An exceptional work. A byzantine mosaic fragment of one of the frescoes stolen from churches in Cyprus after the Turkish invasion in 1974, has been made to the authorities of the country by an expert in Dutch art, after a treasure hunt of several years. Nicknamed the”Indiana Jones of the art world” for his exploits as an investigator Arthur Brand has reported to have handed over on Friday this representation of St. Mark, dated to the sixth century, at the embassy of Cyprus in The Hague in a private ceremony. This mosaic, which was in the church of Panayia Kanakaria in the north-east of Cyprus), is “one of the last and most beautiful examples of art of the beginning of the byzantine era,” said this devotee to the AFP, a few hours before its delivery. Requested, the embassy and the Church of Cyprus did not wish to comment on. The Department of cypriot antiquities had not responded in the immediate future.
Found in Monaco Arthur Brand pose with the mosaic of Saint-Marc that he has found it in Monaco. JAN HENNOP/AFP
with a intelligence come to an important art dealer in london, the detective’s lover has travelled to Monaco in August. And through a series of intermediaries, many of them in the world of the black market, he found the trace of the mosaic in an apartment in the Principality. But on the vicissitudes of his trip, Arthur Brand prefer to keep the mystery. The work “belonged to a british family, who had purchased the mosaic of good faith, there are more than 40 years,” he says. “They were horrified when they discovered that it was in reality a priceless art treasure, stole to the church of Kanakaria after the Turkish invasion” in 1974. The family has agreed to make the work “to the people of cyprus”, for a small sum intended to cover the cost of restoration and storage, said Mr Brand. A week ago, the Dutch expert — who worked in collaboration with the church of cyprus — is returned to Monaco in order to recover the mosaic, the value of which is estimated to be between five and 10 million euros.
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“It was one of the best moments of my life,” he acknowledges. Arthur Brand has gained worldwide fame in 2015 after having recovered in Germany, two bronze horses, made by Josef Thorak, one of the sculptors official of the Third Reich, which decorated the entrance of the Chancellery of Hitler in Berlin, and who had disappeared after the fall of the wall. Arthur Brand was once again made about him a year later by helping to retrieve five works of flemish painters of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, stolen by a group of criminals in the Ukraine.
“The mosaics of Kanakaria are of considerable importance”
objects of religious art, including mosaics, have been stolen in several churches in northern Cyprus after the invasion of Turkish forces. The church of Panayia Kanakaria, located a hundred kilometres from Nicosia, has been the most plundered of its works of byzantine art, including a collection of mosaics. Many parts of these mosaics have landed on the black market, and were not found for many years, despite the incessant research of the government and of the cypriot church. “The mosaics of Kanakaria are of considerable importance in the christian art and the culture of the world”, said Maria Paphiti, an art historian and specialist in byzantine art.
The whole “is one of the rare works of art that have escaped the threat of iconoclasm byzantine empire in the Eighth and Ninth centuries,” she explains. Twelve fragments of tile have been returned to date, including a representative of the apostle Andrew. It was acquired by a collector at a sale in 2010, which was asked in 2014 to Maria Paphiti to identify the origin of the mosaic. The buyer has agreed to go to Cyprus. In 1989, the other four fragments showing the upper part of the Christ, both the apostles and the archangel had been made. According to Ms. Paphiti, most of the fragments that were missing have been recovered between 1983 and 2015 but some parts were still missing. The mosaic of Saint-Marc is truly one of the last outstanding pieces to be returned”, says Arthur Brand. “It is amazing to think that this work of art has survived for so long. It is part of the soul of the people of cyprus,” he continued. The mosaic should be back on the mediterranean island in the next few days.