Friday, April 18, 2008

Marcus Aurelius and the Paris Connection: Update

A Roman portrait of Marcus Aurelius was returned to Algeria in January ("Marcus Aurelius and the Paris Connection"). It had been stolen from the Skikda Museum in 1996 and was recognised by the Art Loss Register (ALR) at a June 2004 auction at Christie's (New York); it has been consigned by "Galerie Samarcande" of Paris.

At the time of the return Marcy M. Forman, Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations, commented ("Immigration and Customs Enforcement Returns Ancient Marble Sculpture of Roman emperor to Algerian Government", US Fed News, January 15, 2008):
It is always a pleasure to return cultural artifacts to the people of another nation, particularly when they are stolen from public museums or other cultural heritage institutions ... This item is not a souvenir to be sold to the highest bidder, but a priceless treasure that holds an important place in Algerian history. ICE will do everything in its power to help preserve and protect a nation's heritage by working to locate and recover stolen antiquities.
It was reported yesterday that the portrait was placed in the Museum of Antiquity in Algiers ("Algeria: Stolen Marcus Aurelius Bust to Algiers", April 17, 2008; "Algérie: le buste de Marc Aurèle retrouve sa place au musée des antiquités", AFP, April 17, 2008).

But it is important to remember that eight other objects were stolen at the same time as Marcus Aurelius. Algierian Culture Minister Khalida Toumi reminded us:
"A further eight finds stolen together with the bust have not yet been recovered ... These are seven marble sculptures and one stone sculpture. In particular, they are heads of women, of one man, of a boy and a girl and of a clown.
Where are they now? Which gallery or galleries had handled them?

I also observe from recent stories that antiquities stolen from museums, stores and archaeological sites are passing through Paris:
Does this reflect a lack of rigour in the ethical standards by those involved in the antiquities market in France?

1 comment:

David Gill said...

For information from the Art Loss Register:
http://www.artloss.com/case-studies/roman-marble-portrait-head-of-marcus-aurelius

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