Furtum Sacrum

The Codex Calixtinus, the twelfth-century manuscript containing the oldest version of the so-called “Pilgrim’s Guide to St James,” has “disappeared” from a safe in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.   Staff discovered its absence late on Tuesday but it is not clear when exactly the manuscript was stolen, if theft there is.  There were no signs of forced entry, and only two people, in addition to the dean of the cathedral, have access to the manuscript.  El País, which offers the most extensive coverage of the mystery that I have seen, notes that its value is “incalculable.”  Like many medieval manuscripts around the world, the Codex Calixtinus is not insured.

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Better than Fiction (For the Third Time)

You all know Michael Frayn’s Headlong, his 1999 novel about the discovery of an unknown painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (d. 1569).  Real life has caught up with fiction, again.  Art historians at Madrid’s Prado have identified a new work by the master, The Wine on St. Martin’s Day, probably dating from the latter years of his career, between 1565 and 1568.  Judging by the (small) pictures of it I have seen, it is in poor shape, perhaps because it was painted in tempera on linen, a technique Bruegel is known to have used occasionally.  I suspect there is considerable overpainting as well.  If confirmed–and the evidence does look very good–this is without doubt a major, major find.

By the way, the BBC’s report has a photograph of Angeles Gonzalez Sinde, the Spanish minister of Culture, standing next to the painting (which we don’t get to see really).  This statement attributed to her is sure to raise eyebrows in Belgium and the Netherlands:

The Spanish culture minister indicated she was confident of securing the painting for the nation.

Ahem.