Apr 212014

Goering Pass in Auktion von Vermot de Pas NAZI MEMORABILIA PULLED BY PARIS AUCTION

Nazi memorabilia owned by Adolf Hitler and air force chief Hermann Göring have been withdrawn from a French auction following objections from two Jewish groups, Art Daily reports. Forty Nazi items were to have gone under the hammer on April 26th at the auction organized by the Vermot de Pas auction house in Paris.

The items include Göring’s passport and a mat adorned with the Nazi eagle and monogrammed with Hitler’s initials. According to the auction house, the items were pillaged from Hitler’s mountaintop retreat in the Bavarian Alps by French soldiers in May of 1945.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti described the decision as “necessary in the light of history and morality.”


Apr 212014


The arts minister for the German state of Bavaria, Ludwig Spaenle, spoke to the country’s press agency outlined the progress made thus far in the search for and restitution of Nazi loot and just how far there is left to go. Fifteen years into his state’s search, Spaenle says decades more time could be required.

Having come under greater scrutiny since the discovery of Cornelius Gurlitt’s massive trove of alleged Nazi loot, the minister went on to outline some successes such as the recent return of a still life of a bouquet of flowers from the studio of Jan Brueghel the Elder to the heirs of Vienna’s Julius Klein. However, the challenge remains daunting.

One of the most successful methods of restitution remains Germany’s online portal for looted art, lost art.de  Nearly 200 works from Bavaria’s state collections have been put up on the platform for the public to browse in search of stolen heirlooms. The crowdsourcing method presented by lostart.de also has economic benefits. Input from the public help officials hampered by the extensive costs associated with the often lengthy and meandering process of provenance research.

Of the more than 1500 works in Bavaria’s painting collection suspected of being Nazi loot, some 300 have been researched. Only 12 have been successfully returned to their heirs.


Apr 212014

Lucas Van Leyden 1521 Drawing

Copyright March 23, 2014 All Rights Reserved, contribution by Gary Hind

Dürer Ciphering being Passed On

What you see above you is the largest image I could find of Lucas van Leyden’s drawing of St. Jerome, which mimics Dürer’s St. Jerome depictions.  The ciphering is found on the left with the Christ Figure and in the lettering of the title.

How did van Leyden and Dürer Meet?

The two artists met in Antwerp, when Dürer was on his Netherlands Journey and relocating his business headquarters to Antwerp.  They became very good friends and Dürer drew van Leyden’s portrait as a gift

Albrecht D%C3%BCrer   The Painter Lucas van Leyden   WGA07096 DURER CIPHERING GETS PASSED ON LUCAS VAN LEYDEN

1521 Drawing of Lucas van Leyden by Dürer

Who was Lucas Van Leyden?

Lucas van Leyden was the son of artist Hugo Jacobsz of Leiden. He was apprenticed first in his father’s studio, and later to the painter Cornelis Engebrechtsz. Van Leyden’s development as an artist was fast and furious and he soon emerged as a successful painter and engraver.

In 1521, Dürer had a profound effect on van Leyden’s work because of Dürer’s compositions and use of chiaroscuro. Van Leyden was also fascinated by prints based on Rafael’s work, who also was a great friend of Dürer; they often exchanged artworks. From these, van Leyden learned to depict the human physique with anatomical accuracy and in all kinds of positions. In addition to drawings and paintings, Van Leyden also made woodcuts and experimented with etching techniques. He developed a completely individual style, characterised by the distinctive physiognomy of his faces. He died a lingering death at the age of 39 from tuberculosis.

The Ciphering

When you look at van Leyden’s St. Jerome in the inscription and at the Christ figure, you find almost exact Dürer Ciphering being used.  With the Christ figure you see that the letters over the cross are NOT INRI, as they should be but very different lettering passing a message.  Also, if you look at the right hand arm of the Christ near the armpit, you will see a very large “Y” symbol with a tail to the right, and Christ has an erect penis, a common Cipher trick Dürer did often. Christ’s right hand on the cross has some very weird message on it, which looks like two stick figures, but certainly not a hand.

When you look at the inscription, you see the “H” symbol with the horseshoe “U” cup in the bar of the “H” except van Leyeden uses it in the exact opposite of the way Dürer does; Dürer’s H crossbars with the U are always in the opposite direction.  Here is the colophon of the VP edition of the Nuremberg Chronicles published for the author, Hartmann Schedel, in June 1493, with the H bar “up”


The HARTMANN SCHEDEL colophon of June 1493 with the H bar horseshoe cup pointing up.



Bookplate for Scheurl made by Dürer. Notice all the crossbars have the horseshoe upside down to normal

Also notice that in the inscription, a number of the letters have very long serifs and van Leyden appears to be copying part of the ciphering used in Margret’s self-portrait, as he is combining upper case letters with with a lower case “i” with a dot in the inscription. And some other weird symbols included. Hieronymous is even spelled incorrectly.

Who could van Leyden be messaging and why?












Apr 172014

Copyright Feb 28, 2014, by Dr. Elizabeth Garner and Joe Kiernan




Mathias Corvinus

Mathias Corvinus, actually born with the name of John Hyundai, was King of Bohemia, and Hungary, and almost all the Eastern European kingdoms.  He was very famous for his wars all over Europe consolidating his power and kingdoms and was actually more powerful than the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian. It turns out whomever was in control of the Kingdom of Bohemia was actually the kingpin in Eastern Europe. He was known for having an army known as “Black” Hungarians who conquered all these territories, and it appears that the black poppin on the Dürer Coat of Arms Albrecht painted in 1490, refers to the fact that his Hungarian family was politically connected to these “Black Hungarians,” making the Hungarian Dürers noble Hungarians.


The marriage coat of arms of Barbara and Albrecht the Elder with each significant part indicated


Because most art history focuses almost solely on the Italians in the Renaissance, very few people know that Corvinus actually not only was protecting Jews in Eastern Europe, he was having an artistic Renaissance that rivaled what was going on in Italy. He had been importing very famous Italian artists into his kingdoms, such as Botticelli especially to Vienna, which Corvinus had invaded and made his headquarters and his castle stronghold. This Renaissance in Corvinus’ kingdoms is rarely discussed.


The Corvinus University in Vienna

It was in Vienna that Corvinus had established a very famous University to which very famous mathematicians flocked and he established an enormous library of books, more than 2500, that many philosophers, alchemists, astronomers, linguists, and anyone who was very famous for these disciplines flocked.




A Book about the Corvinus Library

The books that were in the Corvinus Library were astounding and were gathered from all ends of the world, including Byzantium (Constantinople, what is now  Istanbul, Turkey) and Alexandria (Egypt).  We even know for a fact that one of the existing remaining provable books that was in the Corvinus library had Arabic numbering in it that had ink that dated to the 900’s, and these books probably came from Iberia where the Arabic and Jewish intellectual Renaissance was flowering before Christianity started the Crusades and then the Inquisition, which actually was really implemented starting in 1480 in Iberia.



Cuspinian and his family by Strigel-all redheads!

An amazing man, born as Johann Spiesshamer in Schweinfurt, Germany became a teacher, working his way across Germany through teaching gigs at many universities ending up at Corvinus’ university in Vienna in the  late 1470’s. His brother and his son were named Georg, the brother was the canon of Herbopopolis, named in the Nuremberg Chronicles, which is really the city of Wuerzburg. He was Martin Luther’s cousin. Cuspinian’s other name was Johann Albert Fabricius in Italy.

Cuspinian was made the head Librarian of Corvinus’ library from 1485 and was later intimately involved with everything that was going on with Luther.  Ultimately, when Corvinus died in 1490, Cuspinian remained as head librarian of the Corvinus Library, which in effect made him the KEEPER OF ALL THE BOOKS, which explains how Cuspinian ended up with what is known as the third bible of Corvinus


The Illuminated manuscript of the 3rd Corvinus bible showing the Old Testament David


For some strange reason Cuspinian, who was already at Corvinus’ University was ordered to bring two very special and dangerous books to Nuremberg in 1480 and deliver them to Willibald Pirkheimer for translation.  These books are known today as the 3rd and 4th Corvinus’ codexes. Cuspinian was very afraid to hand over these codexes to Pirkheimer.

Pirkheimer was asked during his lifetime to translate the Greek World Chronicle by Johannes Monachius (aka Zonaras) into Latin brought  also by Cuspinian, who brought the books to Pirkheimer in Nuremberg in 1513 but Pirkheimer never translated this book.  Ulrich von Hutten helps Pirkheimer translate the Buda Geographie in 1518. These are the two known first and second of  the 4 codexes.



Greek World Chronicle


Gregory of Nazianzus aka Basilius Magnus was involved with the codexes of Buda that were IN NUREMBERG in the 1480′s also.  Another famous teacher, Johann Gremper gives Willibald Pirkheimer one of these codexes for translation, but Pirkheimer doesn’t  get around to translating anything from these codexes until 1515 when everything with Martin Luther, protected by the Elector Duke Friedrich the Wise of Saxony was in full swing.  Pirkheimer NEVER translated the 3rd and 4th Corvinus codexes but these codexes were kept in Nuremberg from the time of their arrival in 1480 for centuries, protected by whom?  We do not know.

As the Luther movement reached a fever pitch in Germany and Pirkheimer finally starts some translations, Erasmus is all upset with Pirkheimer’s translations of the Buda Codex because  it leaves out 1/3 of the epistles. The guy pushing these translations was Banissius, the Secretary of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximillian, who Dürer had to submit his petition for getting his pension back. Dürer hated Banissius but had to suck up to him to get his pension back in 1520.

Jacob Welser of Augsburg who had bought his way onto the Nuremberg City Council around 1493 steps into the fray to prevent Gregory of Nazianus’ translation of the manuscript from being fully published and thus Gregory’s translation gets truncated. The “Wittenburg” edition was published under the auspices of the Elector, Friedrick the Wise, Duke of Saxony.  During this period of utter chaos with Luther, all of Dürer’s apprentices are arrested, Pirkheimer almost gets himself excommunicated and arrested, and the Duke saves them all.

But the missing codexes 3 and 4 are known to be real because they still exist and these are the books that were numbered with arabic numerals with ink dated to the 10th century ink!

The 3rd and 4th Corvinus Codexes are only known because of one letter between Pirkheimer and Georg Spatalin (who was very active with Pirkheimer about the Luther) and their being transported to Pirkheimer in 1480. Dürer knew Spatalin well, he wasn’t one of Dürer’s favorite people.



All the books Pirkheimer had which contained the two missing Corvinus codexes remained in Nuremberg until these deaths and the deaths of his relatives, whereupon Mathias van Overbek in 1634 bought the estate with the books, and then the Earl of Arundel bought all of them two years later in 1636.  His grandson Henry Howard donated all these books, including the two lost Corvinus codexes, which they didn’t realize they had, to the British ” Royal Society” in 1667 and these got sold off to the British Museum.

But “someone” got some of these before the big British Museum sale and it appears the codexes got sold to Berhhard Quartick in 1837 and the rest of the Corvinus Library from the British Museum got sold by Sotheby’s in London in 1925.

The Missing 3rd and 4th Corvinus codexes ended up in Corpus Christi, TX in 1677, now somewhere in one of the world’s great museums.



the Corvinian Codexes





Apr 172014

Because of information related to a secret document filed with the Manhattan federal court on 14 March, the sentencing of the Long Island dealer Glafira Rosales has been postponed until at least September. Rosales’s $80m art scam snared the Knoedler and Julian Weissman galleries, Christie’s, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, and numerous dealers and collectors. The six-month postponement suggests that Rosales is still negotiating with federal prosecutors. She faces a maximum prison sentence of 99 years.

Rosales was imprisoned last May and held without bail until 12 August, when she was released. As it turned out, Rosales was cooperating with the authorities and on 16 September she pleaded guilty to tax evasion, money laundering and other charges in connection with the art fraud. As part of her plea deal, she agreed to forfeit $33.2m, including her home in Sands Point, New York, and pay $81m in restitution.

Whether the delay in her sentencing is because she is continuing to provide evidence to the US Attorney’s Office for its criminal case remains to be seen, because the 14 March filing is sealed. Neither her criminal lawyer, Steven Kartagener, nor the assistant US attorney handling the case, Jason Hernandez, responded to enquiries.



Apr 172014
Theresa Franks and her company, Fine Art Registry, are being sued again. According to New York Supreme Court documents filed on March, 7, 2012, plaintiff Park West Galleries is seeking damages sustained as a result of Franks’ “cyber-smear” campaign aimed at the famed gallery’s reputation and their artwork.
New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street THE SUING CONTINUES, THIS TIME ITS DEFAMATION
The suit alleges FAR, “over the course of several years have embarked on a sustained, malicious and outrageous cyber-smear campaign against Park West, its artwork, artists, executives, auctioneers and general business practices all in a calculated and intentional effort to interfere with Park West’s present and potential business relationships with clients and customers.”The suit also names “John Does 1-10″ as defendants and refers to them as “fictitious individuals and businesses.”
Franks has published hundreds of pages worth of information on Park West, namely on the subject of the company’s sale of Salvador Dali works, which were authenticated by expert Bernard Ewell. The suit alleges Franks’ “outrageous” content suggests Park West is guilty of deception and likens their practices to “torture” and “waterboarding”. Some of the articles question Ewell’s expertise regarding Dali authentication.
On the same website, Franks claims connections  to Ewell’s rival Dali expert, Robert Descharnes. Several YouTube videos published by Franks offer an “endorsement” of Robert Descharnes as the world’s “foremost” Dali expert.
In a 2011 interview, Ewell suggested the 86-year old Descharnes has been financing Franks’ cyber-smear campaign against himself and Park West in an effort to “destroy” the company and Ewell’s reputation, and in doing so, securing a monopoly on the Dali market for his son, Robert Descharnes.In 2008 Franks set up an entity, Fine Art Advocacy Foundation, a tax-exempt organization which receives a substantial part of its support from the general public, and actively seeks charitable donations via the website, fineartadvocacyfoundation.org.In an email, Nicolas Descharnes denied he financed Franks or Fine Art Registry but said he was brought in by her to “provide my expertise on Dali artworks.” His father, Robert Descharnes, did not comment.

The cyber-smear lawsuit comes amid a flurry of legal woes for Theresa Franks, who stated in 2011  that she’s spent $2-Million in litigation costs. The same year, Franks defaulted on a $680,000 bank loan according to public records. And in December, the beleaguered Franks was accused of “misleading and fraudulent conduct” in a U.S. federal lawsuit involving New Yorker journalist David Grann. The suit alleges Franks supplied Grann with libelous and false information.

Recently, much of Franks’ site, fineartregistry.com, was down for “maintenance”, leaving subscribers unable to access personal data entrusted with the site. The site requested customers to re-upload images of their artwork. The 800 number has been changed to a toll number, leaving customers—many of whom are working artists, to foot the tab.Another site ran by Franks, registermyantiques.com, has been down since February 15. The on-line customer support chat feature reads, “not available”. Instead, it refers you to FAR’s generic blogspot.com page and a g-mail account for assistance.The prospects of listing valuables on a site that’s been down for a month spells trouble for some collectors. “Putting my collection into the hands of someone who cannot properly run a website, maintain integrity, or render services is curatorial suicide,” says a private collector from Naples, Florida. “No thanks!”

Franks is no stranger to lawsuits, especially involving Park West Gallery, whose executives have launched at least four civil suits against her in the past. All were dismissed. But Park West has shown determination in stopping Franks, or at least curbing her voracious appetite for “destruction”— and along with the Descharnes’, “control” of the Dali market.

Apr 162014


Should art be used to bolster business misadventures? That’s one of the many questions before Austrian officials this week, as they mull the possibility of purchasing Karlheinz Essl’s collection of Austrian and international contemporary greats. According to the mega-collector, whose 15 year old museum in Klosterneuberg outside of Vienna bears his name, a purchase of the collection would save 4,000 Austrian jobs at his beleaguered hardware store chain, Baumax. But, given a book value of €86 million ($118 million) as a whole or up to €250 million ($344 million) if pieced out, it’s hard to see the collection being more than a stop-gap for the firm, which reported losses of €126 million in 2012 alone due to a miscalculated expansion into Eastern Europe and Turkey. Calls to keep culture and business separate, regardless of the collection’s cultural worth, have erupted from within the very sectors of government meant to arrange the purchase. And some have gone so far as to question whether or not the Essl collection has any cultural value in the first place.

Most of the governmental officials set to join a roundtable discussion on Wednesday with Essl have stayed out of the media soup thus far. However, the governor of Lower Austria, where the Essl collection is located, Erwin Pröll, spoke out on Thursday. “Baumax’s problems are issues to solve with economic, not cultural policy,”. Simply put: He won’t be responsible for taking the collection off Essl’s hands. Other politicians were more measured in their responses, pointing to just how massive a line-item the acquisition would be, requiring nearly 20 percent of the country’s  ($604 million) annual budget for arts and culture if the collection was purchased at the book value of €86 million. Considering that the book value accounts for only the purchase price of the works, not appreciation over the years and decades since Essl acquired them, the percentage would likely be significantly higher. While he hasn’t revealed what price he’d be willing to accept, Essl has hinted that €86 million isn’t going to cut it.

The Austrian press has responded with a wide range of opinions. “Recently Austria has as many art experts as soccer coaches,” . Leading Vienna-based newspaper Der Standard has published five op-eds in the last week alone, alongside their reported coverage of the potential sale. Principle among the concerns articulated in those pieces, before even looking at the numbers, is the message such a purchase would send. Andrea Schurian reported in a testily-titled piece “Museum ist kein Baumarkt” (“The Museum is Not a Hardware Store”), that a group of works based on the personal preferences of two collectors does not a national treasure make. Brigitte Groihofer responded with  a worthy point that, despite efforts to remain art historically impartial, even institutional collections fall prey to the aesthetic preferences and expertise of their directors. Art is no science, after all—any suggestion of empirically oriented collecting should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.

More significant is the argument made by Vienna’s venerated artist-run exhibition space, Secession: To conflate the sale of a private collection with saving jobs is at least to “legitimate an unjustified claim,” and amounts to a game of potentially dangerous populist politics. Karlheinz and Agnes Essl have claimed that 4,000 jobs would be saved by selling the collection, of which, they go on to point out, 160 belong to individuals with disabilities.

Taking a rather more cynical disposition, one wonders if the Essls would be so quick to try to sell their collection if the five-year probationary period of the collection’s status within a trust had already come to a close. If those five years had elapsed, the collection would be safe from any bankruptcy claims against Baumax, or Karlheinz and Agnes Essl themselves. However, at just two years into the process, the pair risks the rather embarrassing prospect of having their prized paintings, sculptures, and drawings hastily parceled off at auction.

Such a mass-sale of the works would be detrimental to the artists within the collection as well.

Those taking a slightly longer view have pointed not to these hallmark portions of the Essl collection, but to what’s been described as the fairly middling quality of the majority of the works within it. Museums having to take in and store hoards of relatively low-quality art in order to gain major gifts is nothing new. (As Benjamin Genocchio previously reported, auction houses suffer from a similar situation.) Generous estimates have pegged around half of Essl’s collection of 7,000 works as museum-worthy. Allegedly, Essl has a propensity for a breadth-based approach, buying whole series of works , rather than focusing on the best that the artists have to offer and honing the collection’s focus. It’s what you might call the shotgun approach.

“The purchase [by the state] would only make sense when the state museums are also legally allowed to sell works over time. Otherwise the state will buy 7,000 pictures, even if only 3,000 are interesting.”  Kovacek’s predecessor, Otto Hans Ressler, was responsible for the €250 million valuation of Essl’s works.

Much like the rest of Europe, deaccessioning works is vehemently looked down upon, if not strictly banned by the institutions’ charters. A US museum might look favorably on a potential endowment boost gained by gradually selling off unimportant pieces from the collection. But the Austrian museums are more likely looking at precious free space in their storage facilities and asking themselves if they really want to fill it in with Essl’s lesser purchases, never mind allocate their limited resources to maintaining his collection in perpetuity.



Apr 162014

Christie’s Asian Art Department staff are furious at CEO Steven Murphy over the 11th hour decision to sell a famous bronze vessel privately to a group of Chinese collectors for a price of more than $20 million.

The Asian art department staff had been working on the sale for over a year and believed the price of the vessel could climb as high as $50 million  on the auction block. Now the deal won’t be reflected in the department’s auction coffers. The object, known as the “Min” Fanglei, a massive bronze ritual vessel from China that dates from the Late Shang/Early Western Zhou periods (12th–11th century BC) had an unpublished estimate of $15 million but was expected to sell for as much as three times that on the strength of intense interest from mainland Chinese buyers, including a delegation from the Hunan Provincial Museum in Changsha City, where a matching cover to the vessel is currently housed. The final sale prize is believed to be about $30 million, but as is typical in these cases Christie’s refuses to confirm  or deny this.

According to an inside source, Christie’s CEO Murphy was “panicked” over the possibility of a repeat of the the fiasco that occurred during the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé sale in Paris in 2009. That sale included two rare bronze Chinese zodiac sculptures, a rabbit and a rat, that had been looted from Beijing’s Old Summer Palace during the 1860s and passed through several hands before coming into the collection of the Parisian fashion designer. Prior to the sale, Chinese state media officials referred to the objects as “war plunder.”

One official, Zong Tianliang, a spokesman for the palace administration, stated: “We respect the business rules of auction companies as well as the operating mechanism of arts markets. But it’s definitely unacceptable to put plunder under the hammer.” Liu Yang, a Beijing lawyer who was  helping to organize a lawsuit in France. “That Christie’s and Pierre Bergé would put them up for auction and refuse to return them to China deeply hurts our nation’s feelings.”

Cai Mingchao, a Chinese collector and businessman who successfully bid about $40 million for the two works, later announced that he had no intention of paying for them and said they they should be voluntarily returned to China. The zodiac heads were given back to Bergé. Murphy, fearing a repeat of such an incident, pushed for a private sale of the “Min” Fanglei at a lower price in order to avoid the possibility of a public auction misfire, insiders say.

Last summer, Francois Pinault, along with his son Francois-Henri and his wife—actress Salma Hayek—returned the zodiac heads to China at a ceremony in Beijing attended by China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong. According to reports, Pinault acquired the works from a private collector.

Defaults on pricey auction items sold in China or bid on by Asian collectors have become a major problem for auctioneers. For instance, Qi Baishi’s masterpiece Eagle Standing on a Pine Tree (1946) drew a stunning $65.4 million at China Guardian in May 2011, only to languish in a warehouse in Beijing in the years since the sale after the winning bidder refused to pay of the work, citing doubts about its authenticity. A report jointly produced by art net and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA) last fall indicated that only half of the works offered at auction in China were actually sold in 2012 and stated that the Chinese art market witnessed a decrease in demand. “As a result, the total sales value dropped by US$4 billion (CN¥26.5 billion), a significant decline of almost 50 percent,” according to the report. Another report compiled separately by CAA found that about half the sales of artworks worth more than $1.5 million between 2010 and 2013 were not completed because the buyer failed to pay what was owed.

It was well known that Chinese buyers were very interested in the “Min” Fanglei, probably the most important Chinese bronze ever to appear at auction. Indeed, Chinese buyers had approached Christie’s in the period leading up to the sale, scheduled for Thursday March 20 at 11am, to purchase the ancient Chinese bronze vessel privately. One interested buyer showed up with a cashier’s check of USD 20 million. c

“We had ample interest on the bronze leading up to the exhibition,” Catherine Manson, a Christie’s spokeswoman said in an email in response to questions sent to Murphy about whether fear of a buyer default played a role in the decision to sell privately. “The decision to sell privately was the result of the offer and the opportunity for the work to go to a museum,” Manson told artnet News.

But internal sources at Christie’s suggested otherwise, saying fear of buyer default drove the decision-making and overrode specialists. “I think people here are upset because they worked so hard on this consignment, marketing, catalogs, views, vetting, etc.,” said one source. “It’s anti-climactic.”

“Of course the specialists have every right to be angry unless senior leadership has compensated for it in their goals” for that department, said a former senior executive at Christie’s who asked not to be named. “Historically I’ve seen there always be a disconnect between senior leadership and how they drive and motivate specialists. They tend to put all this pressure on the specialists, and then come in and make these types of decisions, which dilutes the holistic approach to the business.”

Reports of a $20 million private offer began on March 18, 2014, two days before the planned auction. Other sources familiar with the sale said pressure from the Chinese government may have played a role in the sale. Much is at stake for Christie’s, which held its first sale in mainland China in Shanghai last fall (September 26). While Hong Kong, a free port, has proved a lucrative sales hub for both Christie’s and its competitor Sotheby’s, both have been keen on expanding their sales to mainland China, where they have historically faced strict regulations as foreign fine art companies and have had to team up with local entities to transact business.

Did the Chinese government play a role in Murphy’s decision to sell the object privately to a group from Hunan province who have publicly expressed their intention to donate the vessel to the Hunan Provincial Museum? Christie’s says no.

But in the wake of the 2009 auction of the Zodiac heads, Beijing officials said they were acting against Christie’s in China. The government ordered officials to tighten up the inspection of art that the auction house brings in and out of China, making it harder for the company to do business there. And the  State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) issued a statement condemning Christie’s auction of the sculptures, saying it would have “serious effects” on Christie’s development in China.


Apr 152014
      He expelled Jewish and Russian musicians from concert halls during the Third Reich, claimed in Mein Kampf that there was no independent Jewish culture, and referred to Russians as sub-humans, yet at the same time Adolf Hitler listened to their music in secret.Around 100 gramophone records which apparently belonged to the Nazi leader have been discovered in the attic of a house outside Moscow owned by a former Soviet intelligence officer.The collection reveals that while Hitler was publicly heralding “racially pure” German music, his musical taste may have been more closely aligned to the artists he ostracised.

Hitler’s passion for Richard Wagner is well documented: however this collection contains works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Borodin which are worn and scratched from frequent use.

There is a record of a Tchaikovsky concerto performed by Bronislaw Huberman. While Hitler (who, it was said, needed his music to relax) would have been listening to the Jewish violinist, Huberman himself was in enforced exile; he fled Vienna in 1937, a year before the Anschluss, and was publicly declared an enemy of the Third Reich. Music by the Austrian Jewish pianist Arthur Schnabel is also among in the collection.

Aside from these recordings, which have stunned historians, many of the Nazi dictator’s collection is dominated by predictable recordings by Wagner, Beethoven and Bruckner.

Lew Besymenski was a Soviet intelligence officer who helped to interrogate captured Nazi generals. He found the record collection in Hitler’s chancellery in May 1945 when he was ordered to make a search shortly after Berlin fell to the Red army. The discs were packed in crates – most likely for an evacuation to Hitler’s Alpine retreat on the Obersalzberg. All were marked with the label Führerhauptquartier – Führer’s HQ; in the event, Hitler elected to stay and fight to the end.

Mr Besymenski did not mention the collection in his lifetime, because he was worried he might be accused of looting. He later became a historian, claiming he attended the autopsy on the burned remains of Hitler’s body, where he confirmed the long held belief he had just one testicle. When Mr Besymenski died this summer, aged 86, the collection was made available to Der Spiegel magazine.

In a document explaining how itcame into his possession, Mr Besymenski wrote: “There were recordings performed by the best orchestras of Europe and Germany with the best soloists of the age. I was astonished that Russian musicians were among the collection.”

Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf that there was no independent Jewish culture. “There was never a Jewish art and there is none today,” he said. The “two queens of the arts, architecture and music, gained nothing from the Jews.” He also referred to Russians as Untermenschen, sub-humans, and dismissed any contribution they had made to the cultural world.

Mr Besymenski’s daughter Alexandra said she was disgusted by Hitler’s hypocrisy in his choice of music.

“This is a complete mockery,” she said. “Millions of Slavs and Jews had to die because of the Nazis’ racist ideology.”



Apr 152014

Hitler may have “unwittingly married a Jew” hours before his suicide, a television documentary has claimed, after analysis of Eva Braun’s hairbrush found she may have had Jewish ancestry.

A study of hair samples found in Braun’s hairbrush at Hitler’s Alpine retreat are said to show a genetic sequence strongly associated with the Ashkenazi Jews, which she is likely to have been unaware of.

The discovery, by scientists working for Channel 4’s Dead Famous DNA, suggests the Nazi dictator could have “married a Jew” without realising it, before he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker in 1945.

The claim is the latest in a series of “discoveries” by the programme, which has also drawn conclusions about the cause of Elvis’ death, the size of Napoleon’s manhood and claimed Charles Dickens suffered from Crohn’s disease.

The latest investigation, to be broadcast on Wednesday, April 9, uses a sample of hair from Braun’s monogrammed brush, which was discovered by an American army intelligence officer at the end of the Second World War.


Apr 142014



Germany is returning a rare self-portrait of German Romantic painter Wilhelm von Schadow to the estate of Max Stern. The German-Canadian art dealer was forced to sell hundreds of pieces to the Nazis at a loss before fleeing to Canada in 1937.

 The self portrait in question was sold by the Lempertz auction house in Cologne in 1937. The auction house later sold the painting to the the Dusseldorf City Museum in 1972, neglecting to include the painting’s tainted provenance in the sale catalogue.

The painting is the twelfth work to be recovered by the Max Stern Art Restitution Project at Montreal’s Concordia University. Researchers only discovered the painting’s whereabouts in 2012, thanks to a 1976 museum catalogue. Following negotiations, the city agreed to give the piece back.

The mayor of Dusseldorf will hand over the painting to Canada’s German ambassador at the museum.


Apr 142014



It’s remarkable that 500 years later there are so many ways that the Inquisition is still in the blood of the country.

I would talk about a culture of amnesia − it’s part of the survival mode. One reason why I was interested in moving to Arcos was because I wanted to understand what it was about my own family that would make them keep that secret [their Jewish heritage] until the 20th century. Why didn’t they talk about it? Who would be afraid about it by then? You’re going to think I’m being mystical again, but I really do believe that people from different generations pass on these survival skills. And I think this reticence was handed down. In Arcos de la Frontera, with its tiny narrow streets, I could talk to my neighbors across the street from our terraces upstairs. They were so close you could smell what people were cooking, you could hear them fighting, you could spy on each other. If you’re using olive oil, back during the Inquisition period, instead of lard, that could be a crime.

All those things are clues that you might secretly be practicing Judaism. This is a town that whitewashes its buildings. What could be more symbolic than that? Every year, there is a purification that takes place with houses repainted white. And there are symbols of the Inquisition, for example, that have also been covered up. There’s an oil painting in one of the churches that was a hub for Inquisition activity. And over the years, someone has come and repainted parts of the painting of the Ascension of Mary so as to remove a cross in a pale green color, the signature color of the Inquisition, and then added a figure of St. Teresa, who was the descendant of converso Jews herself. Below her was a tiny symbol, saying, Listen to the handmaiden of Mary. People had a way of speaking, but it was all coded.

And you think the coded message was a Jewish one?

Maybe. Well, definitely, because the green cross was painted over with a jeweled orb. St. Teresa was added in a later century. She has her own unique history. She believed that religion takes place in the mind, not necessarily in your actions, which is how a lot of converso Jews survived with dual identities − actions in public, and their own personal view.

The records of the Inquisition trials that you quote are dramatic and shocking and appalling. It’s as real as reading about the Holocaust.

That’s one of the reasons that I think that somehow generations pass on the knowledge of traumas from earlier generations, even hundreds of years earlier. And the reason why I think that is so is because of new research in epigenetics in Sweden. They’ve looked back three generations, and now they’re going back four generations, to see the impact of a traumatic event. In the case of Sweden, it was famine, but it can also be another stressful event. They can see that what happens in the grandfather’s life with a traumatic event can end up affecting the longevity of a grandson. And the theory is that there are genetic marks that happen at a stressful time when someone is young. And so I wonder if somehow, going back generations, this reticence is passed on as a survival skill, or if this tendency to keep secrets is an ingrained ability. That’s how I explain my family’s actions. I just think that this is something that became so engrained that it became part of the DNA.