Report: Stolen Medieval Art Stashed in Texas
NEW YORK (AP) _ A collection of medieval artworks and manuscripts missing from Germany since the end of World War II apparently were in a small Texas town all this time, The New York Times reported.
According to Thursday’s Times, former Army officer Joe T. Meador of Whitewright, Texas, probably pulled off one of the biggest art thefts of the century.
The newspaper, basing its report on interviews with art experts, lawyers and Meador’s neighbors, said Meador somehow managed to get the priceless artworks to Texas from Quedlinburg, an ancient castle town in Saxony-Anhalt State, now in East Germany.
Shortly after Germany surrendered in 1945, the treasures were hidden in a mineshaft near the town. They disappeared a few days later after American troops took over the area.
″It was one of the world’s greatest art thefts,″ said Florentina Mutherich, former deputy director of the Institute for Art History in Munich.
Meador, who died in 1980, was a first lieutenant with the 87th Armored Field Artillery, which occupied Quedlinburg and guarded the mineshaft, the Times said.
The Army investigated the theft, but dropped the matter in 1949 when Quedlinburg became part of East Germany.
The newspaper quoted an unidentified source as saying the treasures are in the vault of the First National Bank of Whitewright. Whitewright is in north Texas 15 miles from the Oklahoma line.
John R. Farley, president of the bank, declined to comment on the matter, the Times said.
Meador reportedly would show his employees elaborate and richly bound gold and silver manuscripts, according to a former employee who worked in a hardware and farm equipment store Meador and his brother, Jack, ran in Whitewright.
The treasures include a small silver reliquary, inlaid with enamels and precious stones, with side panels of carved ivory; a liturgical ivory comb; a manuscript dated 1513; several rock crystal flasks and gold and silver crucifixes. Some of the treasures were gifts from kings and emperors who ruled numerous German states in the 9th and 10th centuries.
One of the treasures, an elaborately illustrated 9th century version of the Four Gospels in a jewel-encrusted gold and silver binding, was recovered last April by a private West German foundation. The organization, the Cultural Foundation of the States, paid a $3 million ″finders fee″ to a lawyer for an American seller. The transaction was recorded in Switzerland so the American’s name would never be revealed.
Three years after Meador died, his brother-in-law, Don H. Cook, of Mesquite, Texas, sought to have two medieval manuscripts evaluated, John Carroll Collins, a Dallas estate appraiser, told the Times.
The newspaper also reported that Decherd H. Turner, director of a research library at the University of Texas at Austin, said Jack Meador visited him in late 1985 or early 1986 and showed him slides of the manuscripts and tried to sell them.
When Turner asked him how he had acquired the manuscripts, Jack Meador said he had inherited them from his brother, who had ″found them in the gutter″ in Germany, the Times quoted Turner as saying.
Later, John S. Torigian, a Dallas lawyer who represents Jack Meador, tried to sell the Quedlinburg manuscripts to Turner and to a rare book dealer in Paris, the Times reported.
Manuscript experts believe Torigian was the agent who sold the Four Gospels manuscript last year to a Bavarian art dealer who in turn sold them to the West German foundation.
Cook and his wife, Jane Meador Cook, declined to discuss the matter. Jack Meador referred all questions to Torigian, who did not return the newspaper’s telephone calls.