Welcome to NewsFile, our weekly round-up of newsy tidbits and happenings from the world of contemporary ceramic art and contemporary ceramics. This week, we begin with the FBI pointing a finger at an American for a disappeared digit (ceramic, of course).
Terracotta Thumb Thief Targeted
Ripped from a life-size terracotta warrior on loan from China to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, The New York Times writes the FBI is now pointing their finger at an American attending an ugly Christmas sweater party at the institute for the swipe. The Times reports security footage appears to show Michael Rohana entering the exhibition space, placing his arm around the statue and snapping a selfie before reaching for a more permanent memento.
He grabbed the left hand of the statue, which is valued at $4.5 million, and broke off its thumb. Taking the piece with him, he left with friends for his home in Bear, Del.
The statue was one of 10 on display in the Franklin Institute’s “Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor” special exhibit from September 30 to March 4. The theft, which was only noticed by the institute on January 8, has provoked anger internationally, especially from China, as the Terracotta Army from The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor is one of the country’s most important archaeological finds.
The terra-cotta warriors were built for the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor. He united much of the country under the short-lived Qin dynasty, which is generally considered the origin of the name “China.”
Thousands of the life-size statues, each unique, were buried with models of horses, chariots and weapons after the emperor’s death in 210 B.C. The tomb and its contents were not discovered until farmers unearthed some of them in 1974.
National Geographic adds Rohana has been charged with theft and concealment of a major artwork, as well as interstate transportation of stolen goods. He was released on bail on February 16.
The Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, who loaned the statues out to the Franklin Institute, “strongly condemned” the museum for being “careless.” The center also said it was going to send two experts to assess the damage and repair the statue with the recovered thumb. There would be a claim for compensation, it added.
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