Losing a treasured item can leave you feeling sick, so spare a thought for Francesco Plateroti.
The art collector from Italy left a 13th century piece by Chinese painter Wang Zhenpeng called The Banquet of Immortals on the Terrace of Jade on a high speed TGV train from Paris to Geneva.
Mr Plateroti got off the train in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, a French town close to the Swiss border, before realising the artwork – worth €1million (£800,000) – was still in his briefcase in the carriage.
Train: An art collector left a 13th century piece on a high speed TGV service (file photo) from Paris to Geneva
He alerted staff who searched the train upon its arrival at the next stop of Geneva last month, but nothing was found, and Mr Plateroti is now offering a reward for the safe return of the painting.
He said that despite the painting’s high value it was unsaleable without the cultural certificate of authenticity he still had in his possession. He had been showing the work at an exhibition in Paris.
Mr Plateroti told The Local journalist Simone Flückiger: ‘I was crushed when I realised I didn’t have it with me. It was a massive shock. People take advantage of my misfortune.
‘They are calling me to say they have the painting and that they will send it once I put the reward money in their bank accounts. This all makes having lost the painting a lot worse.’
Station: Mr Plateroti got off the train in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, a French town close to the Swiss border
But he said: ‘You have to be optimistic. After all, a positive attitude can overcome many obstacles.’
All lost property items on the TGV are sent to a central office in Berne, Swizerland. But there has been no sign yet of the painting, which dates from the Yuan dynasty of 1280 to 1329.
Mr Plateroti added: ‘Anyone who finds and returns this will be well compensated. I am hopeful that I will have it back soon.’
The collector had been travelling on the 9789 TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) train from Paris to Geneva on November 21, which left the French capital at 8.11pm local time (7.11pm GMT).
Amid the devastation and danger of civil war, Syrian archaeologists and activists are risking their lives in the battle against looting. . . .
The ancient city of Dura-Europos sits on a bluff above the Tigris River a few miles from Syria’s border with Iraq, its mud-brick walls facing a bleak expanse of desert. Just a year ago the city’s precise grid of streets—laid down by Greek and Roman residents 2,000 years ago—was largely intact. Temples, houses, and a substantial Roman outpost were preserved for centuries by the desert sands.
“It stood out for its remarkable preservation,” saysSimon James, an archaeologist at the U.K.’s University of Leicester who spent years studying the site’s Roman garrison. “Until now.” (See before and after pictures of archaeological site looting.)
Satellite images of the site released by the U.S. State Department in June show a shocking picture of devastation. In the past year, as fighting continued to rage between the government of President Bashar al Assad’s troops and rebels—including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—the site has been ravaged by industrial-scale looting.
“It’s a lunar landscape of spoil heaps,” says James. “Obviously, the looters were bankrolled to a massive extent to do something like this.”
It may be too late to save Dura-Europos, but archaeologists and activists are scrambling to preserve what’s left of Syria’s rich history, which stretches back more than 10,000 years. The efforts are focused on training locals to save ancient monuments and museum collections in the midst of a war zone.
Organizations including the University of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Heritage Center, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and Heritage for Peace, a network of volunteers and activists based in Spain, have been holding workshops to train Syrian archaeologists, curators, and activists in “first aid for objects and sites,” says Emma Cunliffe, a consultant specializing in heritage protection during conflicts. . . .”
PHNOM PENH —
Over the past 40 years Cambodia’s cultural heritage has been looted on a massive scale, with countless thousands of artifacts taken from hundreds of sites, smuggled out of the country and into museums and private collections around the world. New research indicates that not only was much of this the work of organized networks, but that most pieces have disappeared from public view – probably forever.
Between the start of Cambodia’s civil war in 1970 and the eventual end of hostilities some 30 years later, the country’s 1,000-year-old temples and other historic sites were comprehensively plundered. In one incident in the early 1970s, government soldiers used a military helicopter to airlift artifacts from the 12th century citadel of Banteay Chhmar in the northwest.
At the same complex in 1998 – generals spent a fortnight tearing down and carting away 30 tons of the building. Just one of the six military trucks that went to neighboring Thailand loaded with artifacts was stopped and its contents returned. The rest disappeared, likely sold on the black market.
For many years, researchers assumed that such brazen, well-organized looting was the exception rather than the norm, and that most of the looting of Cambodia’s heritage was a low-level affair, with local people plundering ancient sites and selling statues, carvings and stone reliefs in haphazard fashion.
But a new study carried out by researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland shows that was not the case.
“The organized looting and trafficking of Cambodian antiquities was tied very closely to the Cambodian civil war and to organized crime in the country,” explained Tess Davis, a lawyer and archaeologist, and member of the study team that also included criminologists.
“It began with the war, but it long outlived it, and was actually a very complicated operation, a very organized operation, that brought antiquities directly from looted sites here in the country to the very top collectors, museums and auction houses in the world,” she added.
Davis said the Cambodian and Thai militaries were often involved in looting, as was organized crime. Local people were often forced to work as laborers.
Researchers say that at the end of the chain in Thailand was a Bangkok-based dealer who provided the laundering link between the criminals and the collectors and museums.
Old Article but Still Interesting **DB
“HANOI, Vietnam — Even the director of the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum here doesn’t know how many of the artworks and artifacts under his care are genuine and how many are extremely skillful copies. But he says he is going to try to find out.
“We are making efforts to have a comprehensive review of items on display and in our warehouse,” said the director, Truong Quoc Binh. “After we evaluate the whole exhibit, we will try to label them all to show if they are original or not.”
Mr. Binh has been addressing questions about authenticity a lot lately. Curators and artists have been aware of the issue for years, but it became a matter of public discussion only in April, when it was raised at a conference on copyright in Danang.
In large part, the confusion is a legacy of the war with the United States, which ended in 1975, and to a lesser extent of a brief border war fought with China in 1979.
In the late 1960s, fearing that the United States would bomb Hanoi, then the capital of North Vietnam, museum officials removed hundreds of important artworks for safekeeping in the countryside.
To replace them on the museum walls, it commissioned copies: some by the original artists, some by the artists’ apprentices, some by skilled copyists in the museum’s restoration department. They were brilliant reproductions — or variants, as the Vietnamese called those paintings copied by the original artists.”