November 7, 2011

Sale of looted Greek icons blocked

Posted at 2:32 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

More coverage of the blocked sales of various icons looted from monasteries & churches in Northern Greece.

Daily Telegraph

Greece want British gallery to return ‘stolen icons’
Greek officials want to block the sale of six religious icons by a London-based dealer claiming they were stolen from orthodox monasteries.
By Nick Squires, Rome
5:59PM GMT 16 Mar 2011

The icons, which are at least 300 years old and worth between 5,000 (£4,340) and 15,000 euros (£13,000) each were found being offered for sale in London, according to Kathimerini, a Greek newspaper.

Greece’s antiquities theft department were alerted after they received a telephone call from a woman who said she had spotted a famous icon of the Virgin Mary on the gallery’s website. The icons were subsequently moved from the website of the dealer.

Police are trying to recover a similar number of icons from a gallery in the Netherlands.

The artefacts are believed to have been stolen within the last five years ago from orthodox monasteries and churches in the sparsely-populated region of Epirus in north-western Greece.

They were identified thanks to an electronic database of treasures stolen from the area.

Around 40 icons have been looted in recent years from unsupervised churches and monasteries, many of them in remote, mountainous areas with scant police protection.

Greek authorities believe that most of the thefts are carried out by professional art traffickers, who act on commission from unscrupulous gallery owners or intermediaries.

Greek governments have recently stepped up their efforts to reclaim stolen cultural artefacts.

Dozens of illegally exported items have been returned in recent years, including four masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

The most high profile case is that of the Elgin Marbles, priceless friezes which were removed from the Parthenon in 1806 by Lord Elgin, who was Britain’s ambassador to what was then part of the Ottoman Empire.

The marbles are on display in the British Museum, which has consistently refused to return them despite decades of pressure from Athens.

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