Stolen Rodin sculpture found after 24 years


Rodin's Young Girl With Serpent

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Rare Rodin sculpture stolen during $1 million Beverly Hills heist recovered in London

Young Girl With Serpent has been missing for 24 years

Matilda Battersby

Thursday 09 July 2015

A rare Auguste Rodin sculpture stolen nearly 25 years ago as part of a $1 million Beverly Hills art heist has been recovered after it turned up in London.

The 1991 theft was facilitated by the “trusted” housekeeper of a Los Angeles art collector who, after bragging about his employer’s wealth a local bar, was paid $5,000 by art thieves to give them copies of his house keys.

The bronze statue, titled Young Girl With Serpent, by French sculptor Rodin, is believed to be worth around $100,000.

A number of other valuable artworks, including an important early sketch of Rodin’s most famous work, The Kiss, and another sculpture, The Eternal Spring, were also taken and remain missing and total assets taken were valued at more than a million dollars at the time.

The thieves had considerable access to the Beverly Hills property while its owner was away at another residence for several weeks and used the copied key to rob it over several visits.

The unnamed Beverly Hills art collector, who is now in her Eighties, described returning to her house after the burglary to find it looking “as though it had been hit by an earthquake”.

The housekeeper had skipped town and a warrant was issued for his arrest by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

A six month manhunt followed after which the housekeeper was located and arrested in Miami, Florida while sunbathing next to a hotel pool.

The collector is said to be “delighted” at the recovery of the statue which turned up at Christie’s auction house in New York and was transferred to London for sale in 2011 having being missing for more than two decades.

Christie’s were alerted to the fact that the sculpture was stolen and “assisted all involved parties during the investigation” according to Chris Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery International.

There was a four year deadlock in negotiations between lawyers for the possessor of the artwork who offered it to Christie’s and the Beverly Hills victim, but following intervention by Marinello the work has now been released unconditionally back to her.

The housekeeper claimed to know nothing of the artwork’s whereabouts after his arrest and later attempted to contact the family where he’d worked as “a trusted member of staff” to apologise.

He served time for his role in the theft in the US and was later extradited to prison in Switzerland over an unrelated crime.

Marinello credits the resolution of this case to one particular officer from Beverly Hills Police Department, Detective Michael Corren, who kept the case open for 24 years – even after he had retired.

“Detective Corren was very impressive in the way he pursued the case. He was kind of like Moby Dick and the White Whale,” Marinello told The Independent.

“The police department tracked down the caretaker in Florida by the swimming pool and got an arrest and Corren pursued it to solve it. It’s rare that you get an officer today who is so single-minded.”

The victim has asked Art Recovery International to continue pursuing the other lost artworks.

However, it seems there is quite a market for stolen Rodins on the black market and also fears that thieves might melt the statues down. “Sadly, many of these bronze items are sold for scrap, as horrific as that may sound,” Marinello said previously.

Rodin’s The Thinker was stolen and damaged along with six other bronze statues from the garden of the Singer Laren Museum, Netherlands in 2007. It was recovered two days later “pretty worse for wear” and had to undergo considerable and expensive restoration.

A nude bronze of French novelist Honore de Balzac was stolen from the Israel Museum while it was undergoing renovation in 2011 – one of a series of four studies that Rodin cast for a monument to Balzac on display in Paris – and has yet to be recovered.

In 2012 portrait in bronze of Rodin by his artist lover Camille Claudel worth a reported £800,000 was recovered in the truck of an antique dealer 13 years after it was taken from the Guéret art and archaeology museum in France.

Young Girl With Serpent will be consigned for sale later this year as part of a deal between the victim and her insurance company.

Manchester, England, only one statue of a woman


This video from England, recorded in 2001, says about itself:

Unveiling Statue Of Victoria At Manchester

Lord Roberts with civic dignitaries unveils statue of Queen Victoria after making short speech.

By Bernadette Hyland:

Feminist monument or progress standing still

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

BERNADETTE HYLAND explores a bid to redress gender imbalance in Manchester’s statues by memorialising a famous woman

ANDREW SIMCOCK, Labour councillor for the leafy, affluent suburb of East Didsbury in Manchester, has instigated a campaign to try to rebalance the male-female ratio of public statues in the city. Of its 17 statues, only one is of a woman — Queen Victoria.

He says: “Like many people I was unaware that there were no statues dedicated to women in the city centre, and it seemed to me to be an injustice that should be righted.” Simcock has got Manchester City Council to support his idea and a shortlist of 20 women has been drawn up.

He is asking the public to donate to the campaign and stresses that no public money will be used. Simcock has paid for an advertising agency to promote the campaign and has embarked on a nationwide bike ride to raise money for the statue.

Estimated costs range from £120,000 to £500,000.

The Queen Victoria statue has a long history as a meeting place for political events in Manchester. In 1908 the Suffragettes were trying to get women to go to London for a huge procession, so they used the statue to advertise the meeting with a card displaying the Women’s Social and Political Union motto and a placard with details of a meeting the following evening.

A crowd gathered, the police arrived and ordered the removal of the placards. The event got in all the papers and gave the Suffragettes the publicity they needed.

So who are the 20 women on the shortlist? Well, as you would expect, the Pankhursts are there: Emmeline, Sylvia and Christabel. But there are also grassroots activists including socialist Hannah Mitchell, suffragist Lydia Becker and trade unionists Mary Quaile and Esther Roper.

Prominent politicians including Labour education minister Ellen Wilkinson, Shena Simon and Margaret Ashton appear alongside the odd Tory, such as Katherine Ollerenshaw, who was a councillor and adviser to Margaret Thatcher.

Others range from Louise Da-Cocodia, a nurse and activist in the Afro-Caribbean community, to Sunny Lowry, who was the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Across the north-west (and maybe beyond) new public statues have been dominated by entertainers. Morecambe’s statue of local boy Eric Morecambe is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit. Liverpool has Ken Dodd and Labour MP Bessie Braddock together, which might be a political comment, while north-west council Rochdale is putting up a statue to singer and actress Gracie Fields, a woman dubbed by a local Labour councillor as the Madonna of her era. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?

Underneath the overhyped 24/7 image, Manchester is a city facing major challenges because of government cuts as well as the choices made about where those cuts should be made by the Labour Council. Only 46 per cent of Mancunians voted in the general election, which is a sign of the increasing division between the people and the political system.

Manchester is the fifth most deprived area in Britain, and walking around the city, the increasing levels of poverty are obvious in the deteriorating state of its public places, as well as the way in which some groups of people, including the homeless, are taking their campaigns literally to the streets.

What do Mancunians think about having a new statue of a woman? Over 100 people turned up to the launch and Simcock believes the Womanchester Statue project “has struck a chord with people in Manchester.”

Annette Wright, president of Manchester Trades Council, hopes the debate will inspire new activists to get involved in local politics. “As the shortlist clearly illustrates, women have played a major role in campaigning, protesting and organising in the trade union movement in Manchester. We have a long way to go to give them all the recognition they deserve.

“By building the union movement in the present day, making sure women play a full role in this and remembering the women who played such significant roles in the past, we can start to go some way to addressing this. We can learn a great deal and be inspired by the examples of labour movement pioneers.”

Local historian Alison Ronan is a supporter of Margaret Ashton to win. “It seems to me that it is important that the statue represents a woman who was committed to Manchester and its citizens.”

Ashton was the first female councillor for Manchester (a Liberal), a committed pacifist and internationalist and campaigner for women’s and workers’ rights, including the vote.

Manchester NUJ activist Rachel Broady is more cynical, particularly about the whole role of statues: “It would be great if the list of women helps create a debate and reminds people of Manchester’s radical history rather than repeat the same, often limited, story of the Suffragettes. Ultimately, though, I think funding education — in schools and beyond — about our radical past, and the men and women involved, would be of more value than one more statue for the pigeons to sit on.”

Project worker and activist in the Mary Quaile Club Ciara Sullivan is also not impressed about either the statue or the fact that it is going be paid for by the public: “I think that makes it much worse. That makes it feel like a distraction to divert attention from areas still needing fixing and funding and using historical achievements as a diversion.”

It is now a question of whether the good people of Manchester will cough up the tens of thousands to pay for the statue and then vote for the woman whose legacy it will honour.

For further details see www.womanchesterstatue.org.

Greek, or Roman, sculpture exhibition in London


This video from the British Museum in London, England is about their exhibition Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art.

By Michal Boncza in England:

Some sincerest forms of flattery

Thursday 4th June 2015

Many of the works in an exhibition of ancient Greek sculpture are Roman copies. MICHAL BONCZA explains why

Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art
British Museum, London WC1
5/5

HUGELY impressive as it is, this exhibition doesn’t exactly do what it says on the tin.

Many of the large-scale statues on display are in fact Roman replicas produced for a growing internal art market following the cultural pillage carried out by imperial armies conquering Greece in 146 BC.

Millennia later, our very own Lord Elgin engaged in a similar act of vandalism when he looted treasures from the Parthenon in Athens.

Back in Roman times, the bronze originals were often lost or simply melted down for the value of the metal and only a handful of full-sized original Greek statues survive.

Yet there is enough jaw-dropping craftsmanship in evidence here to help understand the impact the Greeks have had over the last 2,500 years, particularly since the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, in Europe and the Western world.

An example is Leon Golub’s Colossal Torso II, shown at the Serpentine gallery recently and the Michaelangelo painting of Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the Vatican.

They were executed 500 years apart but both were inspired by the same formidable marble figure of Ilisos, the Athenian river god from the west pediment of the Parthenon designed by Phidias.

The Greek sculptors often laboured under the largely misguided concept that a body beautiful will house a corresponding spirit or indeed personality.

Thus, like all excessively idealistic aesthetic canons the sculptures — particularly the Roman marble copies — tend, at times, to schematise or falsify anatomy. This is certainly evident when comparing the Discobolus by Miron or the Westmacott Youth to the partial but still breathtaking magnificence of the Belvedere Torso which, although also a copy, is beautiful in its own right.

The illustrated amphoras intrigue, both for the sculptural qualities inherent in their manufacture and the masterly single-outline rendition of mythological as well as everyday scenes and ornaments, with the ochre background contrasting with the black of the shapes.

Among the myriad of mythical creatures are the usual quarrelsome centaurs kicking the proverbial out of humans and winged gate-keeping sphinxes with rat-like tails.

Smaller items, most of them Greek original pieces, delight.

There’s the 4,500-year-old minimalist marble figurine Woman from the Cyclades and the delightful Running Spartan Girl in a traditional short dress baring one of her breasts.

The one-foot tall and extraordinarily intricate figure of Zeus, the familiar marble figurine of Socrates or the exquisitely balanced statuette of Aphrodite standing on one leg to adjust her sandal are exquisite too.

Yet there’s a jarring absence of historic or social contextualisation, which means that fascinating as this art is a vacuum surrounds important areas of reference such as the sources of patronage or records of the political, scientific and economic realities of the time.

And the activities of Lord Elgin certainly cast a long shadow over the exhibition — not one Greek museum has lent items from their collections to it.

Runs until July 5, box office: britishmuseum.org.

Michelangelo bronze sculpture discovery in England


This video from Cambridge University in England says about itself:

Michelangelo bronzes discovered

2 February 2015

It was thought that no bronzes by Michelangelo had survived – now experts believe they have found not one, but two – with a tiny detail in a 500-year-old drawing providing vital evidence. – See more here.

They are naked, beautiful, muscular and ride triumphantly on two ferocious panthers. And now the secret of who created these magnificent metre-high bronze male nudes could well be solved. A team of international experts led by the University of Cambridge and Fitzwilliam Museum has gathered compelling evidence that argues that these masterpieces, which have spent over a century in relative obscurity, are early works by Michelangelo, made just after he completed the marble David and as he was about to embark on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

If the attribution is correct, they are the only surviving Michelangelo bronzes in the world.

Snowmen, snow camels banned in Saudi Arabia


This February 2014 video is called Snowfall Blankets North-Western Region of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is not only the country in the world practicing the death penalty by beheading. It is also the only country where women are punished for driving cars.

And, as far as I know, also the only country where making snowmen, or snow camels (or snow turtles) is illegal.

Snow camel in Saudi Arabia

From Gulf News in the United Arab emirates:

Saudi fatwa banning snowmen triggers heated debate

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Published: 10:21 January 12, 2015

Manama: Saudis in the northern areas drew on their imagination and sense of fun as they braved the cold weather to build snow camels in a rare tribute to the local culture.

One citizen in the Province of Tarif used his snow camel to promote the colours of local teams, drawing praise from the fans, while another opted for the traditional ghitra and agal to cover the head of the snowman he built.

However, it was not all fun for Saudis after a religious scholar said that building snowmen or snow animals was not acceptable in Islam.

The fatwa, by Mohammad Saleh Al Minjed, said that building snowmen or any replica of an animal, even if it is for fun or recreation, could not be condoned. Only lifeless things, such as ships, fruit and buildings could be imitated, the fatwa said. …

No date was mentioned about when the fatwa was issued, but it was widely circulated on social networks, triggering a wide and often heated online debate mainly among Gulf nationals. …

However, Mishaal, an angry blogger, blasted the fatwa.

“We have snow for fleeting days, maybe even hours, and there is always someone who wants to rob us of the joy and the fun,” he posted. “It seems that the only thing left for us is to sit down and drink coffee,” he said.

Saudi men make a snowman in the Aleghan Heights, in the Tabuk region

See also here.

Snow camel in the Netherlands

This photo shows a snow camel in the Netherlands.