Klimt’s last and only surviving studio opens today

North facade of Klimt Villa today, studio on the ground floorGustav Klimt’s last Vienna studio, the only surviving property associated with his work, opens to the public today after almost 15 years of political struggle and an extensive renovation. The museum is not complete yet and probably won’t be for some time, but it’s close enough to welcome visitors in celebration of European Heritage Day today.

Feldmühlgasse garden house, photo by Moritz Nähr, 1915The villa at Feldmühlgasse 11 is very different than it was when Klimt lived and worked there from 1912 until his death in 1918. It was a modest one-story home in his day, set in a large bucolic garden that was so beautiful neighbors, visitors and later tenants raved about it for years. He rented it from furniture manufacturer Josef Hermann, whose daughter was the future wife of painter Felix Albrecht Harta. It was Harta, a friend and colleague of Klimt’s, who suggested he rent the place. Klimt made changes to the garden house, creating a large north window for his workroom and whitewashing the exterior.

Gustav Klimt with kitty in front of the entrance to his second-to-last studioAfter Klimt’s death from a stroke and pneumonia in February 1918, Mrs. Helene Herrmann started making additions to the garden house, hiring an architect to plan a much larger, two-story villa over it. Construction was not complete when Josef Hermann died in 1922, but his widow, probably under some financial duress, sold the property as it was to Ernestine Werner (soon to be Mrs. Ernestine Klein) who went forward with the construction plan and had a neo-Baroque villa built on top of and around the studio, changing the house beyond recognition.

The Klein family fled to London after the Nazi takeover of Austria. The house was “Aryanized” in 1939, forcibly confiscated and sold to non-Jews. In 1948 the Austrian government returned the villa to the Klein family, but it had been sorely neglected. In 1954 the Kleins sold it back to the government for a small sum. The condition of the house was so poor that it was slated for demolition, but in 1957 the government instead turned it into a school.

Klimt Villa in 2007At this point, Klimt had faded into obscurity. It would be another decade before shows in London and New York would bring him roaring back into the public consciousness. He was, however, still known in Austria; the property that had once housed his studio was colloquially referred to as “Klimt Villa,” but the studio was considered lost, swallowed up by all the later construction. In 1998, the villa was on its last legs. The land was scheduled to be sold to developers in lots and the villa subdivided into apartments or, what was more likely for the leaking, decrepit old structure, torn down altogether.

1923 plansA group of private citizens formed to fight the planned destruction of the property. They found building plans from 1922 that clearly delineated the original studio, planned new construction and showed areas slated for demolition. The plans proved that the studio was not destroyed. The garden house as it was in Klimt’s day was converted whole into the first floor of the baroque villa. Some walls were torn down, doors moved and windows changed, but the structure was intact and salvageable.

The private citizens’ group formed itself into the Gustav Klimt Memorial Society in 1999. The society’s explicit aim was to rescue the Klimt Villa studio as the last property still standing that was used by the artist, and boy have they had to work for it. In 2000 they got the villa added to the list of “Historic Houses Owned by the Republic of Austria,” a designation which does not provide federal conservation protection from alteration but was at least a legal recognition of the house’s historical importance.

Klimt's reception room, photo by Moritz Nähr, 1917-18The political struggle to keep the house from being sold continued throughout the first decade of the millennium. Secret demolition plans kept cropping up, plans to have the house de-listed so it could be sold to Russian developers, suggestions that the villa should be stripped back to the original garden house. Finally in 2009 the villa was declared a national monument, keeping it safe from various destruction schemes. The next year a workable plan was drawn up to create a Klimt Museum in the villa, and the Austrian Ministry of Economic Affairs agreed to fund the two million euro renovation.

Reconstructed north-facing window in the studio workroomConstruction work began in early 2011. Using written descriptions of the property from contemporaries like Egon Schiele and three photographs taken of the workroom, reception room and garden by Moritz Nähr from 1915 to right around the time of Klimt’s death, restorers were able to return the studio space to something approaching its look in Klimt’s day.

Here’s Schiele’s description of the Feldmühlgasse studio from just after Klimt’s death:

“Klimt decorated the garden around the house in the Feldmühlgasse with flower-beds each year- it was a delight to visit it and be in the midst of flowers and old trees. In front of the door there were two attractive heads which Klimt had sculpted. One first entered an anteroom where the door on the left led into his reception room. In the middle there was a square table; all around there were grouped displays of Japanese woodblock prints and two large Chinese pictures. On the floor there were African sculptures, and in the corner by the window there was a Japanese red-and-black suit of armour. This room led into two other rooms, where you looked out on to rose bushes.”

Klimt's workroom by Moritz Nähr 1917-18Nähr’s pictures show the reception room exactly as Schiele described it. In the workroom you can see easels with two of Klimt’s 1917 works in progress, “Lady with Fan” on the right, and “The Bride” (which he never finished) on the left. Both are now in private collections. The furniture in both rooms was designed by Josef Hoffmann, the homeowner, and most of it actually survived the war. A large wardrobe which once held Klimt’s extensive collection of Asian fabrics went to his partner Emilie Flöge after his death. It was lost along with everything he had willed her right when her apartment was destroyed just before the end of World War II.

"Lady with Fan" by Gustav Klimt, 1917-18The rest of the furniture is in private hands today. A private collector has loaned one of the African stools from the workroom to the villa. Perhaps more will follow. Meanwhile, exact reproductions have been made to recreate the authentic look of the studio. Even the carpet in the reception room has been recreated exactly by original manufacturers Backhausen, who thankfully had a sample of the original in their archives. Visitors today will see a number of period costumes from the 1910s. There will be copies of the drawings Klimt had scattered all around the studio and two full-sized blow-ups of"The Bride" by Gustav Klimt, 1917-18 the paintings in Nähr’s picture of the workroom. In a stroke of luck, Klimt’s original bathtub was found. It will be placed in one of the model waiting rooms.

Although sadly Egon Schiele’s vision of the Klimt Villa can no longer come true —

“Nothing should be removed – because everything connected with Klimt’s house is a whole and is itself a work of art which must not be destroyed. The unfinished pictures, brushes, painter’s work table and palette should not be touched and the studio should be opened as a Klimt Museum for the few who enjoy and love art.”

— at least the conclusion now has. For a somewhat terrifying look at what it took to get to this point, see this photo gallery of the restoration work from the Klimt Villa website.

$7 Renoir stolen from Baltimore museum in 1951

"Paysage Bords de Seine" by Pierre-Auguste RenoirThe good news is that the paper trail confirms that Paysage Bords de Seine, the small landscape painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir reportedly purchased along with a plastic cow and Paul Bunyan doll for $7 at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market in West Virginia, is indeed authentic. The bad news is it was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art 61 years ago and therefore does not legally belong to the lady who found it. This morning’s planned auction has been cancelled, and the FBI is now on the case.

The news came as a surprise to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira was trying to trace the movements of the painting after it was purchased from the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris by collector Herbert L. May in 1926. May’s ex-wife Saidie Adler May was a major donor to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and many of her papers are kept at the museum’s library. While looking through a box of Saidie’s correspondence and receipts, Shapira found a note recording that she had loaned Paysage Bords de Seine to the museum in 1937.

Loan record of Renoir's "Paysage Bords de Seine" at the Baltimore Museum of ArtThe BMA had already checked its ownership records of the vast Saidie May Adler collection when the auction house did its due diligence. There was no mention of the Renoir piece being among the more than one thousand paintings donated to the museum by Mrs. Adler. Nobody even thought to check the loan records until Shapira found the note, which included a loan registration number. Museum director Doreen Bolger looked it up and discovered an orange index card describing the painting, the story behind its creation, its purchase for $1,000 at Bernheim-Jeune and then, in November of 1951, its theft from the Baltimore Museum of Art’s display gallery.

A shocked Bolger called Elizabeth Wainstein, president of the Potomack Company, the auction house where the painting was to be sold, who immediately agreed to stop the sale. Together they called the FBI to report the theft. Further research revealed a City of Baltimore police report (pdf) from November 17th, 1951 in which James M. Porter Jr., Executive Assistant at the museum, declares that “some time between 6 P.M. Nov 16 & 1 P.M.” November 17, “some one” stole the Renoir in its gilt frame from the museum with “no evidence of forced entrance.” That seems to have been the end of it. No follow-up has been found in the police archives as of yet, and the story never made the papers.

Renoir theft report, November 17, 1951Both the loan record and the police report note that the painting was insured for $2,500. It’s not clear to me whether there are confirmed records of the insurance company paying out at that time, but that seems to be the assumption. The BMA isn’t sure who the insurers were, but if the company can be pinpointed and still exists today, it could well be the legal owner of the Renoir. It depends on the details of the insurance agreement and on Maryland law in 1951.

Paysage Bords de Seine will stay at the auction house until the FBI investigation determines who is the rightful owner of the piece. It’s a tricky question. Saidie Adler May died in May of 1951. She left her entire collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art in her will, and her estate was still being probated when the painting was stolen six months later. The BMA thinks they’re the rightful owners since that’s what Saidie Adler May clearly intended, but if they took the money from the insurers, May’s intent may be irrelevant.

Elizabeth Wainstein questions whether Saidie was even the technical owner of the painting, since according to the Bernheim-Jeune gallery’s records it was sold to Herbert L. May, not his wife. This seems shaky to me. The Mays had been separated for two years in 1926 when Herbert bought the painting. They got divorced in 1927. Paysage was in Saidie’s hands ten years later when she loaned it to the Baltimore Museum of Art, so unless we’re to assume she stole it from her estranged husband, she probably got it in the divorce.

I’m afraid “Renoir girl,” the lady who purportedly made the score of the century while flea marketing, is probably the last on the list of potential legitimate owners. She may be entirely innocent of any wrong-doing, but finders keepers doesn’t apply with stolen goods. Whoever legally owned it last — May estate, museum or insurer — probably owns it now.

Legal wrangling aside, the orange index card tells a lovely story of how the painting came to be. In addition to being charming, it also explains something that bugged me about the painting; namely, the large unpainted margins left and right, particularly noticeable on such a small piece (5.5″ x 9″). It was not painted on a stretched canvas, you see, but rather on a linen napkin. From the loan record:

Mrs. May says that the story goes that Renoir painted this landscape for his mistress, at a restaurant on the Seine – thus the linen napkin.

That would certainly explain why it looks so unfinished and dashed off compared to Renoir’s larger, more complex Seine landscapes like Landscape of Wargemont.

Buddhist deity carved from rare meteorite

Remember how in Raiders of the Lost Ark the Nazis send that creepy Toht fellow to Nepal to track down the headpiece of the Staff of Ra so they can find the Ark of the Covenant and use it to unleash God’s face-melting wrath on their enemies in battle? Change Nepal to Tibet, Toht to zoologist and SS officer Ernst Schäfer, the Ark of the Covenant to the roots of the Aryan race, and the Staff of Ra to an iron statue of a Buddhist deity and it all really happened. (Okay not the face-melting.)

In 1938, Himmler sent Schäfer on an expedition to Tibet to trace the purported roots of the Aryan race. Schäfer himself, being an actual scientist instead of a mysticism-obsessed ignoramus like Himmler, was not keen on this plan. His goal was to document the geology, climate, flora, fauna and inhabitants of the region, but he had joined the SS in 1933, ostensibly just to be allowed to keep on working, so by 1938 he was well-versed in dirty Nazi compromise.

Between May of 1938 and August of 1939, Schäfer’s team traveled from the Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim to Lhasa to the Yarlung River Valley in western Tibet. They took tens of thousands of pictures, collected dozens of animal specimens, thousands of seeds, head casts and head measurements of hundreds of locals, a Tibetan mastiff and one iron statue of a deity with a swastika on his breastplate.

The swastika is of course an ancient symbol of the sun and good fortune, first appearing in the Indus Valley civilization about 3500 years ago. It came to religious prominence in the Far East with the spread of Buddhism but also appears in pre-Buddhist traditions like the early Bön religion of western Tibet, which included the swastika in its iconography in the 8th and 9th centuries. Since Aryanist theology held that the master race had conquered Asia after they fled the destruction of Atlantis (yeah, I know), Schäfer could well have thought this curious artifact would satisfy Himmler, who was very much into Hinduism and Buddhism and thought the Buddha himself might be the Aryan descendant of the post-Atlantis Nordic master race.

After Schäfer’s team returned to Munich, the iron statue dropped out of sight. It wasn’t until 2007 that its anonymous new owner reached out to a team of scientists led by Dr. Elmar Buchner from the Institute of Planetology at the University of Stuttgart to see if they could find out more about it. He only let them test the figure in a very limited way, however. They weren’t allowed to take any significant samples; they could only literally scrape the surface in an attempt to determine what the statue was made of. In 2009, the Iron Man, as he became known, was sold at auction. Since then, it has been in the hands of one of Buchner’s team and they have had full access to do whatever tests they wish on it.

The statue weighs about 23 pounds and is about 10 inches tall and 5 inches wide. It’s hard to determine exactly who it depicts, but Buchner thinks it’s a Bön culture artifact from the 11th century portraying a version of the Buddhist deity Vaisravana, known in Tibet as Jambhala. He is the god of fortune and wealth (which would be in keeping with the swastika), or sometimes a god of war (which would be in keeping with the armor he’s wearing). There are things missing, though; iconography and attributes you see in later depictions of Vaisravana are not present here. Some, like a flaming trident he holds in the crook of his left arm, could have been lost over the centuries. Buchner’s working theory is that the statue is a transitional figure that incorporates both pre-Buddhist and Buddhist elements, which is why it’s non-standard in some ways.

The most unusual part of it is not the iconography, but rather its composition. Buchner knew from the moment their eyes met across a crowded lab that Iron Man’s iron came from a meteorite. He could tell from thumb-like impressions left on the surface when the meteorite melted during its crash landing. Geochemical analyses confirmed that the Iron Man’s iron wasn’t just from a meteorite, but from the rarest of them all: an ataxite. The high levels of nickel and cobalt in the iron marked it as an ataxite class meteorite. Less than 1% of iron meteorites and less than .1% of all meteorites are ataxites.

Even more exceptionally, the researchers were able to pin down exactly which meteorite it had been carved out of. The geochemical data match those of the Chinga meteorite which fell to earth between Mongolia and Siberia about 15,000 years ago. The first reports of its discovery were made in 1913, but someone found a piece a lot earlier than that, almost a thousand years earlier than that, in fact.

The carver had to have known it was special because chiseling this kind of iron is a tough, tough job. Perhaps he had an inkling it came from the sky — there’s a long history of meteorites being treated with religious reverence in many cultures — or perhaps he just thought it was so unique it was perfect for depicting a god. After the carving, the figure was forged around the edges and base, and then gilded. Only traces of the gilding remain today.

Other meteorites that have been held to be holy were worshipped in rock form. Objects like knives and jewelry have been found carved from meteorites, as have animal figures like eagles. There are references in the historical record to the Tibetan craft of carving “sky iron,” but that craft has long since died out and none of the references mention the carving of humans or anthropomorphic deities. As far as we know, this statue is the only depiction of a human figure carved into a meteorite that’s ever been found.

Free admission at 1400 museums Saturday, Sept. 29th

This Saturday is the eighth annual National Museum Day. Sponsored by Smithsonian magazine, a fine publication with an outstanding companion website, Museum Day is dedicated to celebrating culture, learning and the dissemination of knowledge in the spirit of the Smithsonian Museums which are free every day. Many museums must rely on ticket sales for operational costs, of course, but on this one day of the year, you can enjoy their offerings for free.

Map of National Museum Day participants; click to searchNational Museum Day has been getting more popular every year. Last year 350,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to spend a day at the museum free of charge. This year they expect 400,000 visitors to the more than 1,400 museums nationwide opening their doors. There are participating museums in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. To find a venue near you, you can navigate the map on this page, or type in your address in the field above it, or search by state using the dropdown menu beneath the map, or search by keyword on this page.

When you find the museum that sparks your interest, go to this page and fill out the form; you’ll be emailed a ticket that admits two people to the museum of your choice. You can’t just show up to the museum on Saturday and expect to be let in free of charge, nor can you get 10 tickets and spend the day museum-hopping. As awesome as that would be, there’s a limit of one ticket that admits one person plus a guest per household, per email address. Why not team up with a friend and each pick a museum to visit together?

The variety of venues is truly remarkable. They range from the biggest, richest museums in major urban centers to small, highly specialized local museums run by volunteers. It’s not just history museums, either. There’s something for everyone: science museums, interactive children’s museums (Sci-Quest, Hands-on Science Center in Huntsville, Alabama combines both categories), botanical museums (the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas is a top research center as well as a beautiful place to see Texas’ native flora in all their glory), art museums (Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum exhibits the latest in contemporary art and, most unusually, is Hamlet Depot, Hamlet, North Carolinaa non-collecting institution), ethnic museums (who knew there was a Basque Museum in Boise, Idaho?), train museums (Hamlet Depot in North Carolina is set in a gorgeous original Queen Anne train station still in use as an Amtrak station today), toy train museums (the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania has the largest toy and model train collection on display in the US), car museums (the Gilmore Car Museum near Kalamazoo, Michigan was named the #1 historic auto site in Michigan by the official state tourism website and that’s saying a lot, because if there’s one state with a buttload of car museums, it’s Michigan), aerospace museums (Aerospace Museum of California has flight simulators you can ride!), presidential museums (the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois would be a highly topical one to visit a week after the 150th anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation), ornamental metal museums (actually there’s only one of those in the entire country, the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, and it sounds phenomenal so if you’re anywhere near there on Saturday you should check it out), and many, many more.

Ratzer "Plan of the City of New York" map, 1770, before (l) and after (r) restorationMaybe there’s something you have read about on this very blog that you could see in person this Saturday. The incredible restoration of the 1770 “Plan of the City of New York” map by Bernard Ratzer is at the Brooklyn Historical Society. If Manhattan is more your style, swing by the Museum of Chinese in America. It was renovated and expanded a couple of years ago and is really something special.

Colossal Juno in the gardens of the Brandegee (Sprague) Estate in Brookline before her move to the museumWhile you’re up north, go see the colossal Roman statue of Juno at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, or, while you’re in town, the oldest Revere Bell on the Freedom Trail recently installed in the steeple of the Old South Meeting House in Boston.

Civil War smuggling dolls Nina (left) and Lucy Ann (right)If you’re south of the Mason-Dixon line, the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond has that .36 caliber Spiller and Burr revolver that was stolen from the museum in 1975 and then found and returned 25 years later. They also have the Civil War smuggling dolls.

Police find Wenlok Jug stolen from museum in May

Screen capture of CCTV footage of thief about to break the display glass with a drain gratingA medieval bronze jug of great rarity and historical significance stolen from a museum in Luton, Bedfordshire, England this May has been found by the Bedfordshire police. The Wenlok Jug was stolen in a smash-and-grab burglary the night of May 12th from the Stockwood Discovery Centre. At 11:22 PM, the thief, his face wrapped with a scarf to stymie the CCTV cameras, climbed the museum’s fence, broke down the door and used a drain cover to smash through the half-inch thick laminated glass and polycarbonate compound of the display case. He took the jug and ran.

The museum’s insurance company offered a reward of £25,000 for the jug’s safe return because there was immense concern that the burglar planned to sell the 13-pound bronze artifact simply for its scrap value, a mere £20 ($32). The value to the museum was inestimable, both because of its market price and because of its national and regional importance. It is one of a very few datable medieval bronze jugs to bear the maker’s mark of an English bronze founder, possibly a bell founder, although the exact mark has not been found among extant medieval bells yet.

The Wenlok JugThe tankard is a foot tall and is decorated with coats of arms, including Plantagenet royal arms used between 1340 and 1405 and East Anglian arms, probably relating to the foundry. There are other royal and noble symbols — crowns, badges — decorating the jug, plus a dedication to “MY LORD WENLOK” inscribed all in capitals around the bottom half. There are two possible candidates for the Lord Wenlok in question. One is William Wenlock, Archdeacon of Rochester and canon of King’s Chapel, Westminster and of St. Paul’s Cathedral, who died in 1391 and is buried under St. Mary’s Parish Church of Luton. He wasn’t a lord in the sense of having the official title, but he was an important figure in local life and in the church hierarchy, so he could have been referred to as a lord for jug purposes.

The other is his great-nephew John, the first and only official Lord Wenlock, who fought and served under every king from Henry V to Edward IV. He was Chief Butler of England from 1461 to 1469, so the Wenlok Jug could well have been used to serve royalty. He was a Member of Parliament for Bedfordshire throughout the 1430s and 1440s, was High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire in 1444 and was elected Speaker of the House in 1455. His family seat was Someries Castle in Sir John Wenlock window in Wenlock Chapel at St. Mary's Church, LutonLuton which, since he changed sides twice during the Wars of the Roses, was forfeited to the crown after he died fighting (not very well, by some accounts, which claim he was killed by his commanding officer the Duke of Somerset for failing to press forward in support of him) for Henry VI at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

Both Wenlocks lived in Luton. The family bought the Manor of Luton in 1377 and lived there until John built Someries. Their names are on the town’s medieval guild register, and there’s a Wenlock Street in town. St. Mary’s Church also has a Wenlock Chapel with a stained glass window depicting Lord Wenlock in his knightly finery.

Asante Ewer at the British MuseumThere are only two other medieval bronze jugs like it known to exist. One is in the British Museum, the other in the Victoria and Albert. They differ in size, color and decorative details, but they all share a number of characteristics. They’re the same pot-bellied shape, although the British Museum piece looks quite different because it’s the only one of the three to have retained its lid. The other two had lids originally, but only the hinges are left now. All three inscriptions say different things, but they’re done in similar, and may I say awesome, Lombardic-style lettering. They all bear the same age royal arms (1340-1405).

Robinson Jug at the Victoria and Albert MuseumEven under the surface the three pieces show themselves to be related. A study of the three done by the British Museum found that they are made of the same alloy of copper, tin and lead known as leaded bronze. This was a popular material, but the jugs have the same impurities in the metal which suggests all three were cast at the same foundry. X-rays show that they were manufactured using the same technique — molten bronze poured into a mould with a front part, a back part and a core — which again was popular at the time. Unusual, however, was the use of metal spacers inside the mouldsWenlok Jug X-ray that ensured the metal would flow freely between the outer casing and the core. All three jugs used these spacers.

The Wenlok Jug is the smallest of the three but bears the earliest maker’s mark. It’s also the most recent discovery. Nobody knew it existed until it was found in a cellar at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, the stately home of Lord Alexander Hesketh which he sold to a Russian retail store magnate in July 2005. Sotheby’s auctioned off some of the contents in May of that year, the Wenlok Jug among them. It was purchased at that auction by a London dealer for £568,000 ($920,000). In October 2005, the dealer sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for £750,000 ($1,200,000).

Wenlok Jug (l), Robinson Jug (m), Asante Ewer (r)Given its extreme rarity, its connection to two similar pieces at the two top museums in the country, the royal arms and the medieval maker’s mark, the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council declared it of national importance and outstanding significance for the study of medieval metallurgy. Culture Minister David Lammy promptly put a temporary export ban on the jug. The deal with these export bans is if a museum in-country can come up with the same amount of money the foreign entity spent on the purchase, then the local museum gets to buy it.

The Luton Council’s museum service, anxious to secure a masterpiece with such a close connection to the city for themselves and for the nation, stepped up to the plate. In the world of museums, it doesn’t get more David and Goliath than this. The Luton museum’s total yearly acquisition budget is £2,500 ($4,000). The Met spent $36.5 million on art purchases between June 2010 and June 2011, and that’s just a fraction of its overall acquisitions endowment of $632 million.

By hook and by crook, Luton scrounged up the £750,000 it needed to buy the jug out from under the Met. The bulk came from large grants. They got £137,500 from the National Art Collections Fund and £590,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. They raised another £20,000 in donations from museum supporters, individuals, local organizations and small trusts. Throw in the museum’s annual acquisition budget and that makes exactly £750,000. They secured the Wenlok Jug at the end of February 2006, and in May it went on display at the Wardown Park Museum.

In 2008 it was moved to the newly constructed Stockwood Discovery Centre where it remained on display until the burglary earlier this year. The Bedfordshire police have been investigating the crime ever since it happened, and their doggedness has now paid off. They discovered the purloined jug on the morning of Monday, September 24th at a home in Tadworth, Surrey. Officers arrested two people at the scene. One has been charged with handling stolen property and the other is now out on bail pending further investigations. Museum experts have examined the jug today and confirmed it is the authentic artifact.

Police haven’t closed the investigation — they are still asking the public for any information they might have about the theft — but the Wenlok Jug is back home. The relief at the museum must be palpable. There was no replacing this piece. Even if they had the money, which obviously they do not, there simply isn’t another one like it.