In September 2005, academician Ivan Yuhnovski and the correspondent member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) Yordan Yordanov visited the Archaeological Museum and found that the precious head of Seuthes III was missing. It turned out that it was given by Bulgaria for restoration without the knowledge of the President of BAS. But how was this made possible and can we be certain today that the artifact is authentic?
The head, uncovered by Associate Professor Georgi Kitov in September 2004 at the foot of the Bulgarian mound “Golyamata Kosmatka”, was sent to Italy for restoration in August 2005. It returned to Bulgaria on January 18, 2006. However, the lack of permission from BAS for this operation is not the only violation. There are many mandatory requirements before sending such artefact for restoration:
– An Expert Council must be appointed – internal hiring of the National Archaeology Institute and Museum at BAS or extended;
– Photographic documentation of the artefact;
– Measuring the exact weight with electronic scales;
– Performing isotopic indication, laser and X samples;
– Making an inner mold;
– Creating a three-dimensional image of the head with precise dimensions.
All this is recorded accurately and the protocols are not given to the restorer. Once the original artifact is returned, the protocols are compared with the protocols that the restorer has done. It is clear why – to exclude any attempt to replace the original and any intervention outside the set parameters.
None of the above has been done before the head was sent to Italy. That is why it cannot be claimed with certainty now that the artifact that left Bulgaria is the same as the one the country got back.
Things are not in order with the parameters of the restoration itself either. Edilberto Formigli worked on the head in Italy. He has been selected in secret, without competition. Moreover, no one has decided precisely what and how he should restore under the adopted procedure. There is no record of an expert committee of artists, restorers and art historians on the need for restoring one or another detail of the head. And especially on the eyes – the soul of the artifact.
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The new eyes the King
Now seem to be ridiculously staring, not mystically focused. However, by looking at the pictures of the head before the restoration (see here) and after, you can form your own opinion whether the latter was aesthetically successful.
In order not to have the eyes shift while the head was transported to the Louvre, it traveled with goggles, according to sources of Bivol, who have seen the preparations for the famed exhibition that opened on April 14, precisely with the head of Seuthes III, as the flagship of the Thracian art artefacts. No one knows why the Italian restorer took up exactly with the eyes. They were made of glass paste with alabaster and iron, which gives a brown hue of the glance. The bottoms of the eyes were painted red, which was also restored.
For comparison, the head of Nefertiti, discovered 100 years ago, remains with its one preserved eye and it never crossed the Germans’ mind to beautify it by additional painting.
But whether only Seuthes’ eye were tempered with?
This cannot be claimed with certainty either, because the scientific documentation is missing and no one knows what the head’s original state was. There is nothing to compare with after the head of Seuthes III returned from its illegal journey to Italy. The mask was not marked before doing the mold and multiple copies can be made from it. Detailed photos, bordering microscopic one, mostly of the eyes, an inner mold and markings could and should have been made in Bulgaria, in a BAS institute. All this is not an improvisation, but global standards and clearly defined internal regulations that were not met. The lack of compliance with them opens the possibility (God forbid!) for the replacement of the original. And we do not need to underscore how desirable such replacement would be for certain collectors – local or foreign.
The usual question of who decided where and how the head should be restored can be answered with certainty – the decision was made by the Director of National Archaeology Institute and Museum at BAS, and not by the person in charge of this. A panel of professionals, critics, artists, archaeologists was not convened. Georgi Kitov, himself, was not sought for opinion. The President of BAS was not informed whether it was necessary to restore the head, exactly which part of it, where, when and by whom.
According to information, obtained by Bivol, the initiator of the restoration in Italy was the Director of the Exhibits Department at the National Archaeology Institute and Museum at BAS, Maria Reho, who is close to the Institute’s Director, Professor Vasil Nikolov. She is Italian, married to a Bulgarian. In the four months, during which the head was not in Bulgaria, Reho went on a business trip to Italy three times, twice accompanied by the Head of the Restoration Shop at the National Archaeology Institute and Museum at BAS, Petya Penkova, and by restorer Maria Petkova. Penkova is also known as the “chief restorer” of artifacts owned by shady businessman Vasil Bozhkov AKA The Skull.
Academic Yuhnovski confirmed for Bivol the numerous violations. According to him, the very Reho has taken the head to Italy “in a plastic bag” without his knowledge. He did not know whether it was duly issued a passport, but he is sure that it has not been insured. As President of BAS, Yuhnovski has requested an explanation from the Museum Director Professor Vasil Nikolov and has imposed administrative sanctions. Who exactly he sanctioned and how, Yuhnovski could not remember.
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