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A Bizarre Theft Of Pieces Of Art | Entertainment | The USA Print – THE USA PRINT

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After the systematic theft of antiquities that the British Museum in London has allegedly been subjected to for years, lies a bizarre story that originates from eBay. Nothing to do with the black art market, no movie plots or glamorous thieves. The online consumer-to-consumer sales and auction platform is the key to the nitty-gritty. And its main protagonist, a certain Sultan1966, who through small-scale sales has managed to go unnoticed for years. Until he ran into the Danish art dealer Ittai Gradel, the architect of the investigation that has already resulted in the recent resignation of the director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fisher and the dismissal of conservator and expert on Greek and Roman art Peter John Higgs.

bad movie script

The script for this bad movie starts in 2016, when Ittai Gradel takes from his home -two hours from Copenhagen- the screenshot of an object for sale on eBay that makes him suspect for the first time that he has been in front of an object. stolen. Previously, he had already bought several pieces from Sultan1966, about 70, he says, ranging from 15 pounds (17 euros) for a Medusa cameo to a few hundred pounds. But none that raised doubts. Among them was a ring that he bought for 150 pounds (174 euros) assuming it was a copy of an Egyptian artifact, but when it arrived “it was the real thing: it dated from the Ptolemaic kingdom, which ended in the reign of Cleopatra,” explains the Danish dealer. to The Telegraph. “I contacted the seller and told him it was authentic,” he explains, referring to the Egyptian ring, “so I offered to return it or send him another 500 pounds. He accepted the 500 pounds.”


The police have finally launched an investigation to clarify the massive and prolonged theft of parts

Leon Neal/Getty

A frequent visitor to the British Museum as a student and also during his time as a university professor in England, Gradel recognized in the Sultan1966 account the fragment of an onyx cameo, mistakenly labeled as agate, with a young woman and a fertility symbol. He put it up in 2016 with a minimum price of £40, but it did not attract any bids at the time. Its real value was between 25,000 and 50,000 pounds. “It was withdrawn from eBay after a few hours, but I had taken a screenshot of it because I recognized it. It looked like a line drawing that had been published in the 1926 British Museum catalogue,” the dealer explains to the English newspaper, which reproduces said screenshot.

Priceless pieces at ridiculous prices

From that moment, he began to investigate on his own. Apparently, Sultan 1966 explained to his buyers that the pieces came from his grandfather, who owned a hardware store in York during the interwar period. “I didn’t want to alert the seller, so I kept quiet and kept following him to see if anything else turned up.” It took another four years – until 2020 – for him to find his discovery. A Roman cameo fragment was put up on eBay and this time there was a color photograph of it on the British Museum website. “I saw immediately that it was a very recent photo,” he said. “So I knew that whole junkyard provenance story was a lie.”


Part of the cameo that aroused all suspicions in the Danish art dealer Ittai Gradel

FV

Since 2020 the Danish collector and dealer has tried unsuccessfully to alert the British Museum of what was happening until finally, last week, everything was exposed. For now the museum has been unable to give an exact figure on the number of pieces stolen for years, although the British press assures that it would be between 1,500 and 2,000. Among these objects are gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and glassware that were stored for academic and research purposes, some of which date back to the 15th century BC The museum’s inability to identify all the items has exposed a lack of control about many of the objects in his possession, many of them uncatalogued.

But who is Sultan1966?

All indications point to the fact that behind Sultan1966 is the curator and expert in Greek and Roman art Peter John Higgs, who has worked at the British Museum for 30 years. He was fired after the scandal of the theft of these priceless pieces was uncovered. But both he and his family have denied any connection to the matter, although Sultan1966’s eBay bank account is linked to the name of one Peter Higgs. There is also an X (former Twitter) account of Sultan1966 (Higgs’ birth year, by the way) in the name of Peter Higgs, “Curator in the Greek and Roman Department, British Museum” opened in 2009; a suspicious egg with only 11 followers.


Sultan1966’s account in X

FV

Be that as it may, for now the museum has been unable to give an exact figure on the number of pieces stolen for years, although the British press assures that it would be between 1,500 and 2,000. Among these objects are gold jewelry, semi-precious stones and glassware that were stored for academic and research purposes, some of which date back to the 15th century BC The museum’s inability to identify all the items has exposed a lack of control about many of the objects in his possession, many of them uncatalogued. What has given rise again to countries like Greece or Egypt to claim objects that they claim belong to them, such as the famous Rosetta stone or the Parthenon Marbles.

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