Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category

Japanese textiles of nettle fiber and fish skin go on display

Saturday, June 25th, 2022

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is finally getting the opportunity to showcase the collection of Japanese textiles it acquired in 2019 in a new exhibition dedicated to exceptional garments made from locally-sourced natural materials. Dressed by Nature: Textiles of Japan will showcase rare robes, coats, vests, banners and mats made from banana plant fiber, paper, hemp, wisteria, rice straw, elm bark, nettle fiber, paper, fish skin as well as cotton, silk and wool.

When the museum acquired the 230-piece collection of Japanese masterpieces from Asian textile expert and collector Thomas Murray in 2019, the delicate garments were in need of conservation. They first had to be frozen for a length of time to kill any live bugs that might have settled in to the fabric, then stabilized and stored under climate-controlled conditions. The original plan was to exhibit the freshly conserved collection in the fall of 2020, but for obvious reasons that was delayed.

“These garments and cloths are unique objects that showcase the creativity of their makers in fashioning textiles from all kinds of natural materials depending on their living circumstances,” [curator Dr. Andreas] Marks said. “While many exhibitions on the dress of Japan focus on the silk kimono and clothes worn by the aristocracy, ‘Dressed by Nature’ instead celebrates the inventiveness and beauty of folk traditions and clothes worn in everyday life. We are excited for visitors to experience the kaleidoscope of materials and designs that will be on view and which demonstrate human ingenuity in the pre-industrial period of Japan between the 18th and early 20th centuries.”

The over 120 textiles on view will highlight the artistry from the diverse cultures that form the Japanese archipelago. These include exceptionally rare, brightly colored resist-dyed bingata robes from Okinawa; delicately patterned garments used by farmers, fishermen, and firemen from Japan’s largest and most populous islands of Honshu and Kyushu; and boldly patterned coats created by Ainu women from Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and the Sakhalin Island of Siberia.

Among the treasures on display is a dark blue festival robe from the early 1900s decorated with hand-drawn sea creatures painted with a rice paste resist dye technique called tsutsugaki. Worn to celebrate a successful catch, its hand-drawn decoration makes it one of a kind.

Another unique treasure of working class clothing history on display is a complete fireman’s kit from the second half of the 19th century. It contains everything a fireman would have needed to fight the constant fires in the closely-built wooden cities: a coat, a hood, padded gloves, slim-fit pants made of quilted cotton dyed indigo. The firefighters would have saturated this gear in water before combatting the fire.

Also acquired from Thomas Murray but earlier this year at Asia Week New York is a rare 18th century Attush (meaning elm bark) robe. The robe was made by the Ainu people of Hokkaido out of elm bark fiber, cotton and trade cloth from the Japanese mainland. It was decorated with appliqué cotton and embroidery, but is the only one of its kind to have embellishments made of sturgeon scales, shells, bird bones and silk tassels, all of which were believed to hold talismanic power. This robe was likely owned by someone of great importance in the community.

Dressed by Nature opened June 25th and will run through September 11st.


Up close with the Ryedale Hoard

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

The Yorkshire Museum is hosting a series of online expert lectures and curatorial talks dedicated to the Ryedale Hoard, the unique group of ritual bronzes used in ceremonies of the imperial cult in the late 2nd century that the museum was able to acquire last year. The hoard went on display to the public for the first time when the museum reopened in April. The lecture series runs in conjunction with The Ryedale Hoard: A Roman Mystery. There will be one online talk a month until the exhibition ends in March 2023.

Each episode in the series is first livestreamed on the museum’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. The lectures are following by a Q&A period where viewers can ask questions in the comments. The recorded lecture is then posted on YouTube.   

There have been two so far. The first video is hosted by Professor Michael Lewis, head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum, and delves into how Treasure is defined in terms of the 1996 Treasure Act. This is relevant to the Ryedale Hoard because it failed to qualify as official Treasure despite its undisputed antiquity and unprecedented archaeological importance and was only saved for the public patrimony thanks to Richard Beleson, a generous supporter of the Yorkshire Museum. Lewis lays out the processes of the PAS and explains how archaeological treasures can fall through the cracks, using examples some bloggers you know might have obsessed over once or twice.

The first talk doesn’t really get into the particulars of the Ryedale Hoard, however. That’s what the second one does. It is hosted by the Yorkshire Museum’s curator of archaeology Lucy Creighton. She covers the discovery of the objects by two metal detectorists, how they realized they had found something really special, then goes into detail about the objects themselves, holding them up to the camera to point out features that are not necessarily conveyed in still photographs. She points out a peg embedded in the hoof of the horse and rider figure that would have originally been slotted into a base with a flat surface, for example, and shows a piece of bronze found inside the head of the Marcus Aurelius bust that was once the back of the head.

The next online lecture looks excellent as well. Metals, Making and Magic: The Smith in Roman Britain will be delivered by Dr. Owen Humphreys on July 21st. Sign up here to receive notices of future lectures. I did last month, forgot all about it, and remembered only after I received the museum’s reminder email linking to the discussion. 


Le Mans’ Roman walls are 50 years younger than realized

Monday, June 6th, 2022

The city of Le Mans in northwestern France is probably best known for the 24-hour endurance sports car race that bears its name, but it has the far greater distinction of having the best preserved late Roman defensive walls surviving in France and in the top three best preserved Roman walls in the former Empire. The only other comparable ones are the walls of Rome itself and of Constantine’s second Rome (ie, Istanbul).

The Roman walls of Le Mans cover an area of 8.5 hectares. There were 40 towers originally; today 19 of them are preserved, looming 50 feet high. The walls between them were built in a typical Roman technique: parallel brick facings with mortar between them. They average more than 30 feet high and are 15 feet thick at the base. To build these monumental defenses, workers used 400,000 bricks, 140,000 tons of rubble, 60,000 tons of mortar and 50,000 square feet of reused foundation blocks.

The masonry and brickwork are uniquely decorated. Contrasting colors of terracotta bricks, pink mortar, red sandstone, light sandstone, white limestone were arranged to create chevrons, columns, X-shapes, flowers and more. Researchers have identified 14 different motifs. Roman enclosures elsewhere do not have this feature, while other ancient structures in the Le Mans area do, so it seems this was a local aesthetic carried forward through this monumental undertaking.

Historians have long believed that the walls were built around 280 A.D. in reaction to the Crisis of the Third Century. Before the Crisis, 25 Gallo-Roman cities had fortified defensive walls. More than 80 Gallo-Roman towns built new walls in the late third and early fourth centuries. They are easily distinguished from walls built in earlier times because they are much thicker, higher, have more towers and were made with recycled construction materials. The foundations of Le Mans’ walls were built with the stone from the city’s public baths, deliberately demolished to provide construction materials for the new fortifications.

In 2017, a new in-depth exploration of the walls was undertaken by city archaeologists and historians. Samples were taken from the bricks and mortar of the walls in the attempt to confirm its date. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), Carbon-14 analysis and archaeomagnetic dating of the samples all returned unexpected results. The wall was built in the 4th century, not the third, between 320 and 360 A.D. That means the massive fortifications were not built under pressure from barbarian raids and ineffectual imperial management, but rather during a period of comparative stability in the Late Empire.

The samples were only taken from one section of the wall. Archaeologists plan to analyze other sections as well to discover whether the fortifications were all built so late, or if some parts were begun in the third century and construction took place over many decades.

The Jean-Claude-Boulard-Carré Plantagenêt Museum in Le Mans is hosting the first major exhibition dedicated to the city’s exceptional Roman walls. The exhibition explores the wall’s meaning beyond its military application, its construction materials and methods, how it was altered between the 5th and 18th century, and its rediscovery in the 19th century.


Pompeii acquires historic foundry cast collection

Saturday, June 4th, 2022

The Archaeological Park of Pompeii has acquired a unique collection of more than 1600 sculptural models and casts from the historic Chiurazzi Foundry of Naples. Many of the casts were taken from sculptures discovered in the cities destroyed by Vesuvius (Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae) when archaeological methodology was haphazard at best, indiscriminately destructive at worst, so the Chiurazzi casts and molds are critical records of the Vesuvian discoveries themselves as well as of their wider cultural impact.

Neapolitan sculptor Gennaro Chiurazzi established the foundry in 1870. He had learned his trade as apprentice to the sculptor Pietro Masulli who had pioneered the practice of creating high-quality reproductions of ancient sculptures using the lost wax bronze casting techniques of classical antiquity as revived by 16th century master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini. When he opened his own business, Chiurazzi picked up where his boss had left off, employing Masulli’s model of producing life-sized replicas of Greek and Roman sculptures. (There was no conflict. Masulli collaborated with his former pupil on works sold by the Fonderia Chiurazzi, and Gennaro would speak glowingly of his mentor throughout his lifetime.)

After Italian Unification transmuted the former Royal Bourbon Museum into the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in 1860, the now-public museum began granting permits to foundries and workshops to make casts of its vast collection of ancient art, including the myriad sculptures recovered in excavations of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.

The Fonderia Chiurazzi quickly became pre-eminent in the field. Gennaro Chiurazzi refined his process, combining industrial production methods with meticulous hand-chiseled finishes to create museum-quality replicas not just of the ancient sculptures in Naples but also of Greek and Roman origins in the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums, the Borghese Museum and the Uffizi Gallery, among many others. By the turn of the century Chiurazzi bronzes were internationally famous, winning awards at exhibitions like the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 and getting commissions from governments and cultural institutions around the world.

The foundry was run by generations of Chiurazzi until it was sold in 2011 to an American company. Thankfully, the Chiurazzi Mould Collection containing more than 1,650 plaster casts, sculpture moulds and sketches created by the company over 140 years of production, were preserved by the new owners. This extraordinary collection contains casts of the greatest hits of ancient sculpture — the Farnese Hercules, the Laocoon Group, every bust in Herculaneum — to masterpieces of Renaissance and Baroque greats like Michelangelo and Bernini. Now they all belong to the Archaeological Park of Pompeii.

“The Chiurazzi collection in addition to the value for quantity and quality of the pieces represents an important testimony of the suggestion that the discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum aroused in the patrons of the time, who competed to secure a copy of the ancient sculptures, to be exhibited in their homes . – declares the General Director of the Museums, Massimo Osanna – The Archaeological Park of Pompeii could not miss this important opportunity to enrich its heritage, considering the close relationship between the assets of the Foundry and the site ”

“The acquisition of the assets of the Chiurazzi Foundry is part of a strategy of protection and active enhancement of the cultural heritage. – underlines the Director of the Archaeological Park of Pompeii, Gabriel Zuchtrieghel – The” negatives “of the ancient sculptures, which will be exhibited to the public in order to restore the system of cultural and creative relations generated by the discovery of Pompeii, will allow them to experiment, also with the aid of digital technologies, new methods of artistic production. It is the intention of the Park to restart the activity of reproduction as well as sales of copies made in order to promote a culture-based economy and stimulate entrepreneurial skills in the fragile Pompeian context “.


Globetrotting Mycenaean gold ring returns home

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

A Mycenaean-era gold signet ring has been returned to Greece by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, eight decades after it was stolen.

Mycenaean gold signet ring, 3rd millennium B.C. Photo courtesy the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sports.

The ring depicts two sphinxes facing each other, tails raised and wings outstretched. It dates to the 3rd millennium B.C. and was found in the grave of a local nobleman in the Mycenaean necropolis in Ialysos, Rhodes, in 1927. At that time, Rhodes was occupied by Italy, an occupation that began before the First World War and only formally ended after the Second (1912-1947;  although technically it was a British protectorate for the last two of those years). Italian military authorities directed a program of systematic excavations of numerous ancient sites, including the necropolis. The ring was one of the grave goods recovered from the richly-furnished Tomb 61.

Along with thousands of other artifacts excavated during the Italian occupation, the ring was kept in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. Sometime during World War II, the ring was stolen and disappeared into the penumbra of the private antiquities market. We now know it made its way to the United States in the 1950s or 60s when it was acquired by Hungarian biophysicist Georg von Békésy, winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Békésy died in 1972, leaving his extensive connection of arts and antiquities to the Nobel Foundation. The Foundation spread the works around to various museums in Sweden. The Mycenaean ring went to the Museum of Mediterranean and Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm.

The ring’s exceptional quality did not go unnoticed. The museum’s director, archaeologist Carl Gustaf Styrenius, recognized the signet ring as one of the treasures of Ialysos and notified the Greek authorities, but for unknown reasons, the rediscovery of the ring slipped through the cracks of Greek bureaucracy into the memory hole.

After so clumsily dropping the ball, Greece was fortunate enough to get a second chance at bat 45 years later. In recent years, the Ministry of Culture has initiated a project to investigate antiquities lost during the Second World War. This time, records of the gold ring were found in the archives and authorities confirmed the Mycenaean signet ring in Stockholm was indeed the one that had disappeared from the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. The ministry then initiated a formal ownership claim.

In close cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the Greek Embassy in Stockholm undertook negotiations with the Museum of Mediterranean and Eastern Antiquities and the Nobel Foundation. The two Swedish institutions welcomed the Greek request from the beginning and willingly provided archival material, as well as any facility for the progress of the negotiations. In this context, the ring was examined by experts from the National Archaeological Museum, who went to Stockholm for this purpose, and its identification with the robbery of Rhodes was confirmed, paving the way for his repatriation.


Looted Viking hoard returns to Herefordshire

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

A Viking hoard illegally recovered and hidden from the authorities by unscrupulous metal detectorists will, after a seven year saga, finally go on display in the county where it was stolen.

George Powell and Layton Davies discovered the hoard in a field in Eye, near Leominster, Herefordshire, in 2015. It was a sensational find, containing about 300 coins, Anglo-Saxon jewelry, Frankish jewelry and silver ingots, but it was never reported. Powell and Davies were ill-intentioned from the beginning, neglecting to get permission from the landowner to scan the field and opting to sell an archaeological treasure of inestimable historic value on the black market for quick cash instead of reporting them to the Finds Liaison officer as required by the 1996 Treasure Act.

They did have the clever idea to post photos of some of the coins in situ to a metal detecting forum, however, and those photos ultimately resulted in their capture and conviction for theft and concealment in 2019. Powell was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Layton to eight-and-a-half. A coin-seller who had fenced the extremely rare coins was convicted of conspiracy to conceal criminal property and conspiracy to convert criminal property and sentenced to five years. A fourth accomplice was also convicted of concealment and sentenced to a year in prison.

Unfortunately, only 29 of the coins could be found of the original 300 or so in the hoard, (an estimate based on pictures taken at the find site by the thieves). Authorities also believe many more ingots were originally part of the hoard before they were illegally sold. The coins that remain are of enormous archaeological significance, even re-writing the history of England and upending what we thought we knew about West Mercia in the 9th century.

There are a number of exceedingly rare “Two-Emperor” pennies minted by both Alfred the Great of Wessex and Ceolwulf II of Mercia, likely to commemorate an alliance. Only three examples of this type of coin were known before the Herefordshire Hoard, and because of the tiny sample size historians didn’t know if this was a substantial coinage or just a scattershot few. The only references to Ceolwulf on the historical record were written by Alfred’s chroniclers. The Mercian king is dismissed as a weak Viking puppet.

The hoard proves the coins were produced in large quantities and identify Ceolwulf II as a far more important ruler than previous realized, on an equal footing with Alfred the Great in their time. Before this find, all historians had to go on was Alfred’s presentation of Ceolwulf II who had their alliance erased from history after he took Ceolwulf’s kingdom. The hoard is also the first evidence of likely activity of the Viking Great Army in Western Mercia in 877-9.

The Herefordshire Hoard is still in the British Museum while non-profit groups work to raise the valuation sum to bring the hoard home pernamently. Meanwhile, the hoard will travel to the Hereford Museum Resource and Learning Centre (MRLC) where it will be on display from May 28th through July 9th. The museum has until the end of July to raise the funds to acquire it. To donate to the fundraiser, click here.


Late Roman couple’s funerary mosaic restored

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

A funerary mosaic dedicated to a Roman couple of late Antiquity is returning to its museum home in Porto Torres, Sardegna, after more than a year of restoration.

The mosaic was discovered in 1964 when road construction unearthed a complex of 11 Late Roman burials. Most of them were in rock-cut graves covered with terracotta roof tools arranged either flat or in the cappucina style, ie, tilted against each other to form a pitched roof. Eight of the burials were closely grouped together in a confined space, including the burials of two individuals whose matching pitched-roof tombs were adjacent to each other. A polychrome mosaic inscription identified the deceased as married couple Dionisio and Septimia Musa.

The osteological remains were in poor condition and had been disturbed over the centuries. There were no grave goods to aid in dating, but the cappucina style was very widespread in the popular in the Late Roman Imperial era. Funerary mosaics comparable in style to Dionisio and Septimia Musa’s, found most often in Northern Africa, and the language of the dedication narrow down the date of the tombs to the second half of the 4th century or to the early 5th.

The mosaic featured two inscriptions of cream tiles against a rectangular field of red tiles to give the impression of an engraved plaque. Septimia Musa’s inscription is above her husbands. It records that she lived 47 years. Dionisio’s inscription includes the dedication from their “loving children.” Hers is bordered in a 3D gemetric rectangle. His is bordered in guilloche shapes. A more intricately enlaced guilloche pattern covers the background behind the plaques. The outer borders feature a curling ribbon pattern.

The mosaic is rich in Christian iconography. Both plaques have triangular faux mounts on each side featuring the Christogram. Septimia Musa’s inscription has another Christogram in the RIP text at the end, as well as an olive branch. Olive branches are above and doves beneath the Christograms in the left and right triangles.

The mosaic was lifted, conserved and put on display at the Antiquarium Turritano Porto Torres, the local museum dedicated to the material culture of the colony of Roman Turris Libisonis and the surrounding territory. In the six decades since, the mosaic tiles have begun to suffer from adherence problems. It was removed from display in September 2020 and conservators worked to stabilize and clean it until March of this year.

The museum will be closed on Tuesday to ensure the transfer and reinstallation of the mosaics goes as smoothly as possible. The mosaic will have to be reassembled, positioned and fixed securely in its dedicated gallery at the Antiquarium Turritano before the museum reopens to the public on Wednesday.


Young Knight shines again in complex landscape

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Young Knight in a Landscape (c. 1505) by Vittore Carpaccio is one of the most iconic masterpieces of the many masterpieces of Madrid’s Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. A comprehensive new study and restoration program undertaken in public view in 2020 and through March of 2021 has removed yellowed varnish and muddied overpainting to reveal the original rich colors of this uniquely complex symbolic landscape. The painting is now part of a special exhibition dedicated to the work, its imagery and the restoration itself.

The large-scale painting depicts a young man in plate armour drawing or sheathing his sword. His red hose show under the armor strapped to his right leg. He stands on a path bordered by a variety of plants. A snow-white ermine is in the glad on the left. Behind him the walls of a city extend to the vanishing point, overlooking a body of water. Animals — rabbits, deer, dogs, a veritable conference of the birds — abound on land, sea and sky.

In the left middle ground immediately behind the knight, a second one emerges from a dilapidated fortress. Mounted on a dun steed, he complements the central subject with his yellow and black checkered livery that matches the standing knight’s shoes, barely visible shadows underneath his chain mail. The mounted knight is armed with pieces the standing knight doesn’t have — a pike, a helmet with visor — and a peacock is perched on his helmet.

The work contains a wide range of symbolic elements, each of which has significance and meaning: the fauna, flora, landscape, figures, all transmit an interconnected message. Each detail is located in a strategic position within the composition in order to create a narrative associated with the virtues and deeds attributed to the figure and in order to exalt his memory. Like the lance that the mounted knight holds and points towards a falcon (symbol of vision, strategy, knowledge and victory) perched on a branch at the upper right corner. In turn, this imaginary line connects with the dog that accompanies the knight and is a symbol of fidelity and sacrifice. Other “lines” radiating from the falcon link the principal figure with different details among the many to be found in this work. The result is an invisible network of lines that connects all these elements to the principal figure, forming a grid in which he appears to be trapped and thus involved in this tension.

The figure of the young knight is made up of two opposing halves: the upper half – clad in Italianate armour with simple rivets and motifs of feathers or scales on the arm guards and gorget – is shown as resigned and melancholy while the lower half, with floral motifs decorating the different parts of the German-style armour, is shown as decided and arrogant. The knight’s sword divides these two parts of the figure, a duality that is repeated throughout the painting and which refers to the opposition of good and evil, victory and defeat, the heavenly and the earthly realms.

Some scholars believe it to be a portrait of a real person rather than a pure allegory. If it is a true portrait, it would be the oldest full-length portrait known. One possible candidate proposed by the museum is Venetian naval captain Marco Gabriel, who fought Ottoman forces in the siege of Modone (a strategically important port in the Peloponnese) in 1500. He was captured and executed when the Ottomans took the city.

This hypothesis explains the presence of the walled city in the painting, which is possibly an idealised version of the fortress, as well as the destroyed building on the left of the composition from which a rider emerges; a young knight mounted on a dark charger (symbol of inner wisdom and death), accompanied by his faithful dog in an allegorical image of the knight’s soul embarking on its path towards rebirth. According to this theory, this journey is also symbolised in the trees on the other side of the scene: a leafy oak in the background, its autumnal version in the middle ground and a cut-down tree next to the principal figure from which new shoots are growing and which has a cartouche with the name of the artist and the painting’s date.

This cartouche was rediscovered underneath old overpaints during cleaning in 1958, as was the one with the inscription “Mal mori quam foedari” (Rather dead than dishonoured), rediscovered next to the ermine. 

The motto next to the stoat in his winter white fur suggests the knight may have been a member of the chivalric Order of the Ermine, an honor conferred by the Dukes (and Duchess Anne) of Brittany who had stylized black-tipped ermine tails in their coat of arms. 

The museum has created an excellent video about the restoration and technical study of the painting. Visitors to the museum will be able to enjoy that video next to the portrait in the new exhibition, but the rest of us will have to make do with YouTube and the museum’s magnificent gigapixel image of Young Knight in a Landscape which puts you eye-to-beady-eye with the ermine.


Museum acquires unique Leasingham Horse Brooch

Friday, May 13th, 2022

The Leasingham Horse Brooch, a Roman-era copper alloy brooch in the shape of a three-dimensional horse that is unique on the archaeological record, has been acquired by the Collection Museum in Lincoln.

The brooch was discovered by metal detectorist Jason Price in a field near Leasingham in the summer of 2019. It is complete with the original hinged pin, which is in and of itself very rare. The long, stylized head of the horse is lowered at the end of an arched neck engraved with 14 grooves representing a neatly arranged mane. A saddle or saddle blanket is on the horse’s back. Carved and modelled in the round in a 3D design that has no known cognates. The closest comparable object is a brooch in the British Museum which is a slightly rounded plate brooch mounted on a bar, so really very different in concept and execution.

Because it is not made of precious metal, this unique 2,000-year-old artifact would not be declared Treasure and the finder got to be the keeper. Thankfully, Price arranged for the Leasingham Horse Brooch to go on loan at the Collection Museum and now that’s where it will stay permanently, thanks to the Friends of Lincoln Museums and Art Gallery who donated the necessary funds to acquire the horse from Price.

Dawn Heywood, Senior Collections Development Officer at the museum, said: “The brooch is an incredibly rare find in Britain, and the first three-dimensional horse brooch to be recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme finds database.

“This style of horse brooch is now identified as the ‘Leasingham type’, so we are privileged to have had the opportunity to acquire the first of its kind for the museum collection”.


Stolen Nostradamus manuscript returns to Rome

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

An extremely rare 500-year-old manuscript of the prophecies of Nostradamus stolen from a library in Rome more than 15 years ago has been found in Germany. It was officially returned to the library on Wednesday, May 4th.

The work, written in Latin, is entitled Profetie di Michele Nostradamo and contains the French physician’s collection of 942 quatrains ostensibly predicting future world events, many of them borrowed from ancient sources, the Bible and known history. The first printed edition was published in 1555. This manuscript dates to the same time.

The manuscript was rediscovered last year when it came up for auction in Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg, with a starting price set at €12,000  ($12,630). The seller was an unnamed art dealer. Italy’s Carabinieri Art Squad spotted the manuscript in the auction catalogue in April 2021, days before it was scheduled to go under the hammer. One of the pages published in the catalogue bore the clearly visible stamp “Biblioteca SS. Blasi Cairoli del Urbe” dated 1991. Italian prosecutors reached out to German authorities to report the suspected theft and the lot was withdrawn from the auction. The Stuttgart police confiscated the manuscript and stored it until the repatriation process was complete.

It is not known when exactly the volume disappeared from the library of the Barnabiti Center for Historical Studies, but its absence was first noticed in 2007. Italian and German police investigated the manuscript’s movements after it was stolen. It seems from Rome it made its way to Paris where it was sold at a book flea market. It then emerged in Karlsruhe before reaching Pforzheim and the auction house. The investigation is ongoing and the seller has not yet been charged with anything.





June 2022


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