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Stolen Art Wednesday: Perfume Burner

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Bronze perfume burner  taken during a burglary at Chateau de Fontainbleau in March 2015. Photo courtesy of Interpol.

Bronze perfume burner taken during a burglary at Chateau de Fontainbleau in March 2015. Photo courtesy of Interpol.

Here’s another item currently at large following the March 2015 burglary at the China Museum at the Chateau de Fontainbleau in France that we highlighted a few weeks ago. This bronze perfume burner was one of 15 items looted during the break-in.

Below is the Interpol listing:

Perfume Burner

MISCELLANEOUS / TABLEWARE (EXCEPT GLASS / CERAMICS AND SILVERWARE) / OTHER
Period: 15TH CENTURY
Origin: CHINA
Height: 15 cm
Materials: BRONZE

Stolen Art Wednesday: Looting, opium wars and chimeras (chimeri?)

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Equipped with alarms and security cameras, Chateau de Fontainbleau, southeast of Paris, is a mixture of medieval stronghold, Renaissance palace and 21st Century security.

But that wasn’t enough to stop burglars who hurled chairs into glass display cases and made off with 15 pieces of priceless loot in about seven minutes, covering their tracks with fire extinguishers before the security guards arrived.

Listed as missing in the March 2015 heist were a trio of enamel chimera (mythical fire-breathing creatures, part lion and part snake), a Tibetan mandala and a crown from the king of Siam (now Thailand). The items were taken from the French castle’s China Museum, which was set up by Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III.

The crown was a gift from a delegation to France in the 1860s, but not all of the pieces in the museum were acquired under such pleasant circumstances.

Many pieces in Eugenie’s Asia collection were looted from China’s Old Summer Palace compound in 1860 during the Second Opium War. The story goes that, as the English and French armies were closing in on Peking (now Beijing), the Europeans sent out a group to negotiate a possible surrender on the part of the Chinese. The Westerners also sent a troop to secure the Old Summer Palace, also known as the Imperial Gardens and the Gardens of Perfect Brightness.

The surrender talks didn’t go to well. The French and English delegation was captured and tortured with a high mortality rate, and the British ordered the destruction and looting of the Old Summer Palace, torching many valuables in the process.

It wasn’t clear if any of the Old Palace loot was looted by the burglars in March.

Below are the Interpol descriptions of a few of the items taken from Chateau de Fontainbleau:

Pair of Chimeras
Type: SCULPTURE / STATUE / ONE IMAGINARY CREATURE
Period: 18TH CENTURY
Technics: SCULPTURE, STATUE / CARVED/THREE DIMENSIONAL, SCULPTURE, STATUE / POLYCHROME
Additional Information: PAIR OF REMOVABLE LION-LIKE CHIMERAS, ORIGIN CHINA
Materials: GOLD, BRONZE, ENAMEL

Mandala Box
Type: GOLD & SILVERWARE / JEWELLERY / BOX / OTHER
Period: 1736-1795 (QIANLONG)
Additional Information: ORIGIN CHINA. REPOUSSE AND FILIGRANE GOLD, CORAL, TURQUOISE AND PEARLS.
Height: 25 cm
Materials: GOLD, CORAL, PEARL, PRECIOUS AND SEMI-PRECIOUS STONE

Horse-Like Chimera
Type: SCULPTURE / STATUE / ONE IMAGINARY CREATURE
Period: 18TH CENTURY
Technics: SCULPTURE, STATUE / CARVED/THREE DIMENSIONAL, SCULPTURE, STATUE / POLYCHROME
Additional Information: ORIGIN: CHINA
Height: 43 cm
Width: 45 cm
Materials: ENAMEL, BRONZE, GOLD

Forfeiture ordered in dino fossil smuggling case

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In September, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped a Mongolian dinosaur from sneaking into the country from France. This week, a federal judge sided with the government in its seizure, which means it can be returned to Mongolia.

Here’s the update from ICE:

HSI seizes Mongolian dinosaur fossil
12/02/2014

NEW YORK — A decree of forfeiture was issued Tuesday in federal court forfeiting a fossilized skull and vertebrae of an Alioramus dinosaur after it was seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Upon its Sept. 4 arrival in the United States from France, the Dinosaur Skull was seized by CBP. Federal authorities then filed a civil action to forfeit the dinosaur skull, alleging that it was stolen Mongolian property that was smuggled into the United States using false declarations. The allegations in the United States’ complaint went uncontested and the court ordered the forfeiture of the dinosaur skull.

The Alioramus was a dinosaur that lived in the late Cretaceous period, approximately 65 to 70 million years ago. It is related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Tarbosaurus.

The Dinosaur Skull was falsely described as a French replica when it was shipped to the United States by Geofossiles, Inc., a French fossil dealer. More

Fave Forts: Matanzas

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Let’s get this out of the way right from the start. At the heart of this piece is a massacre, a bloody mass murder executed in a scorching swamp as empires fought to assert their dominance in the New World. The initial body count was in the hundreds, inflicted over nationalistic fervor and minor religious differences. Even so, it is the background for one of my favorite forts, a small outpost in a coastal salt marsh that was set up to guard a Florida city’s back door.

Today, 450 years later, the blood had dissipated. Visitors to Fort Matanzas take a pleasant boat ride from the parking lot to sun-drenched Rattlesnake Island and climb a set if wooden steps to the stone gun deck. Underneath the platform is a cistern to capture fresh rainwater (the surface water being too brackish to drink), and at one end stands a square tower that holds barracks, officer’s quarters and a powder magazine topped by a lookout deck (see laser scan video by AIST and the University of Southern Florida, above).

The site’s history goes back to the 1500s when the Spanish were wrestling with the French to claim a section of the new continent’s southeast coast. Spain set up camp in what is now St. Augustine, Fla., and France had Fort Carolina up the coast to the north, near the mouth of the St. John’s River.

So, on to the massacre.

In September 1565, the French sailed to attack the Spaniards at Augustine, but a hurricane blew them too far south. They overshot their destination and wrecked somewhere around what would become Cape Canaveral. At the same time, a Spanish force headed north of Fort Carolina and, in the absence of a defending army, easily took the place.

Meanwhile, the shipwrecked French started hoofing it back up the coast toward their base. They had three problems. First, their path would have to pass the Spanish at St. Augustine. Second, Spain had already raided Carolina, so there wasn’t much to return to. But they never got to the point of figuring out the first to problems because (problem No. 3) the Spanish came down to meet them at an inlet 14 miles before they got to Augustine.

Outgunned, the French surrendered, but the Spanish also demanded they convert to Catholicism and massacred 111 Frenchmen who refused to give up their Huguenot faith. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, especially not so far from Spain. The scene was repeated two weeks later when a group of French stragglers showed up at the same inlet, resulting in 134 dead.

People started calling the inlet Matanzas, a Spanish variation of massacre, and the name stuck.

A few years later, the Spanish built a wooden watchtower and thatched hut at the inlet, which provided an inland route for ships to approach Augustine. It was manned by six soldiers, whose main duty was to book it upstream and alert the Spanish base when they spotted enemies approaching. They thwarted attacks from pirates and were briefly captured by English outlaws.

The Spanish began worrying less about the French and more about the British, who were setting up forts in Georgia and Charleston, S.C. Spain began building up Augustine, breaking ground on what would be Fort Castillo in 1672. The wooden Matanzas outpost was converted to stone in 1740 and helped drive off the Brits on at least one occasion.

Not long after that, Spain traded Florida to the Brits in exchange for Cuba, which England had captured earlier. Then, Spain got Florida back in 1783 but turned it over to the United States in 1821. Included in the deal was Fort Matanzas, which by that time was a dilapidated property. The U.S. Department of War restored it, and it was later turned over to the National Park Service.

Hunt for diamond necklace

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image

Photos courtesy of Interpol.

French police request assistance in hunt for diamond necklace stolen at Cannes film festival
May 27, 2013

French police are making a global appeal for assistance via Interpol to locate a diamond necklace stolen from a display during a party at the Cannes international film festival on May 22.

The diamond and pink gold necklace, worth an estimated 1.92 million Euros, was stolen during a private party at the Hotel Eden Roc in Antibes, France, organized by Swiss jeweler Di Grisogono. It was one of 20 items on display under the surveillance of security guards at the time of the theft.

At the request of the French authorities, Interpol issued a Purple Notice to police in its 190 member countries seeking information on the missing necklace. Purple Notices are used to seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.