Author Topic: purchasing imperial memorabilia  (Read 6289 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Nadezhda Edvardovna

  • Boyar
  • **
  • Posts: 118
    • View Profile
purchasing imperial memorabilia
« on: September 12, 2005, 09:45:22 AM »
I've not seen a thread on this topic--please overlook me if it's been discussed before.

I've seen sites on the web which offer imperial Russian items for sale, and I wonder if I should buy from them.  Perhaps, I worry, the items may have been stolen.  After all, times are hard in Russia and museum employees are not sufficiently well-paid as to eliminate temptation.

How can one discern if a dealer is reputable?

Peace,

Nadezhda

David_Pritchard

  • Guest
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2005, 12:49:54 AM »
Your question is a very simple one to answer. If you or someone before did not purchase the artifact from a member of the Imperial Family or if it was not given as a gift from a member of the Imperial Family, it was stolen.

This of course includes most of the Fabarge items in Western collections, as well as most of the artifacts and painings in the Hermitage. These artifacts were stolen by the Bolsheviks from their legal owners. Some of these stolen goods were sold by Lenin, some by Stalin, some by the Nazis when them stole them from the Communist thieves.

This issue becomes more complicated when dealing with icons. The Communists destroy tens of thousands of icons in their policy of church desecration. Thousands of icons were taken by the parisheners of the churches in order to protect them from burning. 80 years later, family members may have these icons but the church has since been destroyed, what do they do with them? Who owns them, the Church that became part of the Communist apparatus?

Of course from a purely legalistic stand point, when the Bolshevik Government was recognised by a country and envoys were exchanged, the laws of the Bolsheviks were recognised as valid even if they are morally reprehensible and not in the spirit of just law. The Dowager Empress learned this the hard way, in a British court of law, when she tried to stop the auctioning of her personal property at a London auction gallery. If you purchased one of these auctioned items, would you be the legal owner? Yes. But knowing that the previous owner claimed they were stolen should put a moral cloud over the sale.

As I wrote most every artifact in Russia has been stolen one or more times. Until the Russian Governemnt developes some system of compensating the remaining heirs, clear title will never exist.

David

Offline Belochka

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 4447
  • City of Peter stand in all your splendor - Pushkin
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2005, 02:45:24 AM »
Quote
If you or someone before did not purchase the artifact from a member of the Imperial Family or if it was not given as a gift from a member of the Imperial Family, it was stolen.

As I wrote most every artifact in Russia has been stolen one or more times. Until the Russian Governemnt developes some system of compensating the remaining heirs, clear title will never exist.

David


Personally I have felt extremely uncomfotable when I viewed such artifacts held in foreign institutions.

Many of us have heard about objects "missing" from archives which seems to find their way in the west - a practice that persists today. Such precious "trophies" should be returned to enrich Russia's own heritage, rather than being peddled to the highest private bidder often never to be seen again.

Items that belonged to the Imperial House should be returned to Russia because they are an integral part of Russia's past.



Faces of Russia is now on Facebook!


http://www.searchfoundationinc.org/

Offline Vladik

  • Boyar
  • **
  • Posts: 108
  • D'oh!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2005, 03:25:15 PM »
Nadezhda_Edvardova, I think you should also be careful about not buying a fake, a lot of dealers these days sell fakes and don't even bother about telling the truth.

Belochka, risking to sound like a "bad guy", nothing would just be returned to the museums, I'm sure as many people would testify, alot of exhibits in Russia "mysteriously" disappear into local collections, with fake replacements in the museum. So I think if a good and caring collector buys it, it would be cared for and loved for the rest of the item's life.
Let me know what you think. :)

Offline Belochka

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 4447
  • City of Peter stand in all your splendor - Pushkin
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2005, 09:55:13 PM »
Quote
Belochka, risking to sound like a "bad guy", nothing would just be returned to the museums, I'm sure as many people would testify, alot of exhibits in Russia "mysteriously" disappear into local collections, with fake replacements in the museum. So I think if a good and caring collector buys it, it would be cared for and loved for the rest of the item's life.
Let me know what you think. :)


I understand your sentiments, but I still maintain my belief that Imperial House treasures have only one place - and that is under the care of Russia museums.

Too much has slipped through, and if the "practice" continues then Russia will be left with worthless copies, that fundamentally demonstrates a lack of respect and appreciation of the masters of the past and Russia's cultural heritage. Such misguided lack of pride towards Russia's tangible history serves only the stupidity of a few who only care about their quick returns.

We as citizens or tourists become the loosers as well.  


Faces of Russia is now on Facebook!


http://www.searchfoundationinc.org/

Offline Robert_Hall

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 6648
  • a site.
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2005, 03:52:43 PM »
I will add to this that the Russian people paid for these things in the first place so they have the inherent right to them.   They may have been transitory property of a special class, but the labour of the Russian people made them possible.
Not to sound too terribly socialist, but the same problem of provenance is universal. The most recent examples being the Iraq lootings. Angor Wat, Mayan and other pre-Colombian artefacts, Nazi war looting. Greece wants the Parthenon back ! It is not just a Russian problem.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline tobik

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2005, 06:27:16 AM »
Though this has been discussed elsewhere when I mentioned my views on items remaining in their countries of production, I must point out the seeming contradiction espoused by some.

Either you believe that objects should be restituted to the original owners, (an idea I strongly disagree with at least where 1917 is concerned)meaning that many imperial and other treasures having to leave the country or at least, if an export license was not granted, then going back into private collections where they would not be seen.  

Or you believe that the so called national treasures i.e. kitsch Faberge Eggs etc. should be the property of the Russian people, and should be made available for all see.  This could only be achievable if the items remained the property of the state thus justifying the Bolshevik nationalisation of treasures.

All these calls for restituting national treasures are totally impractical.  Life's not fair and war plunder is a part of life.  It is something that every major country in Europe (with the possible exception of England) has suffered from.

Let bygones be bygones, but if you want to call for Russia's plundered treasures to be returned, perhaps one ought first to get Russia to return the Schlieman (sp) treasures from Troy, the countless Impressionist Masterpieces which they stole etc. but most important of all, to admit that its own soldiers burnt the Amber Room in Kaliningrad in 1945 and to stop trying to use the case to gain political leverage and moral justification in the battle to get war loot returned.

Offline tobik

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2005, 06:44:19 AM »
Quote

 The Communists destroy tens of thousands of icons in their policy of church desecration. Thousands of icons were taken by the parisheners of the churches in order to protect them from burning.



Yes, this is true, but the Bolsheviks also did an awful lot to preserve icons, taking many of the best examples away from damaging candle wax, humid breath and fetid conditions, putting them into museums.

Whatever one thinks about this from a religious point of view, the fact that remains is that their actions did much to save Russia's religious art.

Let's not forget that one of the very first actions of the Bolsheviks was a law to preserve the art treasures, in an effort to stop the looting and destruction.

Many of the early Bolshevik leaders, especially Lunacharsky and even Lenin were not the iconoclastic philistines they are made out to be.

I am not trying to excuse their actions, merely wishing to point out that there's two sides to the story.

David_Pritchard

  • Guest
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2005, 09:37:40 AM »
Quote

Yes, this is true, but the Bolsheviks also did an awful lot to preserve icons, taking many of the best examples away from damaging candle wax, humid breath and fetid conditions, putting them into museums.

Whatever one thinks about this from a religious point of view, the fact that remains is that their actions did much to save Russia's religious art.

Let's not forget that one of the very first actions of the Bolsheviks was a law to preserve the art treasures, in an effort to stop the looting and destruction.

Many of the early Bolshevik leaders, especially Lunacharsky and even Lenin were not the iconoclastic philistines they are made out to be.

I am not trying to excuse their actions, merely wishing to point out that there's two sides to the story.


Tobik,

I was at a loss for words when I first read your post but I think I have now composed myself enough to respond to your thoughts which I would strongly describe as out right Communist propaganda or as unabashingly ignorant or amazingly naive. As I do not know your motivations for writting what you wrote, you can tell me which one of the three statements best describes your motives.

The Communists made the law 'protecting' works of art because knew art has monetary value not because they cared about the patrimony of Russia. The Communists seized private and public works of art so that they could be sold in the West for hard currency.

The Communists systematicly looted churches, taking those objects made of precious metals including the oklads that covered the icons (that protected them from candle smoke). The bronze bells were pulled down to be resmelted for industrial and military use. Tens of thousands of icons and hundreds of iconostasis were pulled from the churches and burnt. These desecrated churches were then used as machine shops and other industrial work places. I have been in such destroyed churches! I have seen the destruction with my own eyes!

The wonderful icons that are on display in the Hermitage are simply the unsold pieces from Lenin and Stalin's art sales.

David

Offline tobik

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2005, 10:47:56 AM »
Quote

Tobik,

I was at a loss for words when I first read your post but I think I have now composed myself enough to respond to your thoughts which I would strongly describe as out right Communist propaganda or as unabashingly ignorant or amazingly naive. As I do not know your motivations for writting what you wrote, you can tell me which one of the three statements best describes your motives.

The Communists made the law 'protecting' works of art because knew art has monetary value not because they cared about the patrimony of Russia. The Communists seized private and public works of art so that they could be sold in the West for hard currency.

The Communists systematicly looted churches, taking those objects made of precious metals including the oklads that covered the icons (that protected them from candle smoke). The bronze bells were pulled down to be resmelted for industrial and military use. Tens of thousands of icons and hundreds of iconostasis were pulled from the churches and burnt. These desecrated churches were then used as machine shops and other industrial work places. I have been in such destroyed churches! I have seen the destruction with my own eyes!

The wonderful icons that are on display in the Hermitage are simply the unsold pieces from Lenin and Stalin's art sales.

David


First of all I must make it clear that all my comments refer to the Civil War period - these do not concern the later Stalin period.

OK. I agree with a lot of what you say.  I am aware of mass destruction that went on, on an industrial scale.

My point is that in taking the icons out of the churches, the Bolsheviks whether purposefully or not, saved many pieces of religious art.  Fullstop.  Sure many more were destroyed, but...

Don't misunderstand me - I am not saying that the Bolsheviks deliberately saved art because they were great aesthetes, what I am saying is that there actions led indirectly or directly to many being saved.  I was merely commenting on the irony.

This is not that spurious an opinion and I am certainly not the first to express it.

With regard to your assertion that the varying oklads used would have protected the icon - all I can say is that, firstly, you know full well that the oklad does not cover the entiire icon, the face being left exposed.  And secondly the oklad cannot possibly protect the icon from changes on temperature and atmosphere.

While monetary gain may have been a factor in the law to protect monuments it is an extreme and naive view to believe that it was the only reason.

Lenin, while a conservative in artistic matters, posessed an extremely developed understanding of the power and use of art.  While he was not a man to appreciate art for arts sake, it is no coincidence that the Bolsheviks presided over the most significant flowering of Russian decorative and applied art in the country's history (1918-c.1932.)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by tobik »

Offline Tania+

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1206
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2005, 11:32:40 AM »
I have to state, what i think on this...
How wonderful of 'the state' to have saved these icons, oh yes, for artistic purposes, but threw countless christian lives as well into the fires, sometimes along with the icons.

But as you say, it supposedly stopped the looting and destruction...

Every time I see an icon for sale on the world market, this is the first thing I think of, in terms of the real price paid for those beautiful icons.

Just some lingering thoughts that can't be erased by time, or any amount of money or words...


Tatiana

TatianaA


David_Pritchard

  • Guest
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2005, 01:40:09 PM »
Lenin, while a conservative in artistic matters, posessed an extremely developed understanding of the power and use of art.  While he was not a man to appreciate art for arts sake, it is no coincidence that the Bolsheviks presided over the most significant flowering of Russian decorative and applied art in the country's history (1918-c.1932.) - Tobik

I should add that the purpose of this 'flowering' was purely self serving for Mr. Ulyanov, that is the high volume production of propaganda art that supported his despotic regime.

Tania thankfully reminded us of the many tens of thousands of priests, monks, nuns and other faithful of the Russian Church who were murdered, starved or worked to death by the Communists. Maybe the Communists confiscated and preserved the martyrs un-needed religious artifacts for future generations but should we commend them for the accidental good that came out of these horrific crimes?

David


Offline tobik

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2005, 02:49:51 PM »
David and Tatiana,

This issue is not about praise of 'accidental good'.  It is about appreciating art on a rational level without allowing emotional response to colour our opinions.

There is much art (art of French Revolution to take one of many examples) that was produced in despicable times of much bloodshed, but it is a narrow and ignorant view to say that because of this we should describe the art as despotic or not worthy of our attention.  

To take one example of many, I have a postcard in my collection -  a beautiful agit prop postcard by Deni from c.1919 which shows a priest stealing from the poor, (title: Ya liubliu bratya, no liubliu s nikh brat' Ya - a sublime a pun as ther ever was) but according to what is being said I should feel guilt a) for owning it and b) for revelling in its artistic virtuosity.

I know we live in politically correct times but surely we can be more enlightened than this.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by tobik »

Offline Tania+

  • Velikye Knyaz
  • ****
  • Posts: 1206
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2005, 03:36:45 PM »
Should I agree, or disagree ? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

If one is not tyed directly to circumstances, of loss of life, it can be looked at, as not to have any emotion.
If it is a family member, extended family member, how should we as just 'plain human beings' feel about such crimes ? So those whose family members have gone through any tragedies, should think so little of their lives? How very strange. To be born, to live amongst family, and then throw them to the winds.

It would take a pretty hardned 'human being' to look upon crimes as such you have stated, to not get emotional when one has realized their family has been desimated, etc. What a world it is in those whom have forgot any respect of or towards any human life, in this manner.

If this is how you would like to look at your family members, close and or extended famiy Tobik, your certainly entitled to, but for most human hearts, and that's a goodly percentage of the globe, we cannot close the door on that which has starved, murdered, tortured, raped, destroyed, and silenced human kind.

Yes, there are market places, wherein you can buy and sell at your heart's content, and gain whatever wealth, or ownership of objects you so demand. That still does not ever in any real human heart forgive, nor forget the immensity of what transpired, to gain those objects. Objects over human life, what a choice Tobik  :-[
You may champion what you think is for you, but you cannot speak out for millions of people who keep and follow what is really worth more than any object, or money can ever purchase. It is called integrity ! It is called, respect and reverence for human life.

Tatiana
TatianaA


Offline tobik

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 54
  • I love YaBB 1G - SP1!
    • View Profile
Re: purchasing imperial memorabilia
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2005, 04:57:05 PM »

I have no wish to offend and appreciate we approach the subject from different points of view.  

Forgive me if I seem to come accross with a hardened heart, but I say again, if one is to evaluate art properly one must take all views into account all aspects of the situation and from these form a balanced judgement of the cultural value of the objects produced.

Sure what happened in the Civil War was terrible and I sympathise with the loss of all families, but I'm not going to think any less of e.g. Malevich as an artist because he sympathised with the regime in its early years.

In owning the Deni postcard, I do not as you suggest place material objects above human lives, in the same way that the Louvre owning a painting such as Delacroix's 1830 picture 'Liberty leading the people' does not espouse the idea of regicide and revolution.

David has tried to accuse me of being either naive, ignorant or a Communist.  Well, in answer to that all I can say is that in my life I have often been naive and ignorant, but as yet have not been persuaded by the values of Communism.

If anyone has any more insults to throw at me then fine, but all I can say is that every single other book I've ever read on art history has espoused similar views about the necessity of not letting emotions colour historical fact, so if any of you out there care to comment or perhaps care to tell me whether I am a Communist, ignorant or just a fool I would be delighted to know.

Yours as ever,

Tobik