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Revealed: Roman Hoard, Found In France, Conserved Here


Imagine being a French farmer, plowing your field near a village named Berthouville in rural Normandy; it's 1830. And you hit something, stop and discover the first items in a trove that grew to 90 silver and gilt-silver statuettes and vessels dating to the 3rd century and before. It happened, and now, after four years of conservation work at the Getty Museum, they went on view today at the Getty Villa. Known as the Berthouville Treasure, they appear to be an ancient offering to the Gallo-Roman god Mercury, the museum says. It's the first … [Read more...]

It’s A Masterpiece!


Yes, I wrote another Masterpiece column for The Wall Street Journal, which published in Saturday's paper, headlined Folding Culture and Politics Into Art. Can you guess what it is? I've already mentioned it here, in 2012. I was enamored of the object, a folding screen made in Mexico at the turn of the 18th century, from the first I heard of it, when it was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum.* And when I saw it last year in Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492–1898 there, I wasn't disappointed. What's more, the screen has … [Read more...]

AAMD On El Salvador: Let’s Try Licit Antiquities Market

Temple at Cihuatan Park

Full of frustration that a 27- year-old U.S.-El Salvador Memorandum of Understanding to stop looting of antiquities isn't working, the Association of Art Museum Directors recommended against renewal recently. Instead, the Association advocated the formation of a "licit" market in antiquities there. It would be taxed, and the proceeds would be "used to protect cultural sites and to encourage related employment by the local populations and the scientific exploration, storage and conservation of objects from those sites.” That's the gist of an … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Rescues Egyptian Antiquities


Last week, as Bonhams in London was preparing to auction a lot of second millennium B.C. Egyptian antiquities consigned by the St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Metropolitan Museum of Art* stepped in. Bonhams withdrew the lot, estimated at £80,000 - 120,000 (US$ 130,000 - 190,000), and the Met purchased the Treasure of Harageh items (one pictured at left). There's no word on what the Met paid. I tell the whole tale, tipped off by an item by the Associated Press, in an item on Art-Antiques-Design. That's a … [Read more...]

Another Corcoran Outrage: The Archives

Grieving Canova lion by David Mordini

If you thought everything about the future of the Corcoran Art Gallery was parsed and settled, much to the dismay of its students, faculty, curators and various formers in all three categories, think again. There's another outrage. The Corcoran's archives, which relate its entire 145-year history, are slated to be broken up. Any archivist will tell you that, more important than the possibly wonderful individual items, it's the whole of an archive that matters most to the historical record. Indeed, the Corcoran archives contain "all … [Read more...]

Good News From The Middle East


I'm still catching up with news that occurred while I was away on vacation, and since this qualifies and it happened in the hapless Middle East, I thought I'd report it: in mid-August, it seems, the Iraqi National Museum reopened two renovated halls that display ancient sculptures. Mainly life-sized ones, according to a report by the Associated Press. It said that the new galleries "feature more than 500 artifacts that mainly date back to the Hellenistic period (312-139 B.C.), some of which were retrieved and renovated after the looting of … [Read more...]

Name The Best Four Hudson River School Paintings — To Go On Stamps


On Monday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum announced that its wonderful Grand Canyon painting by Thomas Moran, from 1912, would grace a Forever stamp as part of an homage to the Hudson River School of artists -- it's one of four tributes. What are the other three paintings? (I got no other press notices.) Were the other three museums, as the Post Office would choose only from works held in the public domain, mum on the honor? Guess so. But I looked it up. As you can well imagine, the other three artists in this series are Thomas Cole, Asher B. … [Read more...]

St. Louis: Ka Nefer-Nefer Case Ends With A Whimper


U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan, who has been hounding the St. Louis Art Museum to return an Egyptian mask it purchased in 1998 for about a half million dollars, has told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "his office only had “a lack of record showing a lawful transfer,” not proof the mask was stolen." The Justice Department has therefore abandoned its effort to force SLAM to return the mask, letting yesterday's deadline for taking legal pass without an additional filing.  To recap, as the P-D wrote: The mask was excavated in 1952 from a … [Read more...]

Let’s All Help Save Syria’s Treasures: A Plan


Everyone has been very worried about the state of cultural heritage properties in Syria during this civil war. There have been irregular reports but they all suggest that Old Aleppo, the Krak des Chevaliers, many medieval Christian cemeteries and dozens of archaeological sites and museums have been damaged -- or, as a new release from an organization trying to do something put it, "subjected to extensive raiding and looting." In late June, the Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center in Philadelphia and the Smithsonian Institution, along … [Read more...]

Boston MFA Gives Up Eight Nigerian Antiquities.


The Museum of Fine Arts says it is voluntarily sending eight objects from its African department -- dating to the 18th century -- to the National Commission of Museums and Monuments in Nigeria. The pieces were donated to the museum and purchased in "good faith" in the 1990s from dealers in both the U.S. and Europe. One piece, a bronze altar figure dated about 1914, was actually stolen from the Royal Palace in Benin City in 1976. The purchaser was the late William E. Teel. Teel donated "more than 300 African and Oceanic works, along with … [Read more...]

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