Germany

This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room

“This painting was looted by the Nazis, then seized from my living room”

by Craig Gilmore via “LA Times”

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Two agents from U.S. Homeland Security’s ICE unit arrived at my door in September looking for a Polish lady — not a person, but a painting: Melchior Geldorp’s “Portrait of a Lady.” She had, they informed me, been looted by the Nazis from the National Museum in Warsaw.

Unsure if these gentlemen were indeed who they claimed to be, I didn’t invite them in. But I knew exactly what they were seeking: My partner, David, and I had purchased this very portrait — ostensibly the work of a different artist — a decade earlier from a major auction house in New York. 

Upon their leaving, I stood dumbfounded, holding a packet of information about the alleged provenance of our painting. After calling David at work to drop this bombshell, I began a Googling frenzy, eventually bringing me to Poland’s Division for Looted Art website. Seconds later I was gawking at an old black-and-white photo of our beloved lady, a beautiful portrait painted on oak panel in 1628. Tears welled in my eyes with the realization that, without question, if this were true we needed to do our duty and get her safely home.

Being an opera singer, I was among a group of vocalists on a government-sponsored tour of Israel some years ago. During a visit to a community center for Holocaust survivors I was asked to sing. The emotion of being surrounded by people who had prevailed through such unimaginable horrors was overwhelming, and I found myself unable. Excusing myself, I attempted to make up for it by spinning several of the ladies around the dance floor — all the while trying not to look down at the numbers tattooed on their wrists. 

Now this memory flooded back to me, and I found myself once again in tears, hyper-aware of how Nazi atrocities affect us still to this day.

The toll of World War II in Poland — including the deaths of 6 million Poles, Jews, and other outcasts, including homosexuals — is unimaginable. Being gay men, David and I feel a personal connection with these losses and are conscious of how political shiftings can lead to vulnerability. This, added to the knowledge that Poland’s LGBTQ community is still in a struggle for its basic rights, has weighed heavily on our minds. 

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Was this the first calendar?

“Was this the first calendar? Mysterious 3,600 year disc that let ancient farmers track the seasons”

by Mark Priggs via “Daily Mail

It has perplexed astronomers since being dug up in 1999.

The Nebra Sky Disc is thought to have been made during the Middle Bronze Age in around 1600 BC, and experts believe it could be the first ‘sky map’ ever created.

The bronze disc, about 32cm in diameter, has a gold inlay clearly representing the moon and/or sun and some stars.

The Sky Disc was discovered in Germany in 1999 as part of a hoard also containing two bronze swords, two small axes, a chisel and fragments of spiral bracelets.

HOW IT WAS FOUND – AND STOLEN

The disk’s recent history dates to 1999, when two looters using metal detectors discovered the artifact, along with several bronze weapons and tools, in a wooded area near the German town of Nebra, 100 miles southwest of Berlin.

Amateur archaeologists Reinhold Stieber and Hildegard Burri-Bayer tried to hawk the disk for $400 000 – and were seized by police officers in the basement bar of a touristy Swiss hotel.

After a short trial, the duo, along with the looters, were found guilty of illegally trafficking in cultural artifacts.

Experts believe the Sky Disc was a calculator to help Bronze Age people predict the best times for sowing and harvesting in spring and autumn.

It recorded the fact that when the Pleiades, a very obvious group of stars in the night sky which are a familiar sight in the northern hemisphere in winter,  were seen next to a new moon, that signaled the beginning of spring, when seeds should be sown, at the latitude of central Germany.

When the star cluster stood next to a full moon, it was a sign that fall had begun and it was harvest time.

The Sky Disc was discovered in Germany in 1999 as part of a hoard also containing two bronze swords, two small axes, a chisel and fragments of spiral bracelets.

A small piece in wood found in one of the swords allowed scientists to date the hoard to around 1600 BC.

The disc was also used to determine if and when a thirteenth month — the so-called intercalary month — should be added to a lunar year to keep the lunar calendar in sync with the seasons. . . .

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The Mystery of the Magical ‘Ulfberht’ Viking Sword – Researchers Close in on the German ‘Supermonks’ Believed to have Forged the Superstrong Weapons

“The Mystery of the Magical ‘Ulfberht’ Viking Sword – Researchers Close in on the German ‘Supermonks’ Believed to have Forged the Superstrong Weapons”

by Mark Prigg via “Daily Mail

It was the sword of choice for the discerning Viking – superstrong, and almost unbeatable in battle.

Yet mystery surrounds a small number of Viking swords researchers have uncovered.

They are all inscribed with a single word – ‘Ulfberht’, which experts believe may reveal their maker.

a single word - 'Ulfberht' - on the blade of a Viking sword. Experts believe a German monastry may have been responsible for the product of the superstrong weapons.

a single word – ‘Ulfberht’ – on the blade of a Viking sword. Experts believe a German monastry may have been responsible for the product of the superstrong weapons.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D. They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

HOW A SWORD IS MADE

In the process of forging iron, the ore must be heated to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit to liquify, allowing the blacksmith to remove the impurities, known as ‘slag’

Carbon is also mixed in to make the brittle iron stronger.

Medieval technology did not allow iron to be heated to such a high temperature, so slag was removed by pounding it out, a far less effective method.

The Ulfberht, however, has almost no slag, and it has a carbon content three times that of other metals from the time.

It was made of a metal called ‘crucible steel.’

It was thought that the furnaces invented during the industrial revolution were the first tools for heating iron to this extent.

According to Ancient Origins, researchers are now closing in on the mysterious maker.

‘New research brings us closer to the source of the swords, to the kiln in which these legendary weapons were forged,’ it claims.

About 170 Ulfberhts have been found, dating from 800 to 1,000 A.D.

They are made of metal so pure it baffled archaeologists, who thought the technology to forge such metal was not invented for another 800 or more years, during the Industrial Revolution.

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Swiss Museum Publishes List of Nazi Loot Art Trove

“Swiss Museum Publishes List of Nazi Loot Art Trove”

via “Reuters

File picture showing the facade of the Kunsmuseum Bern art museum in Bern

ZURICH (Reuters) – A Swiss museum published a list on Thursday of all the art found in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, a German recluse whose secret collection included masterpieces looted from their Jewish owners by the Nazis.

The Bern Art Museum was named as sole heir to the collection and on Monday reluctantly accepted the bequest, making clear that it would adopt a policy of total transparency to head off any criticism over its decision to take in the artwork.

“We have promised transparency and are now acting accordingly,” Matthias Frehner, director of the Kunstmuseum Bern, said in a statement.

Gurlitt’s collection of over 1,200 artworks had been hidden away for decades until German tax inspectors stumbled upon it during a raid on his Munich apartment in 2012. A government task force identified three pieces that were indisputably looted by the Nazis which would be returned to the heirs.

Bern Art Museum has said it will not accept any piece which experts believed might have been stolen and by publishing the full list it hopes it might still discover the rightful owners.

Switzerland has worked hard in recent years to shake-off its reputation as a haven for ill-gotten gains, and the museum is anxious to avoid the legal risks associated with accepting disputed art works.

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I want one: Sundial Ring

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A rare 16th century gold sundial and compass ring, possibly German, circa 1570. The hinged oval bezel designed as a seal and engraved with a coat of arms, opening to reveal a sundial and compass, on a plain gold hoop. . . .

via “Musetouch Visual Arts Magazine