Friday, June 07, 2013
Italian Reflections (Cont.): The Platypus Travels Part III
See that Egyptian obelisk? Someone liked it enough to loot it and whack it on to a nifty fountain. Forcibly stripped from its original meaning and context, it now serves merely as a curio -perhaps, with a little effort, a reminder of the former puissance of the European powers. Did the Egyptians want it? Were they doing anything with it at the time? I'm sure Dr. Zahi Hawass has an opinion.
Of course Italy itself has experienced theft and exploitation at the hands of foreign conquerors. Napoleon took his share of mementos as did the Nazis, and even American foot-soldiers. Sometimes, works are restored, sometimes they're left abroad to prevent war and conquest from wiping out entire collections in one fell swoop.
So here's the rub: I saw pieces of churches on sale in a street market in Venice. No one had a use for them anymore: there were pictures, a laver, lamps, a displaced angel. I could have found a use for them. Forget the weight limit on international baggage for a moment. If I could have gotten them back to the United States, what would I have done?