Art Buzz February 14, 2012: Two valuable Persian pieces dating from the Roman Empire stolen from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

ART & ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NEWS

MUSEUM NEWS

Two valuable pieces stolen from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Source: Montreal Gazette, 2-14-12

AXA ART, an art-led insurance company, is offering a substantial reward for the safe recovery of two small-scale archaeological fragments -- an Assyrian low relief and a marble head dating from the Roman Empire -- that were stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts  in the fall of 2011.AXA ART, an art-led insurance company, is offering a substantial reward for the safe recovery of two small-scale archaeological fragments — an Assyrian low relief and a marble head dating from the Roman Empire — that were stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the fall of 2011.

Photograph by: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

A thief snatched two archaeological pieces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts last October during opening hours, steps from security guards.

The theft is only the second heist in the MMFA’s 152-year history and the incident is testing the facility’s policy of not encasing many of its items as well as the decades-long bond of trust it has with visitors – now numbering 500,000 a year.

A Persian sandstone bas-relief and a marble head dating from the Roman Empire were taken from the Mediterranean archeological exhibit room on the first floor of the Hornstein Pavilion on or about Oct. 26. The theft wasn’t made public until now so as not to compromise the investigation, the MMFA said.

Montreal police said Tuesday the investigation is continuing. One suspect – believed to be in his 30s and 5-feet, 7-inches tall – can be seen wandering the museum halls in surveillance video.

The Persian piece – donated to the MMFA by Cleveland Morgan in 1950 – is worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Mark Dalrymple, representing AXA Art, a global insurance company insuring the items for the Montreal museum.

The second piece – on loan since 2003 from the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec – is worth “tens of thousands,” Dalrymple said.

“We’re interested in seeing if anybody could possibly recognize this man and point the finger at him and help the police,” he said about the security video.

The insurance company is offering a “substantial” reward for the return of the stolen objects and a $10,000 reward for anyone who can identify the suspect.

Danielle Champagne, a spokesperson for the MMFA, said security has been tightened in some areas of the museum since the theft.

But the museum does not plan any major changes to its policy of keeping many of its objects in open-air displays – anchored or attached, but not in cases – “so people get a better sense of the texture of the objects.

“We are blessed to live in a country where people are generally honest and we’ve had very few problems,” she added.

The only other theft at the museum was in 1972, when 18 paintings were stolen, including a Rembrandt. Only one of the paintings was recovered.

Cecily Hilsdale, a professor of art history at McGill University, said the Persian object’s theft is “huge” news in the art world.

The piece was part of the Apadana, a grand audience hall in Persepolis, the ancient city centre of the Persian empire.

The object is well-known, she added. Anyone purchasing it would lprobably want to know where it came from.

Anyone with information about the theft is urged to call police at 1-800-659-4264 or the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts at 1-855-471-1800.

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Art Buzz February 8, 2012: Sinclair Bell: Northern Illinois University art historian co-edits book that explores cultural, societal impact of freed Roman slaves

ART & ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY NEWS

BOOKS & REVIEWS

NIU art historian co-edits book that explores cultural, societal impact of freed Roman slaves

Source: NIU Today, 2-8-12

Free At Last! book coverSinclair Bell, assistant professor of art history, has co-edited a volume on freed slaves in ancient Rome that was published this week.

“Free at Last! The Impact of Freed Slaves on the Roman Empire,” which he co-edited with Teresa Ramsby, was published by Bloomsbury Press in London, and will become available in the United States next month.

The book builds on recent dynamic work on Roman freedmen.

Contributors draw upon a rich and varied body of evidence – visual, literary, epigraphic and archaeological – to elucidate the impact of freed slaves on Roman society and culture amid the shadow of their former servitude.

The contributions span the period between the first century BCE and the early third century CE and survey the territories of the Roman Republic and Empire, while focusing on Italy and Rome.

Advance notice of the book has been highly positive.

Glenys Davies, senior lecturer in classical art and archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, writes: “The essays in this book explore the experiences of Roman freedmen (and women) from a new set of perspectives: they enrich our knowledge and understanding of a social group which has no exact equivalent in any other society.”

Eve D’Ambra, professor of art and the Agnes Rindge Claflin Chair at Vassar College as well as a noted authority on ancient art, writes: “Roman freedmen have taken central stage in historical and literary studies recently, but their role as independent actors (e.g. as patrons of art and architecture) has long been suspect. This compelling and lucid volume addresses this oversight and plots a course for future research.”

This is Bell’s fifth edited volume and his third book since arriving at NIU in 2008.