Category Archives: Art and war

Bayeux Tapestry will travel to England

France will lend the Bayeux Tapestry to England in the near future. This tapestry, dated to the late 11th c., records the Norman invasion led by William the Conqueror into Britain in 1066, the Battle of Hastings. Below is a view of the tapestry in the Bayeux Museum, as well as details of the tapestry. Here’s a link to an article in the Washington Post about his significant object and the politics of lending art.

Here is a link to The Bayeux Museum to see details of the tapestry and read about its history.

BBC One, a 5-minute video about the Tapestry.

Destruction of Nimrud

“Islamic State is driven from ancient Nimrud, where destruction is ‘worse than we thought’ “

November 16 at 5:26 PM, The Washington Post, November 17, 2016

Read the article here.

The discovery of treasures in Nimrud's royal tombs in the late 1980s was one of the 20th century's most significant archaeological finds. (Hussein Malla/AP)

The discovery of treasures in Nimrud’s royal tombs in the late 1980s was one of the 20th century’s most significant archaeological finds. (Hussein Malla/AP)

Excavations in the desert

This archaeological site in Israel is near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Archaeologists and volunteers are at work here now because the site has been looted and continues to be in danger.

It’s interesting to read about the great things found, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls; but archaeologists are also interested in the little things that people own and keep with them. “The thieves took all the main things that they knew to be valuable, but we are looking and finding interesting things, too,” said Uri Davidovich, a research fellow from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University who is leading the dig. … “One special thing that we found were hairbrushes. We found four of them, not all complete, but I can feel the person who was behind it.”
“Israeli archaeologists rush to dig at Cave of Skulls before looters take everything”
By William Booth and Ruth Eglash

Washington Post, June 8, 2016

Volunteers working alongside Israeli archaeologists sift the dirt in the Cave of Skulls in the Judaean wilderness. (William Booth/The Washington Post)

Volunteers working alongside Israeli archaeologists sift the dirt in the Cave of Skulls in the Judaean wilderness. (William Booth/The Washington Post)

Lapis lazuli…still coveted for its beauty

Some of the finest lapis lazuli comes from Afghanistan. This was true in the early modern period when European artists wanted an exquisite blue for painting the Virgin Mary’s cloak, and it continues to be valued by artists and collectors today. The mining of this gemstone and mineral in Afghanistan today, as well as buying objects made from Afghan lapis lazuli, is not straightforward, as this article from The New York Times points out.

“Greed, Corruption and Danger: A Tarnished Afghan Gem Trade,” b

An Afghan businessman checked lapis lazuli at his shop in Kabul in March. Afghanistan has long been one of the chief sources of lapis lazuli, a prized gemstone associated with love and purity. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

An Afghan businessman checked lapis lazuli at his shop in Kabul in March. Afghanistan has long been one of the chief sources of lapis lazuli, a prized gemstone associated with love and purity. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Lapis lazuli at a shop in Kabul. The lapis trade was valued at about $125 million a year in 2014. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Lapis lazuli at a shop in Kabul. The lapis trade was valued at about $125 million a year in 2014. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

Saving Art from ISIS

Maxwell Anderson, former director of the Dallas Museum of Art and former chair of the Association of Art Museum Directors’ Task Force on Archaeological Materials and Ancient Art, writes persuasively here of AAMD’s decision to establish a system for protecting art in times of war, terrorism, or natural disaster. Called the “Protocols for Safe Havens for Works of Cultural Significance from Countries in Crisis,” the protocols offer a structure for American museums to “shelter works of art at risk.”  According to Anderson, “The protocols are a major first step. They mean that, for the first time, American museums are taking an active role in protecting cultural heritage under threat from Islamic State.”

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Maxwell Anderson, “How to Save Art from Islamic State,” Wall Street Journal, October 20, 2015.

The ancient city of Palmyra…in ruins

“An oasis in the Syrian desert, north-east of Damascus, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.” UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city and the archaeological sites have been occupied by ISIS, which is intent on destroying the remarkable ruins that have survived for centuries. Visit the UNESCO webpage for more images (Gallery) and a short video.

“ISIS Speeds Up Destruction of Antiquities in Syria,” by Anne Barnard, New York Times, August 24, 2015.

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A photo released by the Islamic State shows a detonation in the 2,000-year-old Temple of Baalshamin in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra. Credit Militant website, via Associated Press

 

Dutch museum in search of owners of art

The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, a museum of modern and contemporary art, is hosting an extraordinary exhibit of works from its own collection. However, the question is, does the museum really own the works? During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands (from May 1940), the director of the Stedelijk accepted works of art for safe-keeping from Jewish owners. This exhibit, “The Stedelijk Museum on the Second World War,”

Matisse, "Odalisque," ca. 1920, currently at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Matisse, “Odalisque,” ca. 1920, currently at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

includes facsimiles of provenance records from that period with the hope that original owners may be identified. This article by Mary M. Lane from the online Wall Street Journal (2/27/15) includes photographs of the bunker in the dunes of Castricum, a Dutch seaside town, where many artworks were stored during WWII.

The normally camouflaged door that accessed the bunker that Stedelijk Museum curator Willem Sandberg commissioned for Holland after he visited Spain in 1938 and saw the cultural destruction evident during the Spanish Civil War. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

The normally camouflaged door that accessed the bunker that Stedelijk Museum curator Willem Sandberg commissioned for Holland after he visited Spain in 1938 and saw the cultural destruction evident during the Spanish Civil War. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

This link to the museum’s site has several short videos.

 

 

More on Syria’s archaeological ruins

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Above: A walnut tree stripped of its branches stands in the rubble of the Kalat al-Numan citadel, originally built during the Roman era some 2,000 years ago. (John Cantlie/AFP/Getty Images)

“Syria’s ancient sites were already damaged by war. Now they’re being looted.” The Washington Post, 12/21/14.

And a link from the above article to satellite images of Syria’s World Heritage sites:

“War has damaged all but one of Syria’s World Heritage Sites, satellite images show.” The Washington Post, 9/24/14.

And a link to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list.