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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 4, 2016

The Cleveland Museum of Art to transfer 14th-century manuscript leaf to U.S. government for delivery to Italy

Carole Rendon, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and The Cleveland Museum of Art (the Museum) announced today the transfer of a 14th-century manuscript leaf from an Antiphonary to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for delivery to Italy making possible its re-integration with the Antiphonary.

The Master of Dominican Effigies, an important illuminator, created an illuminated manuscript known as Codex D sometime between 1335 and 1345. Codex D, essentially a type of hymnal, is parchment with leather binding and contained seven illuminated pages.

The illuminated page with the initial L depicts Saint Lucy (Santa Lucia). A portion of the page was removed from the Antiphonary and is known as a leaf. The leaf is ink, tempera and gold on parchment. It measures 44.3 cm high and 35.2 cm wide

The Antiphonary was formerly in the Church of Saints Ippolito and Biagio of Castelfiorentino and is now preserved in the Museum of Santa Verdiana, Castelfiorentino, Italy.

The leaf was purchased, in good faith, by the Museum in 1952, at which time it was attributed to a different artist. It has not been on display for more than 10 years.

The Museum was contacted by ICE after a second leaf appeared on the Swiss market. That leaf was recently turned over to the Italian government. Working collaboratively with ICE to research the history of the leaf and after evaluating the information provided by the Italian government, the Museum agreed the leaf should be transferred to Italy to be reunited with the Antiphonary.

 “Once we were able to substantiate the information provided, we decided that the best place for the leaf was back with the Antiphonary. We feel the leaf has greater significance if it is reunited with the other illuminations in the manuscript. Along with the recovery of a second leaf, the Antiphonary will now be complete” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “We appreciate Homeland Security bringing this to our attention and working with us to effectuate the right result for the work.”

Rendon noted that the cooperation between her office, ICE and the Museum has resulted in the transfer.

“This story of a beautiful illuminated page missing from the Antiphonary for many years will have a happy ending thanks to the work of the Italian government, ICE’s presence in Rome, ICE here in Cleveland, our office and the Museum,” Rendon said.

“Cultural artifacts and antiquities have a monetary value in the markets where they are bought and sold. But to the item’s true owners, the value cannot be measured monetarily,” said Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge for HSI Detroit. “We’re pleased to announce with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and with the Museum that today’s transfer brings us one step closer to reuniting this treasure with its rightful owner, the Italian people."

The Antiphonary is a partially illuminated liturgical manuscript intended for use by a choir.  A delivery date to the Italian government is being finalized. 

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Updated November 4, 2016