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Stolen fourteenth century Greek icon is returned

More coverage of the return of a looted Byzantine icon [1] to Greece following successful legal action earlier this year.

From:
Artinfo [2]

Britain Returns Stolen Byzantine Icon to Greece
Published: November 20, 2008

ATHENS—Britain has returned a 14th-century Byzantine icon painting stolen from a Greek monastery 30 years ago, BBC News reports. The painting, which is valued at £1 million ($1.4 million), depicts Jesus being lowered from the cross. It was commissioned 700 years ago for the St. John the Baptist monastery in Serres, in northern Greece, and hung there until 1978, when thieves cut it into six pieces and smuggled it out of the country.

In 2002, British police recovered the icon after it was offered for sale by a London-based Greek art collector. The seller failed to provide proof of ownership, prompting the High Court in London to order the painting’s return. An appeal by the seller was dismissed.

The icon was briefly unveiled in Athens this week by Michalis Liapis, Greece’s culture minister. It was then taken away for several months of restoration work, after which it will return to the monastery in Serres.

Britain’s ambassador to Greece, Simon Gass, said the restitution of the icon is a sign of increased international cooperation in the fight against art crime. “…It is just tremendous to see the collaboration between the British and Greek systems which has allowed this work of art to be returned to Greece,” he said. He added that he did not think the return set a precedent for the Elgin Marbles, which Greece has been fighting to get back from the British Museum for decades.

From:
Daily Telegraph [3]

Stolen £1 million Greek icon returned home
Last Updated: 1:19AM GMT 21 Nov 2008

A Greek icon painting worth £1 million that had been cut into six pieces and smuggled out of the country to Britain has been returned to Athens.

The Byzantine painting, of Jesus being lowered on to the cross, was stolen from a monastery 30 years ago.

Its repatriation comes after the High Court ordered its return, dismissing the owner’s appeal.

British police took hold of the icon after it was put up for sale in London in 2002. Its owners, Greeks living in London, could not provide proof of ownership.

The 700-year-old icon was stolen in 1978 from St John the Baptist monastery in Serres, northern Greece.

Greek officials said it showed their determination to track down stolen works of art.

Victoria Solomonides, Greece’s cultural attache in London, said: “It holds the prayers of seven-and-a-half centuries. That is how important it is.”

She added: “The message is very loud and very clear. We will not stop until we get what belongs to the Greek state and restore it.”

Simon Gass, Britain’s ambassador to Greece, said: “Unfortunately too many wonderful works of art have been stolen, including from churches, in Greece over the years and it is just tremendous to see the collaboration between the British and the Greek systems which has allowed this work of art to be returned to Greece.”

However, he said it did not set a precedent for the Elgin Marbles, which Greece wants returned from the British Museum.

Restorers will now set to work repairing the damaged icon.