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MPs call for return of Elgin Marbles

Plus: Art 'expert' disappears with possible Leonardo work | Export bar for 16th-century Book of Hours | Olivier Thomas called for further questioning in art theft case | and Getty and Rothschild Foundations come together to support new fellowship

13 July 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Cross-party group of MPs introduce bill to return Elgin Marbles | Members of Parliament have introduced a private members’ bill proposing that the British Museum’s Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece. The bill, which was introduced by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams, is backed members of the Conservatives, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the SNP. ‘These magnificent artefacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon,’ says Williams. ‘[…] It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right a 200-year wrong.’ Campaigners believe that the return of the artefacts would improve Britain’s position when negotiating trade deals with Europe following the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Hartwig Fischer, the new director of the British Museum, recently expressed his desire to keep the artefacts in the collection.

Art ‘expert’ disappears with possible Leonardo work | Police in Bordeaux are searching for an ‘art expert’ who disappeared with a drawing that may be the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, according to French local media (French language article). The as yet unnamed expert had been entrusted to authenticate the work by an octogenarian woman who inherited it from her father, an antiques dealer. If authenticated as the Old Master’s work, it could be worth millions. According to Le Figarothe man vanished before completing the evaluation, having already put his business into liquidation (French language article).

Export bar for 16th-century Book of Hours | A rare devotional book once owned by King François I of France is at risk of leaving the UK unless a buyer can be found to match its asking price of £8 million. The book, which is encrusted with jewels and features an enamelled gold cover, was made in 1532. It has been in the UK since 1720, and was once owned by Horace Walpole. A temporary export bar on the book will remain in place until 11 October, though this may be extended to April 2017 if there is a serious expression of interest from a UK buyer.

Olivier Thomas called for further questioning in art theft case | A judge in Paris has placed art dealer Olivier Thomas under further investigation for ‘abuse of trust, fraud, concealment, and laundering’ relating to his alleged role in the theft of two artworks by Picasso and a Rembrandt. Thomas was arrested last year after Catherine Hutin-Blay, Picasso’s stepdaughter, accused him of stealing the works in question from her. Thomas denied any knowledge of them, and was released after his testimony, but photographs of the works, allegedly taken by the dealer, have since been discovered on his laptop, according to Artnet News.

Getty and Rothschild Foundations come together to support new fellowship | The Getty Foundation and the Rothschild Foundation have announced that they have established a joint art history fellowship, which will allow academics to study at the Getty in Los Angeles and Waddesdon Manor in the UK for three months apiece. Conservation science expert David Saunders, the first recipient of the annual fellowship, will use it to focus on lighting in museums and galleries.

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