A Byzantine mosaic from the 6th century, missing from a church in northern Cyprus during the Turkish invasion of 1974, has been found in Monaco, at the home of a British collector who did not know its origin. The piece shows the face of Saint Mark and is one of the few works of early Christian art that survived the iconoclastic period of Byzantium, between 726 and 834 BC. It has been recovered by the Dutch Arthur Brand, known detective specializing in stolen art, after three years of searching. Once delivered to the Cypriot Embassy in the Netherlands, the work has left this Sunday on the way to a museum in the south of the country that brings together similar treasures.
The mosaic of San Marcos, which shows him with a beard and nimbus, adorned the apse of the church of Panaya Kanakaria, located north of the island of Cyprus, about 10 kilometers from Nicosia, the capital. Historians estimate that he was executed around the sixth century, and he was part of a group of twelve. In 1976 the temple was looted by thieves, but the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus did not know officially until 1979. "It has been a three-year search, and I have received help from the British William Veres, a dealer in art that now has problems with justice [por supuesto tráfico de arte robado]. But in my case, without him, I would not have been able to find the mosaic, "says Arthur Brand, in a telephone conversation.
These works are part of the Cypriot cultural heritage, and the Dutch rescuer has counted in turn the support of the Church of the country, and the Government of Nicosia. Once located the one of San Marcos in the south of Europe, Brand, also nicknamed the Indiana Jones of the art, by its adventures, arrived until the owners. "It is a British family living in Monaco that had inherited it from their father, who bought it in the seventies without knowing that it came from a robbery." After a long conversation, they agreed to return it to Cyprus "in exchange for a symbolic sum for having preserved and restored it during these years," he adds. Then admits laughing that he usually spend "a few days alone with the works I recover." "It's a way to enjoy the effort and then leave it to the legitimate owners, of course."
Brand has been engaged for decades in the recovery of stolen art and is a good connoisseur of a world that includes counterfeiters and thugs. "The first take advantage of the robberies to copy works and then sell them to the mobsters. The latter can buy them sometimes, without knowing that they are a hoax, although they also acquire authentic art. It is a currency in their circles and also a safe conduct if they are stopped by the police. Your return can help reduce a penalty. " In 2016, Brand found the picture Adolescence, of Dalí, and also Music, by Tamara de Lempicka. Both fabrics had been removed in 2009 at the hands of the Scheringa Museum of Realism, located north of Amsterdam. It cost him six years of negotiation "in the right environments, but I never commit crimes, I do not pay or make exchanges".
In 2015, it also resolved the enigma of Hitler horses, a sculptural group that decorated the Chancellery of Berlin lost after the fall of the wall, in 1989. Once located, when a German family tried to sell them with their intermediation, he gave notice to the police and there were eight detainees. Without physical headquarters for his company, and traveling without stopping, Brand recognizes that the vicissitude of the San Marcos mosaic is not just one more of his long quest for stolen art. "I have learned that this work is part of the soul of Cyprus."