Spanish museum returns 2 paintings looted by Nazis to Poland
MADRID (AP) — A museum in northwest Spain returned two 15th-century paintings to Polish officials on Wednesday after it was determined that they had been looted by Nazi German forces during World War II.
The paintings “Mater Dolorosa” (Mother of Sorrows) and “Ecce Homo” were handed over to a delegation from Poland’s culture ministry. According to Spain’s Museum of Pontevedra, the works were originally believed to be by Dieric Bouts, a Flemish master born in the Dutch town of Haarlem, but now they are attributed to a member of his school or group.
The museum said that in 2020 Polish officials made it aware that the works had been looted by Nazi forces. The museum quickly decided to send them back to Poland, but the completion of official permits for the transfer had delayed it until now.
Nazi forces stole the works from the Czartoryski collection in Gołuchów when the city was occupied by the German military in WWII, Polish officials said. They appeared in Madrid in 1973 and had been in the Pontevedra museum since 1994 when they were acquired among over 300 works purchased from a Spanish private collector.
Poland saw much of its cultural patrimony destroyed or looted during the country’s wartime occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and about 500,000 items remain missing.
The country has been making efforts to recover as much as possible. The Culture Ministry has a division for looted art that keeps a database of missing objects and scours foreign collections and auctions. When they locate a looted Polish painting, book or other object, they inform the law enforcement officials of that country.
AP writer Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.
The Negation of Reality in Roald Dahl’s Literary Classic
From the Brownstone Institute
Last weekend it was reported how books by the popular children’s book author, Roald Dahl, are now being republished after significant changes to the texts. According to The Guardian, the changes are only about removing “offensive language” from his books. The Roald Dahl Story Company says the changes are minor and only about making the text more accessible and “inclusive“ to modern readers.
Gerald Posner covered the issue on February 19th, citing a few examples of changes, which are certainly not minor; entire paragraphs are removed or altered beyond recognition. There are hundreds of changes, Posner says, agreeing with writer Salman Rushdie who has called these changes “absurd censorship.”
Nick Dixon has published a short piece on the matter in the Daily Skeptic, pointing out how some of the changes make Dahl’s text lifeless and flat and how all humour is carefully removed. Example from Matilda: “Your daughter Vanessa, judging by what she’s learnt this term, has no hearing organs at all” becomes “Judging by what your daughter Vanessa has learnt this term, this fact alone is more interesting than anything I have taught in the classroom.”
In other cases, the meaning simply disappears: “It nearly killed Ashton as well. Half the skin came away from his scalp” becomes “It didn’t do Ashton much good.” Some of the changes are outright absurdly silly, considering when the original text was written. One example Dixon takes: “Even if she is working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman” becomes “Even if she is working as a top scientist or running a business.”
“Mother” becomes “parent,” “man” becomes “person,” and “men” become “people.” “We eat little boys and girls” becomes “We eat little children.” Boys and girls have no right to exist anymore, no more than mothers or fathers; biological sex is prohibited. But the censors, sarcastically called Inclusive Minds, don’t seem to be bothered by the practice of eating children.
References to authors currently banned for unfashionable beliefs are removed or changed. Joseph Conrad becomes Jane Austen. Rudyard Kipling becomes John Steinbeck.
Nothing is mild enough to escape the watchful eyes of the censors, Dixon says, noting how “Shut up, you nut!” becomes “Ssshhh!” and “turning white” becomes “turning quite pale.” To the “inclusive,“ “white“ is a forbidden word of course.
Suzanne Nossel, president of the American branch of the PEN writers’ organization, expresses her dismay in an interview with the Washington Post. “Literature is meant to be surprising and provocative,” Nossel says, explaining how attempts at purging texts of words that might offend someone “dilute the power of storytelling.”
Roald Dahl is by no means uncontroversial. But his stories are the actual stories he wrote. The watered down and sanitised texts of the censors are simply no longer the author’s stories.
Or, as Posner concludes: “Words matter. The problem is that the Dahl sensitivity censorship sets a template for other hugely successful author franchises. Readers should know that the words they read are no longer the words the author wrote.”
The destruction of Roald Dahl’s books is yet another sign of the all-pervasive negation of reality we now face. We see this negation all around us, in literature, history, politics, economics, even in the sciences. Objective reality gives way to subjective experience, emotions, or preferences in place of what is true.
It gives way, in fact, to radical subjectivism, which might just be the logical, yet contradictory conclusion of the victorious march of individualism in the West over the past few decades. It gives way, until all our common points of reference are gone, until our common sense has all but disappeared; until, atomised, lonely, incapable of meaningful communication, we no longer share a society. What takes its place will surely be no fairy tale.
And what better example of this negation of reality than the Guardian’s headline, whereby the total destruction of the work of a beloved author becomes “removing offensive language” in a few places?
Republished from the author’s Substack
Visitors can see famed Florence baptistry’s mosaics up close
By Francesco Sportelli in Florence
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Visitors to one of Florence’s most iconic monuments — the Baptistry of San Giovanni, opposite the city’s Duomo — are getting a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see its ceiling mosaics up close thanks to an innovative approach to a planned restoration effort.
Rather than limit the public’s access during the six-year cleaning of the vault, officials built a scaffolding platform for the art restorers that will also allow small numbers of visitors to see the ceiling mosaics at eye level.
“We had to turn this occasion into an opportunity to make it even more accessible and usable by the public through special routes that would bring visitors into direct contact with the mosaics,” Samuele Caciagli, the architect in charge of the restoration site, said.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Caciagli called the new scaffolding tour of the baptistry vault “a unique opportunity that is unlikely to be repeated in the coming decades.”
The scaffolding platform sprouts like a mushroom from the floor of the baptistry and reaches a height of 32 meters (105 feet) from the ground. Visits are set to start Feb. 24 and must be reserved in advance.
The octagonal-shaped baptistry is one of the most visible monuments of Florence. Its exterior features an alternating geometric pattern of white Carrara and green Prato marble and three great bronze doors depicting biblical scenes.
Inside, however, are spectacular mosaic scenes of The Last Judgment and John the Baptist dating from the 13th century and created using some 10 million pieces of stone and glass over 1,000 square meters of dome and wall.
The six-year restoration project is the first in over a century. It initially involves conducting studies on the current state of the mosaics to determine what needs to be done. The expected work includes addressing any water damage to the mortar , removing decades of grime and reaffixing the stones to prevent them from detaching.
“(This first phase) is a bit like the diagnosis of a patient: a whole series of diagnostic investigations are carried out to understand what pathologies of degradation are present on the mosaic material but also on the whole attachment package that holds this mosaic material to the structure behind it,” Beatrice Agostini, who is in charge of the restoration work, said.
The Baptistry of San Giovanni and its mosaics have undergone previous restorations over the centuries, many of them inefficient or even damaging to the structure. During one botched effort in 1819, an entire section of mosaics detached. Persistent water damage from roof leaks did not get resolved until 2014-2015.
Roberto Nardi, director of the Archaeological Conservation Center, the private company managing the restoration, said the planned work wouldn’t introduce any material that is foreign to the original types of stone and mortar used centuries ago.
“It is a mix of science, technology, experience and tradition,” he said.
The origins of the baptistry are something of a mystery. Some believe it was once a pagan temple, though the current structure dates from the 4th or 5th centuries.
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