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Medieval page to be returned

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Photo courtesy of ICE

 The Cleveland Museum of Art has turned over a page from a medieval songbook so it can be returned to Italy. 

Here’s the release from Customs officials:

14th century Italian manuscript transferred to ICE following probe

Nov. 4, 2016

CLEVELAND –A 14th-century manuscript leaf from an Antiphonary was transferred Friday to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations custody, paving the way for its delivery to Italy. The transfer follows a two-year probe by HSI.

The leaf was purchased, in good faith, by the Museum in 1952, at which time it was attributed to a different artist. It has not been on display for more than 10 years.

The Museum was contacted by HSI after a second leaf appeared on the Swiss market. That leaf was recently turned over to the Italian government. Working collaboratively with HSI to research the history of the leaf and after evaluating the information provided by the Italian government, the Museum agreed the leaf should be transferred to Italy to be reunited with the Antiphonary.

 “Once we were able to substantiate the information provided, we decided that the best place for the leaf was back with the Antiphonary. We feel the leaf has greater significance if it is reunited with the other illuminations in the manuscript. Along with the recovery of a second leaf, the Antiphonary will now be complete” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The Master of Dominican Effigies, an important illuminator, created an illuminated manuscript known as Codex D sometime between 1335 and 1345. Codex D, essentially a type of hymnal, is parchment with leather binding and contained seven illuminated pages. The illuminated page with the initial L depicts Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia). A portion of the page was removed from the Antiphonary and is known as a leaf. The leaf is ink, tempera and gold on parchment. It measures 44.3 cm high and 35.2 cm wide.

The Antiphonary was formerly in the Church of Saints Ippolito and Biagio of Castelfiorentino and is now preserved in the Museum of Santa Verdiana, Castelfiorentino, Italy.

The Antiphonary is a partially illuminated liturgical manuscript intended for use by a choir. A delivery date to the Italian government is being finalized. 

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Greek pottery seized in smuggling investigation

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Pottery in similar style as the seized piece, not a photo of the actual piece.

 Files of a convicted art smuggler in Italy led American investigators to an Attic Red-Figure Nolan Amphora (old timey Greek vase with reddish figures on black background) that was in a New York gallery. Here’s the ICE release on the case.

ICE seizes artifact linked to Italian art smuggler

April 13, 2016

NEW YORK – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations on Wednesday seized an ancient Attic Red-Figure Nolan Amphora by Charmides Painter (475- 460 B.C.). 

This seizure follows a joint international investigation led by HSI New York, and the Italian Cabanieri. The Italians traced the Nolan Amphora to a gallery in New York City. It is believed that the Nolan Amphora might have been in the United States illegally since as early as 1997. HSI agents tracked down and recovered the item within hours after Italian authorities provided details of the artifact. More

Headless torso seized

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   Officials have seized a headless headless female torso and plan to return it to Italy, where it had been stolen some three decades earlier from Benito Mussolini’s former home.
At this point, it should probably be noted the torso is marble, part of a hacked statue that was sold to a New Yorker in 2001 for $75,000. The New Yorker (a person, not the magazine) realized it was stolen shortly after contemplating offering the torso at auction and turned it over to the FBI in 2015.

The statue fragment is known as the “Torlonia Peplophoros” — Peplophoros meaning ancient Greek garment, and Torlonia meaning the 18th Century villa where it had been on display. The FBI described the villa this way:

In 1797, Giovanni Torlonia, a famous Vatican banker in Rome, purchased what is now called the Villa Torlonia (the “Villa”) after inheriting the title of Marchese. The Torlonia family owned the Villa until 1977, though it was used by Benito Mussolini as his personal residence from 1925 to 1943, and then occupied by the Allied High Command from 1944 to 1947. After 1947, the Villa was abandoned and deteriorated until the Municipality of Rome purchased it from the Torlonia family in 1977. Since 1978, the Villa has been opened to the public and restored by the Municipality of Rome.  

In November 1983, thieves stole the torso and about 14 other pieces from the villa. It was brought to the United States in the 1990s through a gallery that sold it to the New Yorker.

The torso isn’t the first object to be recovered since the theft.

A 1st Century A.D. disembodied Dionysus head surfaced at an American auction house in 2002. It was returned to Italy in 2006 along with what media accounts described as a another headless statue, although it wasn’t clear if that torso was part of the Torlonia heist.

Other bodies and body parts that remain at large include a Roman copy of a 4th Century B.C. Greek statue of Hercules and a marble head believed to that of Emperor Constantine.

Cannon and other loot returned to Italy

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Cannon and other loot returned to Italy. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Cannon and other loot returned to Italy. Photo courtesy of ICE.

Earlier this week, a sarcophagus lid, ancient artillary and other stolen artifacts were returned to Italy after turning up in the United States.
Here’s the latest from ICE:

NEW YORK — U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement offices returned 19 cultural treasures to the Italian government this week. The artifacts, including a 17th century cannon, 5th century Greek pottery and items dating to 300-460 B.C., were looted from their Italian owners and smuggled into the United States during the last several years.

HSI offices in New York, Boston, Buffalo, Baltimore, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco, with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Italy’s Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale Rome Office (TPC), seized the artifacts during 11 separate investigations. Homeland Security Investigations New York returned six objects Wednesday including “sleeping beauty,” an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid of Sleeping Ariadne, which was smuggled out of Italy.

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Sarcophagus lid seized

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Detail of a sarcophagus lid seized as part of an antiquities investigation. Photo courtesy Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

  A sarcophagus lid allegedly removed from Italy and sold by a Swiss antiquities smuggler has been seized in the United States. More on the case below:

HSI seizes Roman sarcophagus lid linked to convicted art smuggler
Feb. 28, 2014

NEW YORK – Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Friday seized an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus lid featuring a high-relief sculpture of a sleeping woman.

According to Italian authorities, the piece matches photographs found in the files of a convicted antiquities dealer. A forfeiture complaint was filed Thursday in federal court. As alleged in the complaint, the antiquity is the property of Italy and is therefore forfeitable as stolen property that was unlawfully introduced into the United States.

Gianfranco Becchina, an Italian citizen, operated an antiquities gallery in Basel, Switzerland. In February 2011, he was convicted in an Italian court of illicitly dealing in antiquities. During the investigation that led to his conviction, Swiss and Italian authorities searched Becchina’s Swiss gallery and warehouse and seized Italian archeological artifacts, commercial documents and photographs of thousands of artifacts that Becchina had sold. Among the documents in Becchina’s archive were photographs, commercial records and customs paperwork pertaining to the marble sarcophagus lid.

According to these records, Becchina purchased the marble sarcophagus lid in Italy and shipped it to his gallery in Switzerland in 1981. Thirty years later, the marble sarcophagus lid, now restored, reappeared at a public exhibition in New York. On Feb. 20, HSI agents located the antiquity in a storage facility in Long Island City, New York.

HSI Rome also assisted in this investigation.

Mystery of the missing missal solved, Grail remains at large

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Page 212 of Missal of Ludovico da Romagnano. Photo courtesy of ICE.

A customs investigation has turned up a missing manuscript page that tells the story of San Lorenzo, a 3rd Century martyr. But the Holy Grail remains missing.

San Lorenzo (Latin: Laurentius. English: St. Lawrence of Rome. American: Larry) was born in Spain around 225 and made his way to Rome.

He was appointed archdeacon of Rome by his buddy, Sixtus II, who was named pope in 257. Back then, the title of pope didn’t carry as much clout as it does today, as shown by the fact that Sixtus was executed by Roman authorities a year later.

That put Lorenzo in a perdicament because the Romans demanded he hand over the Church’s riches. According to the story, he instead gave the treasure to the poor and entrusted the Holy Grail to friend who smuggled it off to Spain. Lorenzo then showed up at the Roman prefect’s office with the empoverished and disabled declaring them to be the church’s true treasures.

And the Romans roasted him alive.

Meanwhile, the Grail made its way to the British Isles, where it was hunted by King Arthur before landing in Petra, Jordan, where it was discovered by Indiana Jones, who used it to save Sir Sean Connery, if I’m reading my history right.

In the 1400s, a Lombardian monk wrote about Larry and drew a picture of him on page 212 of the handwritten Missal of Ludovico da Romagnano, which was later filed in the Turin archives next to some old shroud. A husband and wife team hired to inventory the archives in the 1990s allegedly swiped Lorenzo’s entry and 262 other pages from the missal and sold them to a bookseller.

Skip ahead to 2011 when an officer on Italy’s cultural property team stumbled on a internet newspaper article about a Florida museum exhibit titled “Blood and Ink” (I’m thinking tattoo exhibit) that featured page 212. American customs got involved, and now Larry’s entry is headed back to Italy.

Read more about it here.

St. Lawrence on Wikipedia.

Picasso restrained

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picaso

I wasn’t really sure how to restrain a painting, but apparently the folks at Immigration and Customs Enforcement figured it out. It was a Picasso, and everyone knows there is nothing worse than an unrestrained cubist painting of a fruit bowl (seriously that’s what it is, you just have to look closely), especially if it’s tied up in an Italian tax dodge scheme.

Speaking of which, Picasso’s unrestrained name is actually Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. He shortened it because it took too long to sign his paintings.

Read more from ICE below:

US restrains 1909 Pablo Picasso painting valued at $11.5 million
June 24, 2013

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice today restrained the 1909 Pablo Picasso painting “Compotier et tasse” – estimated to be worth $11.5 million – on behalf of the Italian government. This action follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s homeland Security Investigations.

The restraining order was obtained in response to an official request by the government of Italy, pursuant to the Treaty between the United States and the Italian Republic on Mutual Legal Assistance in criminal matters for assistance in connection with its ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution of Gabriella Amati. Amati and her late husband, Angelo Maj, were charged by the Italian Public Prosecutors’ Office in Milan with embezzlement and fraudulent bankruptcy offenses under Italian law, and Italian prosecutors have obtained a restraining order for the Picasso painting in connection with the criminal proceeding.

According to documents filed in the Italian criminal proceeding, Amati and Maj, in collaboration with a public official of the City of Naples, Italy, employed various schemes to misappropriate tax receipts collected for Naples by companies the couple controlled. In addition, the Italian prosecutors alleged that Amati and Maj orchestrated a number of schemes to embezzle Naples’ tax revenue including the use of fraudulent service contracts, forged accounting records, inflated operational expenses, and fraudulently claimed refunds to Naples taxpayers, all to justify transfers to the couple’s own bank accounts of the taxes that were collected for the city, resulting in a loss of approximately 33 million euros ($44 million) to Naples.

On May 21, HSI special agents in New York located and recovered the painting, which was being offered for private sale in the amount of $11.5 million.

An application to enforce the Italian restraining order was filed June 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking to restrain the Picasso painting belonging to Amati and Maj and located in New York City. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska granted the U.S. government’s application and issued a restraining order prohibiting the removal, sale or disposition of the Picasso painting from the court’s jurisdiction. The United States is working in close cooperation with the Italian Public Prosecutors’ Office in Milan, the Justice Department’s Attaché in Rome and HSI Attaché Rome to forfeit the painting in an effort to repatriate the Picasso to Italy.

“Restraining this valuable artwork is an effort to help recover some of the estimated $44 million that this couple stole from the tax-paying citizens of Naples,” said ICE Director John Morton. “We are very pleased that our investigation has led to the recovery of this painting that is so significant to the Italian people. This is an example of the fine work of our HSI cultural repatriation special agents. We will continue our efforts to return stolen antiquities to their rightful owners.”

The U.S. enforcement of the Italian order is being handled by Assistant Deputy Chief Jack de Kluiver and Trial Attorney Jennifer Wallis of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Asset Forfeiture Unit Chief Sharon Cohen Levin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Magdo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, HSI New York, HSI Rome and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

In Italy, the case is being handled by the Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan and investigated by the Guardia di Finanza police service.

Vessel heads back to Italy

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A rare Etruscan black-figure kalpis, which has been traced back to 510 B.C., will be returned to the Italian government following a transfer ceremony Tuesday, at the Toledo Museum of Art. A June 2012 agreement between the United States and the Toledo Museum of Art followed by yesterday’s transfer ceremony is the culmination of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to restore the true provenance of the kalpis. In this photo, a close up of the kalpis.

A rare Etruscan black-figure kalpis, which has been traced back to 510 B.C., will be returned to the Italian government following a transfer ceremony Tuesday, at the Toledo Museum of Art. A June 2012 agreement between the United States and the Toledo Museum of Art followed by yesterday’s transfer ceremony is the culmination of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to restore the true provenance of the kalpis. In this photo, a close up of the kalpis.

Transfer ceremony clears way for looted ancient vessel to be returned to Italy

Jan. 8 , 2013

TOLEDO, Ohio — A rare Etruscan black-figure kalpis, which has been traced back to 510 B.C., will be returned to the Italian government following a transfer ceremony Tuesday at the Toledo Museum of Art.

A June 2012 agreement between the United States and the Toledo Museum of Art followed by Tuesday’s transfer ceremony is the culmination of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to restore the true provenance of the kalpis.

The kalpis, a ceramic vessel used in ancient times for holding water, depicts a mythological scene of pirates being transformed into dolphins by Dionysos. It was smuggled out of Italy after an illegal excavation prior to 1981. It was then sold in 1982 to the Toledo Museum of Art by art dealers Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina, who had earlier purchased it from convicted art smuggler Giacomo Medici. The Becchinas misrepresented the true provenance of the vase to the museum by providing falsified documentation.

Following a January 2010 lead from HSI Rome, Cleveland-based HSI special agents launched an investigation into the true provenance of the artifact. Working closely with law enforcement officials in Italy, HSI special agents were able to definitively establish that the documentation provided to the Toledo Museum of Art was falsified and part of a larger scheme by the Becchinas to sell illegitimately obtained cultural property. Gianfranco Becchina was convicted in February 2011 of illicitly dealing in antiquities by a court in Rome. That conviction was appealed by Becchina and remains in the Italian court system.

According to court documents, the kalpis has been valued at more than $665,000.

More loot returned to Italy

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(NOTE: Originally posted June 21, 2012. Re-posted here for archival purposes.)

It remains to be seen if the Greek god of wine will be pleased with his return to Italy, given his history with Italian pirates. One of the myths surrounding Dionysos tells of a voyage he took on the Aegean islands when he was set upon by pirates from the Tyrrenhia region of Italy. They captured him with the intent of selling him into slavery, but the deity conjured up vines and creatures that he unleashed on the boat. When the pirates dived into the sea to escape the chaos, Dionysos turned them into dolphins.

I bring this up because Italy is in line to get back an ancient jug that was looted and smuggled to Ohio. And by whatever coincidence, the smuggled jug depicts the pirate/dolphin scene. Art dealer Gianfranco Becchina had sold the piece to Toledo Museum of Art using bogus paperwork in the 1980s, and he was later convicted in Italy (we last wrote about Gianfranco Becchina here ).

Below are excerpts from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement release about the jug’s pending repatriation:

Agreement paves way for artifact’s return to Italy
June 18, 2012

CLEVELAND – A rare Etruscan black-figure kalpis which has been traced back to 510 B.C. will be returned to the Italian government following an agreement between the United States and the Toledo Museum of Art. The arrangement comes after an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The kalpis, a ceramic vessel used in ancient times for holding water, depicts a mythological scene of pirates being transformed into dolphins by Dionysos. It was smuggled out of Italy after an illegal excavation prior to 1981. It was then sold in 1982 to the Toledo Museum of Art by art dealers Gianfranco and Ursula Becchina, who had earlier purchased it from convicted art smuggler Giacomo Medici. The Becchinas misrepresented the true provenance of the vase to the museum by providing falsified documentation.

Following a January 2010 lead from HSI’s Rome attache, Cleveland-based HSI special agents launched an investigation into the true provenance of the artifact. Working closely with law enforcement officials in Italy, HSI special agents were able to definitively establish that the documentation provided to the Toledo Museum of Art was falsified and part of a larger scheme by the Becchinas to sell illegitimately obtained cultural property. Gianfranco Becchina was convicted in February 2011 of illicitly dealing in antiquities by a court in Rome. That conviction was appealed by Becchina and remains in the Italian court system.

According to court documents, the kalpis has been valued at more than $665,000.

“This agreement establishes the true provenance of the kalpis and reconnects this valuable artifact to its rightful cultural origin and history,” said Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Michigan and Ohio. “We applaud the integrity of the Toledo Museum of Art for their willingness to ensure that this piece is repatriated to its home country.”

The kalpis will be formally repatriated in an official ceremony later this year with the Toledo Museum of Art, HSI, federal prosecutors and representatives from the Italian government.

Since 2007, HSI has repatriated more than 2,500 items to more than 23 countries. (6.21.12)