Fragment of Greek history to reignite row over Marbles
From Richard Owen in Rome
A FRAGMENT of the Parthenon frieze kept by an 18th-century British diplomat in Sicily is to be returned to Greece. It is a gesture that is certain to revive the dispute over Britain’s retention of the Elgin Marbles. President Ciampi of Italy plans to hand over part of a statue of the goddess Peitho during a state visit to Greece next month in a move described by officials as a “gesture of friendship”. The fragment, held at a museum in Sicily, consists of the goddess’s foot and part of her tunic and once formed part of the frieze on the east side of the Parthenon. Francesco D’Andria, Italy’s leading archaeological expert on Greek and Turkish antiquities, said that the move undoubtedly would give the Greek authorities a reason to return to their campaign to get back the Elgin Marbles. He deplored the decision because it could “destabilise the entire museum system of Europe. Does Italy now expect Paris to return the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, or the Russians to return Roman sarcophagi from the Hermitage?” La Repubblica said that although the fragment was only 35 centimetres (13½in) square, it was enough to “revive the battle between nations over the restitution of cultural treasures, and not least the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum”. A spokesman for the museum said that the rest of the figure of Peitho was not among the marbles removed by Lord Elgin, and had remained in Athens. It did not, therefore, relate to the Elgin Marbles issue. The figure of Peitho, the Goddess of Seduction and Persuasion and daughter of Aphrodite, was once part of a line of Greek divinities on the frieze. But the Parthenon, built on the Acropolis hill in Athens in the 5th century BC, suffered repeated damage, most notably in 1687 when Venetian forces besieging the Turkish rulers of Athens blew it up. In the 18th century, collectors of antiquities started to cart off bits of the ruin, and in 1801 Lord Elgin obtained an official permit “to remove some blocks of stones with inscriptions and figures” which were sold to the British Museum in 1816. The fragment of Peitho, however, was acquired by Robert Fagan, the British Consul in Sicily and a colourful adventurer, spy, amateur archaeologist, portrait painter and art dealer. On his death in 1816, Fagan, by then plagued by debts, left his collection to Palermo University and it now forms part of the Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum (named after the archaeologist Antonio Salinas). Fabio Granata, assessor of culture for Sicily, confirmed that he had been asked by the President’s office to sign a permit allowing the export of the Peitho fragment. He said that Italy hoped that in return Greece would hand back Italian treasures held in Greece. Rosalia Camerata Scovazzo, head of the Salinas Museum, said that she was handing back the Peitho fragment with reluctance. “It is one thing when you are dealing with objects which have been stolen over the past few decades, but it is quite another matter to give back pieces which come from private collections formed one or even two centuries ago,” she said. Greece sees the staging of the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 as an opportunity to recover the Elgin Marbles and display them in a new museum near the Acropolis. The British Museum said that it is prohibited from permanently disposing of any objects. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
Nazi loot claim 'compelling'
The British Museum says there is "compelling" evidence that four drawings in its collection were looted by Nazis around the time of World War II. The artworks - thought to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds - are said to have been stolen between 1935 and 1945 from a collection owned by Dr Arthur Feldmann, of Brno, in the Czech Republic. Dr Feldmann's collection of 750 drawings was seized by the Gestapo after the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death, but died as a result of ill- treatment in 1941, while his wife was killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. A panel was set up by the government last year to investigate claims by former owners and their families relating to looting by the Germans.
Dr Feldmann's collection contained 750 drawings The museum's trustees described the claim as "detailed and compelling". "The atrocities committed during 1933-45 represent a distinct and especially brutal period of modern history," the museum trustees said, expressing their sympathy with the claims made by victims of the Nazi regime.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe's co-chair Anne Webber said: "We are delighted the British Museum has unreservedly accepted that the claim is well-founded and that these works were looted." "It means a huge amount to Dr Feldmann's family; that an institution like the British Museum has acknowledged what happened to them and the family collection, which is something the family is so proud of," she said. The drawings were purchased at a Sotheby's sale
Unnamed descendants of the family are pursuing their claim through the commission.
The drawings are from the 15th to the 18th Centuries. They are:
Niccolo dell'Abbate's Holy Family
Martin Johann Schmidt's Madonna and Child
St Dorothy and the Christ Child by a follower of Martin Schongauer
A Nicholas Blakey design for a book illustration
Three of the drawings were bought on behalf of the British Museum at a sale at Sotheby's in London in 1946, with the fourth coming through a bequest.
The museum could either keep the works, give them up, or pay compensation. http://news.bbc.co.uk/ ___
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U.K. Museum Mistakenly Sells Skull
Tue Oct 1,11:51 AM ET
YORK, England (AP) - One British museum has lost its head.
Staff at the York Dungeon museum of horrors said Tuesday they are trying to trace a visitor who was accidentally sold a human skull in the museum shop, where the grisly item was used as a prop. Performance manager Helen Spence, said the skull had been put on a bookshelf during refurbishment of one of the exhibits and presumably sold as one of the replica skulls that are offered to visitors. "It was an unfortunate mistake. We know who it is who bought it and we just want to trace them," she said. Staff hope a credit card company will be able to contact the purchaser, believed to be a woman who bought the skull for her son for Christmas. Spence said the skull has been at the museum for as long as anyone can remember and no one is sure where it came from. York Dungeon owns another human skull that is believed to have come from a pit where victims of the medieval plague were buried.
Museum eyed in firing of Muslim
Tue Oct 1, 9:56 AM ET By Shelley Murphy, The Boston Globe
In one of the first civil lawsuits of its kind in the country, the Worcester Art Museum was accused by the federal government yesterday of violating civil rights law by firing a security guard after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks solely because he was born in Afghanistan and is a Muslim. While the number of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging a workplace backlash against Arabs and other Middle Easterners has nearly doubled in the last year, yesterday's suit filed in federal court in Boston was only the second brought by the EEOC, according to federal officials.
''The EEOC determined that this gentleman was doing nothing that would have given them cause to fire him,'' said Jennifer Kaplan, an EEOC spokeswoman in Washington. She said the agency has been aggressively tracking job discrimination complaints post-Sept.
Full story at Boston.com:
Athens Archaeological Museum to Close
Tue Oct 1, 8:44 AM ET By The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece's main archaeological museum will close for major renovations before the 2004 Olympics. The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, considered the country's most important showcase of ancient Greek artifacts, will close Tuesday. Renovation work is scheduled to last until April 2004 — four months before the games. The 113-year-old building sustained minor structural damage in a powerful earthquake in September 1999. The building's general condition also has deteriorated over the years. The $33 million project will include the installation of an air conditioning system and additional toilets for visitors, officials said. Archaeological sites and museums across Athens are undergoing massive improvements before the Olympics.
Hunt for speeding car in art haul dragnet
By Staff Reporter
A CAR spotted speeding out of the town of Blessington at more than 100mph on Sunday morning may provide a vital clue in the hunt for the art haul taken from Russborough House in Co Wicklow. The thieves are believed to have switched to a waiting car after abandoning a stolen jeep which they used to smash a rear window and gain entry to the house's saloon, where they snatched the five paintings. Ten minutes after the alarm sounded in Russborough, a female motorist travelling into Blessington at 6.15am was passed by a car "travelling so fast it made her car vibrate". The car was travelling towards Tallaght and was spotted on the outskirts of Blessington at the Roadstone pits. Last night garda Supt John Murphy of Baltinglass, appealed to anyone who was on the Blessington to Tallaght road on Sunday between 6 and 6.30am to contact them. Meanwhile garda are examining the jeep which had been stolen in Dublin in Saturday and abandoned near Blessington. A detailed search for clues is also being carried out at Russborough House. Meanwhile, the Beit Foundation is to decide this week how to seek funding to install a new security system at Russborough following the fourth theft of paintings from the home of Lady Clementine Beit since 1974. The house is administered by a charitable trust which has limited funds and may seek help from the Government, the National Lottery or a private benefactor. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/