Syria’s antiquities department.
“Local community officials say the place’s sanctity has been violated and there were thefts but I cannot verify the nature of the thefts without investigation,” Abdulkarim told Reuters by telephone. Read more
The FBI, along with Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, released new information about one of the largest property crimes in U.S. history, the art theft from the museum more than two decades ago. The FBI is appealing to the public for help in what is one of the FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes.
The FBI believes it has determined where the stolen art was transported in the years after the theft and that it knows the identity of the thieves, Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston office, revealed for the first time in the 23 year investigation. “The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft.” DesLauriers added, “With that same confidence we have identified the thieves who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England.” After the attempted sale, which took place approximately a decade ago, the FBI’s knowledge of the art’s whereabouts is limited. Read more
Associated Press photographer Maya Alleruzzo revisited places in Iraq where photos from the contentious war had been previously taken. To mark the 10th anniversary of the second Iraq War, Alleruzzo juxtaposed iconic images from the past against the backdrop of a calmer country struggling to rebuild.Read more
Egyptian Archaeological Sites Bulldozed and Looted
An Egyptianarchaeologisthas warned that Antinoupolis, one of the country’s largest archaeological sites, is being “destroyed systematically” by residents amid a complete failure from the government to protect the site.
Monica Hanna, a researcher with the University of Humboldt inBerlin, told Al-Masry-Al-Youm that she received information from archaeologists who work at the site of the ancient Roman Antinoupolis, also known as Sheikh Abada, saying the site faces grave danger.
Hanna said that the area near the Ramses IItemplehas been bulldozed and leveled. She added that the northwestern corner of the walled city had been bulldozed and for agricultural use. Read more
How art museums across North America collect archaeology and ancient art in an ethical way, avoiding the harm to institutional reputations and financial losses incurred if an item turns out to be looted, is under the spotlight after the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) changed its guidelines for its 200-plus members at the end of January.
Along with the new guidelines, the AAMD is improving its online database of objects without a cast-iron provenance that members have acquired: now, full disclosure about an object’s past and the reasons for its acquisition is obligatory. Of particular concern are the objects bequeathed or promised by donors before 2008, when the association tightened its rules on antiquities.Read more
Five Curious Ways Popes Have Left Their Mark on Rome
The Eternal City is chock full of the Western world’s most important treasures, thanks in large part to the Catholic church’s 266 popes, who collected and commissioned masterpieces, commanded beautifying building projects and acquired art–sometimes through not-so-holy means.
The papal facelifts started nearly from the get-go: The Middle Ages left Roman ruins plundered and used as pastureland. But Pope Martin V began a restoration of the city as early as AD 140; When Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the first jubilee in 1300, thousands of pilgrims visited Rome thereby lining the papal coffers with plenty of project funding; Nicholas V began building works at both St. Peter’s and the Vatican, where he transferred his residence from the Lateran Palace and tried to slow down the plundering of ancient buildings, which despite his efforts continued well into the 16th century.Read more