March 21, 2011 – 08:32
Six stolen icons discovered in an art gallery near the Greek embassy in London have become the focus of a police inquiry as Athens tries to unravel how the religious works ended up on the international art market.
The magnificent pieces, painted over 200 years ago in typical Byzantine fashion, adorned Orthodox monasteries and churches in remote northern Greece until they were snatched by thieves.
“We have indisputable photographic evidence of their existence and it goes without saying that we want them back,” said police chief Dimos Koursilos, who heads the country’s art squad. “All of them were reported stolen in the last decade,” he told the Guardian.
The plundered art was revealed after a telephone call from a woman claiming to recognise one of the icons – a famous rendition of the Virgin – on the website of the Temple gallery in west London.
Further investigation showed that the immaculately preserved gold-edged painting was among six icons reported missing from Greece that the specialist was selling for up to £5,000 each.
Richard Temple, who owns the gallery and is acknowledged as London’s foremost dealer in icons, said that when he bought them he had “absolutely no reason” to suspect they were stolen.
“I’ve been in the business for 51 years and I’m too well known as a gallery to take any risks at all,” he said. “We are an obvious target. We had gone through the correct protocols, but one has to have a certain amount of trust as business is conducted in good faith. I know the seller – he is somebody I deal with and I think he, in turn, was duped.”
via Stolen Greek relics found in London | Art and design | The Guardian.