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Antiquity/antiquités

89 Moche Archaeological Objects – Peru v. Johnson

89 Moche Archaeological Objects – Peru v. Johnson

After the discovery of the Moche site of Sipán (Peru) in the mid-eighties, many archaeological objects were looted and smuggled out of the country. In 1987, a smuggler who had been involved in the exportation of these objects to the United States contacted United States Customs agents and led to the eventual seizure of 89 Moche artifacts from Benjamin Johnson, a private collector. The government of Peru sued to retrieve the artifacts from Johnson. Peru’s claim was unsuccessful and the 89 archaeological objects remained in Johnson’s possession.

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Ancient Manuscripts and Globe – Saint-Gall and Zurich

Ancient Manuscripts and Globe – Saint-Gall and Zurich

Thanks to the Swiss Confederation who acted as a mediator, the dispute between the Cantons of Zurich and Saint-Gall over cultural objects displaced during the religious wars of 1712 was ultimately settled in 2006 by an inventive agreement.

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Balangiga Bells – Philippines and United States

Balangiga Bells –  Philippines and United States

The Balangiga Bells were removed in 1901 from the parish church of San Lorenzo de Martir in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, in the Philippines, by soldiers of the United States Armed Forces. The three bells returned to the Philippines in 2018 following the amendment of the law of the United States that originally prevented their return.

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Bélier Malien – France, Jacques Chirac et Mali

Bélier Malien – France, Jacques Chirac et Mali

En novembre 1996, le Président de la République Française Jacques Chirac reçoit en cadeau un quadrupède en terre cuite aux formes massives et stylisées. L’objet, qui provenait d’un site pillé au Mali, sera restitué sous forme de don après négociations en janvier 1998.

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Chasuble – Paraguay et Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel et François Machon

Chasuble – Paraguay et Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel et François Machon

En 1889, le Musée d’ethnographie de Neuchâtel (MEN) reçoit en don une chasuble probablement spoliée au Paraguay pendant la guerre de la Triple Alliance (1864-1870). En 1926, le médecin neuchâtelois François Machon, alors Consul du Paraguay à Lausanne, propose au MEN le retour de la chasuble en échange du don de sa collection ethnographique, ce que le MEN accepte.

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Cloche de Shinagawa – Ville de Genève et Temple de Shinagawa

Cloche de Shinagawa –  Ville de Genève et Temple de Shinagawa

En 1930, la Ville de Genève décide de restituer une cloche du XVIIème siècle au Temple de Shinagawa (Japon), son lieu d’origine. En échange, le Temple cède une lanterne en granit de forme Zendoji. En 1991, le Temple cède à Genève une réplique de la cloche en signe de reconnaissance.

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Cuneiform Tablets and Ancient Clay Bullae – United States v. Hobby Lobby

Cuneiform Tablets and Ancient Clay Bullae – United States v. Hobby Lobby

Approximately 4,000 ancient Iraq artifacts were bought by Hobby Lobby’s president and smuggled into the United States, in violation of federal law. In the settlement, Hobby Lobby agreed to pay $3 million in fines and surrender the artifacts, which have now been returned to Iraq and will most likely be displayed in Iraq’s National Museum.

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Cypriot Icon – Boy George and the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus

Cypriot Icon – Boy George and the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus

When the representative of the Greek Orthodox church of Cyprus, Bishop Porfyrios, watched a television interview with the British singer, Boy George, he discovered that an 18th century Cypriot icon was hanging in the singer’s living room. The artefact depicting Jesus Christ Pantokrator was displayed in the Cypriot Church of St. Charalambos, before it was allegedly looted during the Turkish invasion of 1974. At the request of the Bishop, Boy George immediately agreed to return the artefact and received a gift in return.

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Dancing Shiva Statue – India and National Gallery of Australia

Dancing Shiva Statue – India and National Gallery of Australia

In 2006, New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor arranged the theft and illegal exportation of a 900-year old bronze statue of the Dancing Shiva from a small temple in Southern India. In 2008, the National Gallery of Australia bought the statue for AUD$5.6 million.

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Kanakaria Mosaics – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Cyprus v. Goldberg

Kanakaria Mosaics – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and Cyprus v. Goldberg

Four mosaics were stolen from the Cypriot Church of the Panagia Kanakaria in Lythrankomi, following the Turkish military intervention in Cyprus of 1974. Afterwards, they were purchased by an American art dealer, Peg Goldberg. In 1989, the Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus traced the mosaics to Indiana and filed a judicial claim to obtain restitution.

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Mosaïques de Kanakaria – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus et Chypre c. Goldberg

Mosaïques de Kanakaria – Autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus et Chypre c. Goldberg

Quatre mosaïques sont volées dans l’Eglise chypriote du village de Lythrankomi. Une dizaine d’années plus tard, elles sont achetées par Goldberg, une commerçante d’art américaine. L’Eglise chypriote finit par apprendre le lieu où se trouvent les mosaïques et la personne en possession de celles-ci. Peu après, l’Eglise chypriote et la République de Chypre introduisent une action en justice auprès des tribunaux de l’Etat de l’Indiana aux Etats-Unis.

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Obélisque d’Axoum – Italie et Ethiopie

Obélisque d’Axoum – Italie et Ethiopie

En 1937, Mussolini ordonne l’enlèvement de l’obélisque d’Axoum et son transport en Italie. Il faudra attendre 2007 pour que l’obélisque retrouve le site d’Axoum.

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Parrot Lady Sculpture – Canada and India

Parrot Lady Sculpture – Canada and India

“Parrot Lady” is a 800 year old sandstone sculpture from a Khajuraho temple in India. It was returned by Canada to India in 2015 in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

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Pièces d’or géantes – Inde c. Crédit Agricole Indosuez SA

Pièces d’or géantes –  Inde c. Crédit Agricole Indosuez SA

Deux pièces d’or géantes anciennes d’une valeur exceptionnelle, tant d’un point de vue économique que culturel, sont mises en gage auprès d’une Banque à Genève par le petit-fils de l’ancien Nizam de la Principauté d’Hyderabad. L’Inde introduit une action auprès des tribunaux genevois dans le but d’en obtenir la restitution.

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Sevso Treasure – Lebanon et al. v. Marquess of Northampton

Sevso Treasure – Lebanon et al. v. Marquess of Northampton

The Sevso Treasure was consigned at Sotheby’s by the Marquess of Northampton in 1989. Sotheby’s released a press statement which said that the treasure would not be sold until all claims against it had been dealt with. Hungary bought seven pieces of the treasure in 2014, and a further seven pieces in 2017.

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Two Bronze Animal Heads – China and Pierre Bergé

Two Bronze Animal Heads – China and Pierre Bergé

In February of 2009, Christie’s offered at auction two 18th-century bronze fountainheads – a rabbit and a rat – owned by the estate of Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime-partner Pierre Bergé. Stolen from the Old Summer Palace by British and French forces during the Second Opium War in 1860, the two heads’ sale provoked controversial international debate, inspiring a Chinese national to bid upon the bronzes at auction and refuse payment. In June of 2013, François-Henri Pinault, owner of Christie’s, returned to China the fountainheads in an effort to strengthen diplomatic and trade relations between France and China.

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