Palmyra statue among re­cov­ered Syr­ian relics Wil­liams’ ef­fects fetch $6.1m

Viet Nam News - - LIFE&STYLE -

DA­M­AS­CUS — A stone im­age of an an­cient priest is one of hun­dreds of stolen an­tiq­ui­ties re­cov­ered by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and put on dis­play in Da­m­as­cus this week, a re­minder of the mass loot­ing of Syria’s her­itage dur­ing seven years of war.

It was carved for Yalhi bin Yal­habouda, a high priest in Palmyra, upon his death in 120 AD, his sta­tus ap­par­ent from his tall hat and lau­rel wreath. It was il­le­gally dug up dur­ing Is­lamic State’s oc­cu­pa­tion of the desert town.

“This civil­i­sa­tion is not only for Syria, but we are the cus­to­di­ans of it and we pre­serve it for the world,” said Khalil Hariri, head of the Palmyra an­tiq­ui­ties depart­ment.

Syria stood at the heart of the an­cient Mid­dle East, a cru­cible for some of the world’s ear­li­est civ­i­liza­tions and was at times in­cor­po­rated into Egyp­tian, Baby­lo­nian, Assyr­ian, Hit­tite, Per­sian, Greek and Ro­man em­pires.

After its de­scent into a messy, multi-sided civil war in 2011, when the coun­try was frag­mented into nu­mer­ous en­claves, the war­ring par­ties be­gan to plun­der that in­her­i­tance, loot­ing mu­se­ums and excavating an­cient sites.

Is­lamic State, which from its days as the al Qaeda branch in Iraq had long ex­pe­ri­ence of sell­ing stolen an­tiq­ui­ties for profit, seized Palmyra and its ex­ten­sive Ro­man­era ru­ins, a UN­ESCO world her­itage site, in 2015.

As with other parts of Syria and Iraq which it turned into a short­lived “caliphate”, it made a pub­lic show of de­stroy­ing many arte­facts and an­cient build­ings as idol­a­trous, while se­cretly ben­e­fit­ing from the il­licit trade in his­tor­i­cal goods.

The group blew up Palmyra’s mon­u­men­tal arch and be­headed its 82-year-old an­tiq­ui­ties chief, hang­ing his body from an an­cient col­umn. After chang­ing hands more than once, it was re­taken by the Syr­ian army last year.

The life-sized im­age of Yalhi bin Yal­habouda, stand­ing out in re­lief from a stone tomb­stone, was ex­ca­vated from Palmyra’s an­cient tombs, said the city’s new an­tiq­ui­ties chief Hariri, and found in a house in the modern town.

It is in­scribed with his name and year of death and shows him car­ry­ing a cup of sa­cred oil and a bowl of ce­real, such as would have been rit­u­ally dis­trib­uted after his demise. — REUTERS NEW YORK — Art, film mem­o­ra­bilia and per­sonal ef­fects owned by the late ac­tor Robin Wil­liams and his wife fetched US$6.1 mil­lion at auc­tion in New York on Thurs­day, four years after his death, Sotheby’s said.

The Os­car-winner, movie vet­eran, stand-up co­me­dian and tele­vi­sion star was one of Hol­ly­wood’s most pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ers whose death in Au­gust 2014 trig­gered an out­pour­ing of emo­tion the world over.

More than 2,000 fans and col­lec­tors from across the globe reg­is­tered to bid for some 300 works owned by Wil­liams and his se­cond wife, film pro­ducer and phi­lan­thropist Mar­sha Garces Wil­liams, Sotheby’s said.

The most ex­pen­sive lot was Swiss artist Adolf Wolfli’s Der San Sal­vathor that sold for $795,000, the auc­tion house said.

Stand-out items in­cluded a wa­ter­colour from the movie Good Will Hunt­ing that sold for $90,000 and street artist Banksy’s Happy Chop­pers from 2006 that fetched $735,000.

Wil­liams won an Os­car in 1998 for Good Will Hunt­ing.

The wa­ter­colour, painted by the film’s di­rec­tor Gus Van Sant and in­scribed to Wil­liams, was dis­played in the of­fice of his ther­a­pist char­ac­ter Sean Maguire.

Forty-five watches from Will- iams’ per­sonal col­lec­tion sold for a com­bined to­tal of $445,000, in­clud­ing his watch from Dead Po­ets So­ci­ety (1989) that went for $32,500, the auc­tion house said.

The en­tire sale fetched $6.1 mil­lion, smash­ing pre-sale es­ti­mates of $4.6 mil­lion with 95 per cent of all lots sold.

Among the or­gan­i­sa­tions to ben­e­fit are The Juil­liard School in New York, where a per­ma­nent schol­ar­ship in Wil­liams’s name will be set up, the Wounded War­rior Pro­ject and the Chal­lenged Ath­letes Foun­da­tion.

A fa­ther of three, he was known for high-en­ergy, rapid-fire im­pro­vi­sa­tion and clown­ing, and starred in hit films such as Good Morn­ing, Viet­nam and Mrs Doubt­fire.

Mar­sha was his se­cond wife. The cou­ple were mar­ried from 1989 to 2010, and had two chil­dren to­gether.

Wil­liams com­mit­ted sui­cide aged 63. His widow and third wife, Su­san Sch­nei­der, later revealed that he had been suf­fer­ing from Lewy body de­men­tia, a neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease that al­ters mood, move­ment and pro­vokes hal­lu­ci­na­tions. — AFP

Mem­o­ries: The death of Os­car-win­ning ac­tor and co­me­dian Robin Wil­liams in 2014 trig­gered an out­pour­ing of emo­tion the world over. — AFP Photo

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