California Armenian Prelacy Sues Getty Museum
Posted 07 June 2010 - 04:56 AM
California Armenian Prelacy Sues Getty Museum
[ 2010/06/03 | 17:21 ] diasporaThe La Crescenta-based Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed a $105-million lawsuit Tuesday against the J. Paul Getty Museum, claiming the institution illegally bought seven pages from a sacred Bible.
The Western Prelacy claims that the seven pages, which date back to 1256, were ripped from the Armenian Orthodox Church’s Zeyt’un Gospels during the Armenian Genocide, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The church is also requesting that the pages be returned.
“We expect the Getty to do the right thing,” said Levon Kirakosian, a spokesman for the prelacy.
The Getty states on its website that the illustrations by T’oros Roslin were “separated from the manuscript at some point in the past” and were acquired by the museum.
“The Getty is confident that it has legal ownership of these pages, known as Canon Tables, which have been widely published, studied and exhibited,” the museum’s spokeswoman, Julie Jaskol, said in a statement.
The museum acquired the pages from a private U.S. collection in 1994 after reviewing the origin of the pieces, she said.
The previous owner of the collection has asked the museum not to disclose their identity, Jaskol said.
The pages have also been described, reproduced and written about in articles, as well as displayed in a 1994 Armenian art and culture exhibition in New York, she said in the statement.
“At no time in the 90 or so years that the Canon Tables have been in the United States has anyone questioned their ownership,” Jaskol said in the statement. “The Getty believes the lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed.”
The plaintiff’s lead attorney, Vartkes Yeghiayan — who often represents victims of the Armenian Genocide — was researching the atrocity when in 2007 he discovered the Getty Museum was housing the pages, said Michael Bazyler, a Chapman University law professor speaking on behalf of the attorney.
“We have asked the Getty to give it back to the church, but they declined to do so,” he said.
Armenian people place a high value on historical relics lost during the 1915 genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, Kirakosian said, “because we are trying to hold on to our identity and survival.”
The Zeyt’un Gospels are at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan, Armenia, according to the lawsuit.
June 3, 2010
Posted 07 June 2010 - 04:58 AM
Posted 07 June 2010 - 05:00 AM
Canon Tables from the Zeyt'un Gospels
Armenian, Hromklay, 1256
Tempera colors, gold paint, and ink on parchment
The Zeyt'un Gospels, made in the scriptorium at Hromklay for Katholikos Constantine I in 1256, are the earliest signed work of T'oros Roslin, the most accomplished illuminator and scribe in Armenia in the 1200s. These canon tables were separated from the manuscript at some point in the past and eventually acquired by the Getty Museum, while the rest of the manuscript is in a public collection in Armenia.
Originally designed by Eusebius of Caesarea in the 300s, canon tables provide a concordance of related passages that describe the same events in more than one of the four Gospels. By the early Middle Ages, the columns of numbers were usually assembled within painted architectural structures. Though Roslin used this traditional format in all of his pages, he endlessly varied the ornamental designs and naturalistic elements, imbuing each page with individuality and vitality.
Armenia established its own independent church in the 300s, distinct from both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. In medieval Armenia, religious books such as this one were believed to serve as heavenly intercessors for those involved with the books' creation, patronage, or restoration; Gospel books are among the most sumptuous of Armenian manuscripts.
Posted 07 June 2010 - 05:00 AM
Armenian church sues Getty over ancient Bible pages
June 3, 2010 | 7:49 am An Armenian church based in La Crescenta has filed a civil lawsuit against the Getty Museum, claiming the institution illegally bought seven pages from a sacred Bible.
The Western Prelacy claims that the seven pages, which date back to 1256, were ripped from the Armenian Orthodox Church's Zeyt'un Gospels during the Armenian Genocide, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
The Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Americas is requesting that the pages be returned.
"We expect the Getty to do the right thing," Levon Kirakosian, a spokesman for the prelacy, told the Glendale News-Press.
The Getty states on its website that the illustrations by T'oros Roslin were "separated from the manuscript at some point in the past" and were acquired by the museum.
"The Getty is confident that it has legal ownership of these pages, known as Canon Tables, which have been widely published, studied and exhibited," the museum's spokeswoman, Julie Jaskol, said in a statement.
The museum acquired the pages from a private U.S. collection in 1994 after reviewing the origin of the pieces, she said.
The previous owner of the collection has asked the museum not to disclose his or her identity, Jaskol said.
The pages have also been described, reproduced and written about in articles, as well as displayed in a 1994 Armenian art and culture exhibition in New York, she said in the statement.
"At no time in the 90 or so years that the Canon Tables have been in the United States has anyone questioned their ownership," Jaskol said in the statement. "The Getty believes the lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed."
Read the full story here. Read more about the Canon Tables at the Getty's website.
-- Veronica Rocha, Glendale News-Press
Photo credit: Getty
Posted 07 June 2010 - 05:02 AM
By SUE MANNING, The Associated Press Updated 12:13 AM Friday, June 4, 2010 LOS ANGELES — The Armenian church has sued the J. Paul Getty Museum to demand the return of seven pages ripped from a sacred Armenian Bible dating back to 1256. The Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles. The lawsuit alleged the church had the Bible authenticated in 1947 or 1948 and it was returned with the pages missing.
It states the identity of the thief was never determined.
A spokeswoman for the Getty said the museum legally acquired the pages, which is known as the Canon Tables, in 1994 from an anonymous private collector "after a thorough review of their provenance."
"A notable Armenian scholar who also was the primate of the Armenian Church of America acknowledged key details about the Canon Tables' provenance in a 1943 article, including the fact that they were owned by an Armenian family in the United States," spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said.
The seven illustrated pages by T'oros Roslin were once part of the handwritten Armenian Bible known as the "Zeyt'un Gospels." The rest of the sacred book is located at the Mesrob Mashotots Madenataran museum in Yerevan, Armenia.
The church's lawsuit contends the missing pages became part of a private collection of a family in Watertown, Mass. They were loaned to the Pierpont Morgan Library, now known as the Morgan Library and Museum, in New York in 1994 for an exhibition.
Michael Bazyler, a Chapman University law professor and member of the plaintiff's legal team, said Thursday that attorneys hope the pages can be returned during negotiation rather than litigation.
"We contend these seven pages are stolen property, and they can never get title," Bazyler said. "We are asking for the return of the seven pages back to the church."
Jaskol, the Getty spokeswoman, said the ownership of the pages has never been questioned until now, and that "the Getty believes the lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed."
Bazyler believes this is the first case filed in the United States for the return of cultural or religious objects taken around the time of World War I, when historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks.
The event is widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.
"It's a matter of historical identity and preservation of the Armenian culture," said Western Prelacy board member Levon Kirakosian. "It's important everyone realizes that."
June 04, 2010 04:04 AM EDT
Copyright 2010, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted 07 June 2010 - 05:03 AM
Posted 05 November 2011 - 01:50 PM
ԱՄՆ ԳԵԹԹԻԻ ԹԱՆԳԱՐԱՆԸ ՊԱՅՔԱՐՈՒՄ Է ՀԱՅԿԱԿԱՆ ՁԵՌԱԳՐԻ ՀԱՄԱՐ
ԱՄՆ Գեթթիի թանգարանը հինգշաբթի չկարողացավ տապալել Հայ Առաքելական եկեղեցու ներկայացրած հայցը: Եկեղեցին թանգարանին մեղադրում էր միջնադարյան նկարազարդ մագաղաթների` 755-ամյա աշխատանքի մի քանի էջերը թաքցնելու մեջ: Դրանք հին մագաղաթներ են և եկեղեցու համար սրբություն են համարվում:
Եկեղեցին հույս ունի վերականգնել Զեյթունի Ավետարանի ութ նկարազարդ մագաղաթները, որոնք մի ժամանակ զարդարել են գրքի շապիկը:
Ինչպես հայտնում է Glendale News-Press-ը, կարճատև լսումներից հետո, Լոս Անջելեսի Վերաքննիչ դատարանի դատավոր Աբրահամ Հանը մերժել է Գեթթիի թանգարանի՝ հայցը չբավարարելու միջնորդությունը: Թանգարանի փաստաբանները պնդում էին, որ հայցի ժամկետը անցել է տասնամյակ առաջ: Սակայն դատավորը նշել է, որ դա դեռ «պարզ չէ», և 4 ամիս` մինչև մարտի 2-ը ժամանակ է տվել խնդիրն ինքնուրույն կարգավորելու համար: Գեթթիի թանգարանը հայտարարել է, որ ինքը այդ մագաղաթները օրինական է պահում: Իսկ հայկական կողմը նշել է, որ թանգարանը տեղյակ չէ սկզբնական պատմությանը: Զեյթունի Ավետարանի մագաղաթները Ամերիկայում են հայտնվել այն բանից հետո, երբ թուրքերը 1916 թվականին հայերին վտարել էին Կլիլիկիայից, հետագայում Օսմանյան կայսրության ամբողջ տարածքից:
Դատավորն ասել է, որ ինքը պետք է ուշադրություն դարձնի Կիլիկյան Հայաստանի խճճված պատմության վրա՝ Առաջին աշխարհամարտի ժամանակ, Հայոց ցեղասպանությունից առաջ և հետո` պարզելու է արդյոք անցյալ տարի ներկայացված հայցը համապատասխանո՞ւմ է 6 տարի առաջվա կանոնադրությանը:
Հիշեցնենք, որ Գեթթիի թանգարանը 1994 թվականին 950,000 դոլարով գնել է այդ էջերը: Եկեղեցին ուզում է այն ուղարկել Երևանի թանգարան, որպեսզի կորած էջերը միանան Զեյթունի Ավետարանին, որը Երևանում է գտնվում 1960-ական թվականներից:
Posted 05 November 2011 - 01:52 PM
Էջեր «Պատերազմի Ավետարանից». Հայկական եկեղեցու հայցն ընդդեմ Ջ. Փոլ Գեթթիի թանգարանի կարող է հասարակական մեծ հնչեղություն ստանալ
11/06/10Անցյալ շաբաթ` Հայ Առաքելական եկեղեցու` ԱՄՆ արեւմտյան թեմի ներկայացրած հայցն ընդդեմ Ջ. Փոլ Գեթթի թանգարանի, ըստ վերլուծաբանների հավակնում է բարձր հնչեղություն ստանալ` կրկին անգամ աշխարհին հիշեցնելով Հայոց Ցեղասպանության եւ հայ ժողովրդի կորուստների մասին:
«Դատավարությունը կարող է իսկապես մեծ աղմուկ բարձրացնել»,-«Մեդիալաբին» ասում է վերլուծաբան, թուրքագետ, ԳԱԱ Արևելագիտության ինստիտուտի տնօրեն Ռուբեն Սաֆրաստյանը:
Հունիսի 1-ին, հայ առաքելական եկեղեցու Մեծի տանն Կիլիկիո կաթողիկոսության ԱՄՆ անջատյալ Արեւմտյան թեմը hայց է ներկայացրել Լոս-Անջելեսում գտնվող թանգարանի դեմ` պահանջելով վերադարձնել ձեռագիր մագաղաթ Զեյթունի Ավետարանի այն 7 էջերը, որոնք «կորցվել կամ գողացվել» են Հայոց ցեղասպանության ժամանակ:
Գործով զբաղվող թեմի խորհրդի անդամ Լեւոն Կիրակոսյանը հայտարարել է, թե հայցը «պատմական ինքնության եւ հայկական մշակույթի պահպանման հարց է»:
«Կարեւոր է, որպեսզի բոլորը դա հասկանան», – ասել է նա: Կաթողիկոսարանի` «Մեդիալաբին» տված պարզաբանումների ժամանակ, նշվել է, որ հայցով վերադարձվելու է այն, ինչ պատկանում է հայ ժողովրդին:
«Սա մեր ժողովրդի իրավունքների վերատիրացումն է, այն ինչ անորոշ իրավիճակում հայտնվել է օտար ձեռքերում եւ նույնիսկ տարիներ անց էլ պիտի վերադարձվի հայ ժողովրդին,- «Մեդիալաբին» պատասխանել են Մեծի տանն Կիլիկիո կաթողիկոսության ԱՄՆ անջատյալ Արեւմտյան թեմից,- «Հայության պատկանողը պիտի վերադարձվի»:
Սակայն ի պատասխան, Ջ. Փոլ Գեթթի թանգարանի մամլո խոսնակ Ջուլի Ջասքոլը պաշտոնական հաղորդագրությամբ նշել է, թե հայցն անիմաստ է, իսկ Աստվածաշնչի էջերը ձեռք են բերվել օրինական ճանապարհով 1994 թվականին, անանուն մի կոլեկցիոներից: «Մենք կարծում ենք, որ հայցն անհիմն է, եւ պետք է մերժվի»,-ասել է նա:
Սակայն, ի տարբերություն թանգարանի պաշտոնական հաղորդագրության, Հայաստանում եւ Սփյուռքում հույս ունեն, որ հրաշագործ համարվող Ավետարանը, որը միջնադարյան հայ գրիչ, մեծագույն մանրանկարիչ Թորոս Ռոսլինի / 1256 – 1268 թթ/ ծաղկածն է, կամբողջանա Մատենադարանում:
«Թորոս Ռոսլինի ձեռագրերը մեզ համար յուրահատուկ են բացառիկ, անկրկնելի: Դրանք մեզ հասած առաջին պահպանված ձեռագրերն են,- «Մեդիալաբին» ասում է Մատենադարանի գլխավոր ավանդապահ, ձեռագրատան վարիչ Գեւորգ Տեր-Վարդանյանը,- Մեզ մոտ է Ավետարանի 409 էջերը, Աստված տա որ մնացածն էլ վերադարձվի»: Նա նշում է, որ ի տարբերություն այն գրեթե 9000 ձեռագիր մատյանների, որոնց ճակատագիրը Հայոց Ցեղասպանության տարիներից ի վեր անհայտ է, Զեյթունի Ավետարանը երկար ճանապարհից հետո հանգրվանել է Մատենադրանում, իսկ պակասող յոթ նկարազարդ էջերի գտնվելու մասին տեղեկություններ եղել են դեռեւս 90-աններից:
Ավետարանը պատկանել է Ցեղասպանության ժամանակ Դեր Զոր արտաքսված Զեյթունի իշխանական Սուրենյան տոհմին:
Այն այլ կերպ անվանվել է նաեւ «Պատերազմի Ավետարան», որը ըստ հավատի, գերբնական ուժ է պարգեւել մարտի գնացողներին:
«Զեյթունի ավետարանը համարվում է հրաշագործ,- «Մեդիալաբին» ասում է Գրականության ինստիտուտի փոխտնօրեն, Մատենադարանի գիտաշխատող Վարդան Դեվրիկյանը,-Ժողովուրդը հավատում է, որ հրաշագործ ավետարանները բժշկող, հրաշագործ հատկություններով են օժտված: Դա մեր հարստությունն է, եւ պիտի վերադարձվի»:
Դեվրիկյանն ասում է, որ բացակայող էջերը մանրանկարների հաջորդող շարք է եղել, որոնց արժեքը չափազանց բարձր է:
«Ցուցահանդեսում ներկայացված են Հայկական Ավետարանի խրթին եւ արժեքավոր նկարազարդումներ միջնադարյան հայ մեծագույն մանրանկարիչ Թորոս Ռոսլինի հանրահայտ աշխատանքները»,-նշված է Ջ. Փոլ Գեթթի թանգարանի տարբեր տարիների ցուցահանդեսների հայտարարություններում:
«Իմանալով, որ այդ էջերն օտարի ձեռքում հայտնվել են Ցեղասպանության արդյունքում, թանգարանն այնուամենայնիվ գնել է դրանք,-ասում է Ռուբեն Սաֆրաստյանը, որը նշում է, թե հայ-թուրքական սառեցված հարաբերությունների եւ ԱՄՆ-ի` Ցեղասպանության ժխտողական քաղաքականության ֆոնին նման դատական հայցը մեծ հնչեղություն կարող է ստանալ:
«Սենատում կախված վիճակում է ցեղասպանության ճանաչման բանաձեւը, իսկ ԱՄՆ նախագահը կրկին անգամ խուսափեց օգտագործել Ցեղասպանություն բառը, այն դեպքում երբ ԱՄՆ-ի լայն շրջանակներ վաղուց արդեն ընդունել են Ցեղասպանությունը,-ասում է Սաֆրաստյանը,-Այս հայցը լրատվամիջոցների կողմից արդեն իսկ լայնորեն լուսաբանվում է, եւ հետո էլ հասարակական լայն հնչեղություն կստանա:
Մի հայց, որով Ամերիկայում պահանջվում է ցեղասպանության ժամանակ կրած կորուստների փոխհատուցում»:
Նկարում` Թորոս Ռոսլին. Գեթթի թանգարանում գտնվող էջերից
Posted 05 November 2011 - 02:04 PM
The Getty Museum is in a legal fight over Armenian Bible pages
Armenian Orthodox Church seeks eight pages of the Zeyt'un Gospels that the Getty Museum bought in 1994. The Getty asked the motion to be dismissed, but judge orders mediation.
By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles TimesNovember 4, 2011
The J. Paul Getty Trust failed Thursday to derail a lawsuit by the Armenian Orthodox Church that accuses the museum of harboring stolen illuminated medieval manuscripts — 755-year-old works that are masterpieces and, to the church, spiritually and historically sacred.
After a brief hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan denied the Getty's motion to dismiss the claim. The museum's attorneys argued that the deadline for filing the suit had passed decades ago under the statute of limitations. But the judge said that's "not clear" and ordered four months of mediation, scheduling a March 2 resumption if the case isn't settled.
At that point, the judge said, he might focus on the complicated history of the pages' journey from the Turkish region of Cilicia to America during and after the World War I-era Armenian genocide, in order to determine whether the suit filed last year meets the six-year statute of limitations.
The West Coast branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America — acting on behalf of its mother church, the Lebanon-based Holy See of Cilicia — hopes to recover the eight folded pieces of painted parchment that once formed the front pages of a larger work called the Zeyt'un Gospels. The Getty Museum bought the pages in 1994 for $950,000. The church wants to send them to a museum in Yerevan, capital of the Republic of Armenia, so they can be reunited with the rest of the Zeyt'un Gospels, housed there since the 1960s.
Though disappointed with the ruling, the Getty said in a statement, "we are confident that we hold legal title." Lee Boyd, heading the church's legal team, said after the hearing that the Getty failed to investigate the pages' provenance — or ownership history — when it bought them from Armenian American heirs of a man the church says stole the pages in 1916. The Zeyt'un Gospels briefly had fallen into his hands amid the upheaval of the Turks' expulsion of the Armenian community from Cilicia, then a region of the Ottoman Empire and now part of Turkey.
Boyd said that the Getty also failed in 1994 to consult with officials of the Matenadaran, the museum in Armenia whose collection includes the rest of the Bible created in 1256 by T'oros Roslin, whom the Getty's website describes as "the most accomplished master of Armenian manuscript illumination."
The head of a leading manuscript archive said this week that instead of falling back on legal arguments, the Getty should be addressing ethical issues — and conclude that returning the pages would be proper.
Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk and executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., said that a whole work of art is better than a divided one, and that when a museum has the power to turn a fragmented manuscript into a complete one, it should do so.
"It's better from an artistic perspective … it can [then] be studied by scholars as a whole object," said Stewart, whose museum is creating a comprehensive digital archive of Christian manuscripts from around the world, and last month won the National Medal for Museum and Library Service — the federal government's highest award in the field.
Acquiring individual sheets of a manuscript is improper, he said, unless the original work already is so fragmented or scattered that there's little chance it can be made whole. Museums must avoid "contributing to an improper fragmentation of a work. In this instance, it would not be a terribly complex matter to restore the whole."
Beyond that, Stewart said, the Getty, which in recent years repatriated more than 40 artifacts to Greece and Italy after evidence showed they had been looted from archaeological sites, should consider that these works are still venerated: "Here's a living, breathing religious community, as opposed to classical antiquities."
Responding in writing to Stewart's criticisms, Elizabeth Morrison, the Getty's acting senior curator of manuscripts, said that "well-regarded … collections around the world" contain individual manuscript sheets. "The Getty in no way condones the practice of taking apart manuscripts, but we continue to collect individual leaves after careful examination proves that they have not recently been removed … with motives of financial gain."
The Republic of Armenia and the government-run Matenadaran are not parties to the dispute, although the museum's director, Hrachya Tamrazyan, last year sent a letter to church attorneys, confirming that "we have asked you to represent … the interest of the Republic of Armenia … including the Matenadaran, using your best efforts to obtain the return of these treasures … to their rightful owners."
In an interview Wednesday, Grigor Hovhannissian, the Armenian consul general in Los Angeles, said that the museum director was speaking for himself, not the government, which is taking "a wait and see position.... There are issues we need to understand better."
Hovhannissian said this is the first cultural patrimony case to have emerged since Armenia became an independent nation 20 years ago. The case has been reported in the Armenian media, he said, and "there's quite a bit of emotion, an emotionally charged atmosphere when talking about this piece of art."
Vartkes Yeghiayan, an attorney for the church, said that its legal team has identified at least 60 other Armenian manuscripts in American collections — at Yale, Harvard and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, among others — that may have been stolen. Further suits may result, he said, if church authorities give the go-ahead.
The suit against the Getty says that before the Armenian genocide, the Zeyt'un Gospels resided at a church in Cilicia, where the work was venerated and believed to possess holy powers that would protect the community in times of war. In 1915, as Armenians in Turkey were being killed or expelled, the suit says, the Bible was paraded through the streets "to create a divine firewall of protection around the city."
It began to change hands for safekeeping, and in 1916, the suit says, the disputed sheets were removed, resurfacing with an Armenian American immigrant family in Massachusetts that sold them to the Getty.
The pages emerged in 1994 as an anonymous loan from the family to an exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City, which traveled to the Walters Art Museum, where a critic for the Baltimore Sun described the Zeyt'un pages as a "tour de force … with their elaborate trees, scrolls, cornucopias, columns, vases and pitchers, and no fewer than 26 pairs of birds wearing brilliant plumage." The Getty bought them at that time — a period when it was also acquiring antiquities despite clear evidence they had been recently looted.
Under California law, suits to recover allegedly stolen artworks from a museum or art dealer must be filed no later than six years after the owner learns of their whereabouts. The Getty contends that articles published in 1943 and 1952 prove that the church knew that the Massachusetts family had the pages and should have sued for their return back then.
Boyd, the church's lawyer, disputed that, adding that the Getty is ignoring the historical reality then facing the Holy See of Cilicia, which ministers to Armenian Orthodox adherents in North America and the eastern Mediterranean. As church leaders tried to help persecuted refugees rebuild shattered lives, she said, "cultural objects were the last thing on their mind."
Times staff writer Jason Felch contributed to this report.
Posted 05 November 2011 - 02:05 PM
Getty loses bid to dismiss art-restitution lawsuit
The J. Paul Getty Trust is squaring off against the Armenian Orthodox Church in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and on Thursday the church won the first important procedural round in its bid to reclaim eight prized medieval manuscripts (a detail is pictured above) it contends were stolen goods when the Getty bought them for $950,000 in 1994.
The Getty tried to have the suit dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds, arguing that church officials were aware of the manuscripts' whereabouts by 1952 and should have sued at that time, when they were owned by an Armenian-American family in Massachusetts -- the heirs of a man who had brought them out of the province of Cilicia as the Ottoman Turks were expelling the province's Armenian population during the World War I-era Armenian genocide.
Superior Court Judge Abraham Khan denied the Getty’s motion, saying that it was "not clear" that church officials knew what the Getty says they knew when it says they knew it. He said the statute-of-limitations law could come into play in a future hearing but that he would want to hear evidence about the complicated path the 755-year-old pages took starting in 1916, when they were separated from a larger bible known as the Zeyt'un Gospels.
The Getty’s pages are lavishly illustrated Canon Tables -– citations of parallel verses from the four New Testament gospels, which served as a kind of frontispiece for the bible created in 1256 by T’oros Roslin, considered the greatest Armenian manuscript illuminator.
The church aims to make the Zeyt’un Gospels whole again by winning back the missing pages from the Getty and sending them to the Matenadaran, a major manuscript museum in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, which has housed the rest of the Zeyt’un Gospels since the late 1960s.
Here's the full story about the decision. It includes a rarity in the controversy-shy, ultra-cautious art-museum world: Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John's University in Minnesota and a Benedictine monk, is openly calling on the Getty to repatriate a contested masterpiece. Stewart says the issue shouldn't be decided by legalities, but by the ethical imperative of turning a fragmented artwork into one that's whole.
Under a California law that was passed last year and pertains solely to allegedly stolen artworks owned by museums or art dealers, plaintiffs have six years to sue after they discover a missing work's whereabouts. The Getty says the clock has long since run out because the owner, the Lebanon-based branch of the Armenian Orthodox Church known as the Holy See of Cilicia, knew where the missing pages were by mid-century. Attorneys for the church dispute that, saying that the church didn't even realize until 2006 that the bible housed in Yerevan was missing its front pages.
The new law greatly relaxes the statute of limitations, which had started the clock running not when victimized former owners actually knew where their allegedly stolen art was, but at the time when they should have known if they were being reasonably vigilant about tracking down what they'd lost.
Under the old standard, the clock (which at the time called for a three-year deadline rather than six years) might well have begun running in 1994. That's when the Zeyt’un Gospels pages were loaned anonymously to an exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The Getty bought them the same year.
In its motion to dismiss the suit, which Khan denied, the Getty also contended that the new statute-of-limitations law is unconstitutional because it singles out museums and art dealers and does not include private owners of art. Arguing that displaying art is a form of free speech protected under the 1st Amendment, the Getty said the new law improperly penalizes museums and galleries for exercising their free-speech rights.
Countering in court pleadings, the church's attorneys wrote that "exhibiting stolen property is not protected under the First Amendment," and argued that the California Legislature legitimately can hold museums and art delears to a higher standard than the general public when it comes to possession of stolen artworks.The judge said the constitutional argument didn't need to be addressed in his ruling Thursday.
James Cuno says he accepts the Getty's antiquities acquisition policy
Find a middle ground: Armenian Church and the Getty should work together
Schwarzenegger decision could impact looted-art claim against Norton Simon Museum
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Detail of an image from T'oros Roslin's 1256 manuscript, the Zeyt'un Gospels. Credit: J. Paul Getty Museum
Posted 22 September 2015 - 10:00 AM
ETTY MUSEUM AND ARMENIAN CHURCH REACH AGREEMENT OVER 13TH-CENTURY MANUSCRIPT
09:57, 22 Sep 2015
The Getty Museum will keep eight brilliantly illustrated table of
contents pages from a 750-year-old Armenian Bible after settling a
long-running lawsuit brought by an American branch of the Armenian
Apostolic Church, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The church contended they had been illegally separated from the rest
of the book amid the Armenian genocide during World War I.
The Getty and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church
of America jointly announced the settlement Monday. Both sides said
they were happy with the outcome, but for very different reasons.
The Getty gets to keep the art, and the church gets recognition
that all along it has been the rightful owner of the pages, which
were separated about 100 years ago from a complete Bible called the
The rest of the book is at the Matenadaran, a museum and library for
manuscripts in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The Getty bought its
pages in 1994 from an Armenian American family for $1.5 million in
Under the settlement, attorneys said, the church will donate the eight
pages, known as a "canon table" that prefaces the rest of the Bible,
to the Getty on Jan. 1, 2016. The Getty will pay all legal expenses
from the suit the church had brought in 2010 - a sum attorneys for
the two sides declined to disclose.
"It's a resolution both sides are equally happy with, a win-win," said
Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum. "It's an acknowledgment
of their ownership, but maintains the work as an integral part of
the collection here."
Potts said that the Getty will keep custody of the manuscript pages
until it officially takes ownership.
They were created during the mid-1200s by a renowned Armenian artist,
T'oros Roslin, but were separated from the rest of the Zeyt'un Bible
sometime during the upheaval caused by the Armenian genocide of 1915
to 1918. It claimed the lives of about 1.2 million Armenians under
the Ottoman Empire, which became the modern republic of Turkey. The
Turkish government disputes that a genocide took place.
Lee Boyd, the attorney for the Armenian church, said its main objective
was not to wrest the pages from the Getty, which it feels has been a
good custodian and offers continuing access to a Southern California
public that includes a large number of Armenian Americans.
The foremost goal, she said, was to set the historic record straight
and draw attention to the fact that there is much unfinished legal
business for heirs of Armenian families or institutions that lost
property during the genocide.
"This is the first restitution of an artwork from the Armenian
genocide," Boyd said. "I hope it's not the last. The case was
brought to acknowledge the ownership of the church and [establish]
recognition that they were taken during the Armenian genocide. It
had devastating effects felt for generations, including much loss of
cultural patrimony, particularly of the Armenian church."
Before the settlement, according to court files, the church had sought
the pages' return, along with damages of at least $35 million. But
both sides would have been on unpredictable legal terrain had the
case proceeded, complicated by what Potts described as "lots of gray
areas and facts we don't know" relating to the manuscript pages'
whereabouts during and immediately after World War I.
According to court documents, the Zeyt'un Gospels were housed at a
church in a traditionally Armenian area of what's now Turkey. As chaos
broke out, members of the Armenian community removed the prized Bible
from the church for safe keeping. At some point the front pages with
the most beautiful art were separated from the rest.
They wound up in possession of an Armenian man who immigrated to the
United States in 1923, settling in Massachusetts. That family handed
them down through generations until the Getty bought them more than
70 years later.
The pages became a highlight of the Getty's collection of illuminated
manuscripts. The materials - paint on vellum, a parchment made from
calf's skin -- are too fragile and light-sensitive to be on permanent
or frequent display, Potts said. But as delicate medieval manuscripts
go, the Zeyt'un canon tables have been in heavy rotation, with one or
more pages displayed in 11 exhibitions since 1997 - 10 at the Getty
and one at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
They will have been out of view for 19 months when all eight pages
go back on display Jan. 26 in the Getty's exhibition "Traversing the
Globe Through Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts."
The church's legal position got a boost in December 2013 from a
ruling in another art-restitution case brought against a Spanish
museum, involving California heirs of a family that lost a painting
by Camille Pissarro during the Holocaust.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to declare
unconstitutional a special 2011 California law that extends the
statute of limitations for claims to recover allegedly stolen works
held by museums and art dealers. That took away some of the Getty's
But Boyd, the Armenian church's attorney, said that pushing forward
rather than settling the suit would have meant fighting additional
procedural battles over whether the church had waited too long to sue.
In court documents the Getty had pointed to articles published in
1943 and 1952 that showed church officials were fully aware that the
family in Massachusetts possessed the canon tables, and did not take
action to get them back.
Also important to the settlement, Boyd said, was the knowledge that the
Getty can give the artworks the best scholarly attention and technical
care. "The Matenadaran has expanded its preservation abilities, but
[Armenia] is still an emerging economy and the resources are not there
as they are at the Getty," she said. Boyd said "there are hopes this
resolution will forge a relation between the Getty and the Armenian
church" in which the Getty, which has an international program for
art conservation, would take on projects in Armenia.
Potts said that "it could happen...but that hasn't been a part of the
The museum director said another future possibility is a joint
exhibition in which the Getty would loan its pages to the Matenadaran
for an exhibition of the entire Zeyt'un gospels in Armenia, and in
turn the full book would be shown at the Getty.
More likely in the near term, Potts said, is a ceremony to mark the
church's donation of the art to the museum.
"It's an important moment for both parties, and we would love for
there to be some such event," he said.
Posted 14 October 2015 - 10:05 AM
FAILURE TO REPATRIATE VANDALIZED ZEYTHOUN GOSPELS' FOLIOS
Rev.Dr. Vrej N.Nersessian, London, England, 23 September 2015
The "Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English" defines restitution
as "restoring of property &c to its owner". In no sense can the
settlement with Paul Getty Museum be described as fulfilling the
This Gospel was copied in the scriptorium of Hromkla, Seat of the
Armenian Catholicosate of All Armenians when the Armenian See was
in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The manuscript was copied and
illuminated by the foremost artist of the medieval world Toros Roslin
in 1256, upon the request of Catholicos Kostandin I Barjrberdtsi
It is called the Gospels of Zeythoun because, for a time, it was kept
in that region, before it became part of the Madenataran collection
(now Manuscript .No.10450). This is first of the seven manuscripts
signed by Roslin. The missing leaves with the miniatures of the
Canon Tables, once belonging to a Mr. Atamian of Watertown (suburb of
Boston), were purchased by the Paul Getty Museum "70 years ago". Is
it conceivable that the museum does not have a record of the exact
date of the purchase?
The true owner of the manuscript is the Catholicasate of the See of
Cilicia. The settlement is unsatisfactory and hypocritical. The Paul
Getty stance is very similar to the argument of the British Museum
concerning the fragments of the Parthenon. In that controversy, the
museum claimed that the marbles were also bought legally by Lord Elgin
at a time when Greece was under Ottoman occupation and the Turks were
not the ideal custodians of cultural heritage of any nation be it of
the Greeks or the Armenians. If the whole botched incident was to win
publicity on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide
for the J. Paul Getty Museum it has certainly succeeded. But since the
"settlement" has failed to have the fragment returned to its rightful
owner, the plaintiffs have failed miserably.
Without wishing to rub salt on our collective defeat, it is worth
remembering that in 2011, I succeeded in repatriating to Jerusalem two
magnificent vandalized miniatures of the famous Queen Keran Gospels,
also copied and illuminated by Roslin in 1272, in Sis, the capital
city of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. The leaves were returned to
Jerusalem and recently, with expert assistance from the Madenataran,
were re-inserted into the Queen Keran Gospels (Jerusalem Manuscript
The leaves, missing from the Queen Keran Gospels since 1910, were
bought and sold by the Dutch art dealer Michel Van Rijn [see:
Icons and East Christian Works of Art,1980]. In 1987 the leaves
were purchased by Mr. Thanassis Martinos, who having been convinced
when seeking authentication for the miniatures from the author,
that they belonged to a manuscript in the collection of the Armenian
Patriarchate of Jerusalem, agreed to return it as a gift. The story
of its discovery and return to Jerusalem is told in Rev. Dr. Vrej
Nersessian, The Repatriation of an Armenian cultural Treasure. The
Gospel of Queen Keran, Sis, Cilicia,1272AD, London 2011.
Mount Ararat, Ani, the seven provinces of Western Armenia were also
owned by Armenia and Armenians. There is not a single person in the
world who would negate this claim. But is it now back in the hands
of its lawful owner? No.
Isn't it customary that a story of failure in our history receives
more attention and publicity than a story of success?
Keghart.com: See Getty Museum and Armenian Church Reach Agreement
Rev.Dr. Vrej N.Nersessian was the former curator in charge of the
Christian Middle East Section in the British Library,1975-2012.
Posted 26 January 2016 - 10:38 AM
GETTY DISPLAYS PAGES OF MEDIEVAL ARMENIAN BIBLE
14:11, 26 Jan 2016
Visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles can see for themselves
what a legal battle that raged for five years was all about. Two
brilliantly illuminated pages--part of a table of contents from the
Zeyt'un Gospels, a Medieval Armenian bible--are on show as part of
the exhibition Traversing the Globe Through Medieval and Renaissance
Manuscripts (until 26 June), The Art Newspaper reports.
The Getty bought eight of these contents pages, known as a canon
table, for $950,000 from an Armenian-American family in 1994. But
their proper ownership has been in question since 2010, when a US
branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church brought a lawsuit against the
Getty, maintaining that the pages had been looted during the Armenian
genocide of the First World War.
The lawsuit was finally settled last year, when the Getty acknowledged
the church as the rightful owner and agreed to pay undisclosed lawyers'
fees. The church agreed to donate the pages to the museum.
The pages are by the 13th-century Armenian master Toros Roslin, who
worked in tempera and gold paint on parchment. A page on show at the
Getty for the first time in more than a decade reveals how he blends
natural forms such as twisting pomegranate trees and roosters with
architecture, using a brilliant palette of green, gold, red and blue.
Posted 20 May 2016 - 10:03 AM
Getty Museum to present on Armenian manuscript illumination at Brand Library
10:45, 20 May 2016
Asbarez – The Armenian American Museum and Ararat-Eskijian Museum will
co-host “Curator in the Spotlight: Illuminating the Armenian Middle
Ages” at the Brand Library & Art Center at 7pm on Thursday, May 26.
The event will present a lecture by Dr. Elizabeth Morrison, Senior
Curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Dr. Elizabeth Morrison will discuss the fascinating world of medieval
Armenian manuscript illumination, which is admired across the world
for its delicacy, vibrancy and sheer beauty. The luminous colors and
complex figures of these precious relics made entirely by hand delight
the eye and engage the senses. In addition to giving an overview of
the illumination tradition, Dr. Morrison will focus on the work of
T’oros Roslin, the most celebrated Armenian artist of the Middle Ages,
whose innovations were integral to the conception of the painted page
for centuries to come.
Dr. Elizabeth Morrison received her Ph.D. in the History of Art from
Cornell University and began work at the Getty in 1996. She has
curated numerous exhibitions and published articles on both Flemish
and French illumination. She has served on the Board of Directors of
the International Center of Medieval Art and is currently a counselor
for the Medieval Academy of America.
This program is one in a series taking place in conjunction with
“Armenia: An Open Wound” an exhibition presented by The City of
Glendale and the Library, Arts & Culture Department in partnership
with the Armenian American Museum and curated by the Museo Memoria y
Tolerancia [Museum of Memory & Tolerance] in Mexico City. The exhibit
will be on view at the Brand Library Art Galleries through June 11,
2016 during the library’s regular hours: Tuesday and Thursday 12-8pm,
Wednesday 12-6pm, and Friday and Saturday, 10am-5pm. Docent-led tours
are available every Tuesday, 6:30 PM and Saturday, 10:30 AM on a
walk-in basis. All events are free and open to the public.
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