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Armenian church sues Getty over ancient Bible pages

An Armenian church based in La Crescenta has filed a civil lawsuit against the Getty Museum, claiming the institution illegally bought seven pages from a sacred Bible.

The Western Prelacy claims that the seven pages, which date back to 1256, were ripped from the Armenian Orthodox Church's Zeyt'un Gospels during the Armenian Genocide, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Americas is requesting that the pages be returned.

"We expect the Getty to do the right thing," Levon Kirakosian, a spokesman for the prelacy, told the Glendale News-Press.

The Getty states on its website that the illustrations by T'oros Roslin were "separated from the manuscript at some point in the past" and were acquired by the museum.

"The Getty is confident that it has legal ownership of these pages, known as Canon Tables, which have been widely published, studied and exhibited," the museum's spokeswoman, Julie Jaskol, said in a statement.

The museum acquired the pages from a private U.S. collection in 1994 after reviewing the origin of the pieces, she said.

The previous owner of the collection has asked the museum not to disclose his or her identity, Jaskol said.

The pages have also been described, reproduced and written about in articles, as well as displayed in a 1994 Armenian art and culture exhibition in New York, she said in the statement.

"At no time in the 90 or so years that the Canon Tables have been in the United States has anyone questioned their ownership," Jaskol said in the statement. "The Getty believes the lawsuit is groundless and should be dismissed."

Read the full story here.

Read more about the Canon Tables at the Getty's website.

-- Veronica Rocha, Glendale News-Press

Photo credit: Getty

Comments () | Archives (16)

I'd like to see the Armenian church come up with witnesses for that so-called crime.

The Getty should do the right thing and return those artifacts to its rightful owners, the Church. In fact, ALL antiquities that are ill-gotten should be restored to their appropriate owners.

The art should be returned to its rightfull owners. Not only seven pages from the bible were lost during the Armenian Genocide, 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered. How do we get them back? Thank you for the article.

Soon this page will be loaded with hatefull comments and anti-Armenian slogans.

Where is the Getty Museum's integrity? Getty rep Julie Jaskol unbelievably says "the Getty is confident that it has legal ownership." Then explain why the "previous owner of the collection has asked the museum not to disclose his or her identity."!!!

This seems like a very important historical book for the church. Therefore it makes no sense that they would have willingly ripped out seven pages and sold it. Getty's claims of legal ownership make no sense at all and their comments make them sound slimy. Do the right thing Getty and return it.

Hey John -
This is common when a museaum acquires something from a private collection - announcing that "John Smith" sold "Item X" to a museum for "Crazy $$" puts a target on that person's back for thieves and such who know would know they are collectors and sitting on big cash.

But even if that weren't common,
perhaps because he doesn't want to be drug into this mess of lies by Armenia.
After all, look at YOUR reaction.

Would ANYONE want to open themselves up to retaliation by religious zealots who claim (quite belatedly) ownership of something you had sold?
Why put yourself in Harms way?

Your own words justify the previous owner's decision to remain anonymous.

RE: "Then explain why the "previous owner of the collection has asked the museum not to disclose his or her identity."

To answer the question, whether or not it is the case in this situation, many serious art collectors will asked not to be named outside of art venues simply to protect themselves. Generally something important or expensive such as the item in the article is not their only piece of art/history. To have their names constantly put out in the media would open the door to theft, solicitation, frivolous (and sometimes valid) legal arguements, etc.

Someone wishing to target specific collections/pieces would simply need to scan the news periodically to see who collects what types of items, by leaving their names out of the media they make it harder for those that would try to steal or take advantage of them.

The Getty has the resources and facilities to preserve, restore and display antiquities and artifacts that should be shared, not hoarded. Does the church have these facilities and resources? Where would they keep such items? Locked up in a closet, in unsecured and under-insured location where they could be damaged or stolen? Why would a church want that kind of headache?

If they believe that they have no case to answer for then they should name the person that sold them the artifacts.

It is obvious that they come from the book in question so why not do the right thing (Getty i am looking at you).

The Getty will do the right thing.

While they have had problems in the past, over the last number of years they been cooperating and doing the right thing.

Be weary the getty has many works. If it is the bible then it belongs to god not to you. Or your cause.

Dear ladies and gentlemen of the jury, are we to believe that when the Getty purchased these 7 pages, they didn't bother to ask where the other ___ hundred pages of this ancient bible were and why these 7 pages were separated from the other ___ hundred pages? Are we further to believe, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that it was reasonable for the Getty to not bother asking the owner of the other ___ hundred pages of this particular Bible whether said owner might consider himself the rightful owner of these 7 particular pages that for some reason are not attached where they are supposed to be attached? Ladies and gentlemen, if somebody came to you with the steering wheel of a rare automobile that you know is housed at the Smithsonian, would you buy that steering wheel before checking with the Smithsonian to make sure the steering wheel wasn't stolen?

Perhaps the Getty is hoping for a jury of idiots.

To Joe Mama Bush, I thought God gave the bible to US? What is more, Does the Arminian church even know what is on those pages? I doubt it as they don't teach what's in THEIR bible or anyone elses for that matter. Nor do they or their flock live by what's in the bible. Yes, the Getty will do the right thing and KEEP those pages because they CAN prove rightful ownership where as the Aminian church cannot.

First, back off the religion and ethnicity bashing. Think facts.
The 7 pages belong to a book.
Who is the rightful owner of that book?
The pages are written in Armenian.
The book is and has always been in the possession of the Armenian Church. (The book was written for the Armenian Church in 1256. The Armenian Church dates back to 301 AD.)
Getty does not dispute that the pages were separated during WWI from the original book.
I suppose Getty would now like a jury to believe that the Armenian church intentionally disposed of these 7 pages.
Maybe they just didn't like the artwork???

To: My opinon means nothing.
First of all, not every crime needs witnesses to be considered as one. Second if you think that the church ripped those pages out of the Bible and presented it to somebody, than... think again and again.
And thirdly what is your beef with Armenians?

BTW "opinion" is spelled like this, and its "Armenian" not "Arminian" in case you would like to better your knowledge and spelling ability.

Of course they're going to rip this canons out that is not the only thing this scavengers did while this terrible things were happening to the Armenian People by this stupid turks and no one was helping they also stole the canons and sold it ..


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