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Second Artifact Located from AC’s Ten Most Wanted Antiquities List

October 4, 2023

The Art Newspaper Names Owner and Location of the Kwer’ata Re’esu Icon

The Antiquities Coalition (AC) welcomes new information published by The Art Newspaper identifying the location of the Kwer’ata Re’esu Icon, a 500-year-old icon on our Ten Most Wanted list. This is the second artifact from the list, which serves as an illustrated guide of looted, stolen, or missing cultural treasures from around the world, to be found.

On September 25, following an investigation that spanned decades, The Art Newspaper released the owner’s name and the first full-color photos of the artifact. The icon is located in Portugal, and the owner was reported to be Isabel Reis Santos, heir to the Portuguese art historian Luiz Reis Santos. 

The Kwer’ata Re’esu icon was looted from Ethiopia in 1868 by Richard Holmes, an agent of the British Museum sent to bring back manuscripts and antiquities. When Holmes returned to the museum, he failed to turn over the relic, and it was ultimately sold at Christie’s in 1917 following Holmes’ death in 1911. 

Now that the icon has been located, the AC joins the calls for its return to Ethiopia, following the repatriation of other treasures looted from Maqdala by the British last month. However, the restitution of this artifact is not possible without the support of the Portuguese government. In 2002, the Portuguese Ministry of Culture issued an order forbidding the export of the painting without explicit authorization, and the order will need to be lifted to facilitate a prompt return. 

The AC credits The Art Newspaper for their investigation and willingness to share these new insights and information with the public, along with all those who have contributed to efforts to track down the revered icon. Read their full article and see the colored pictures of Kwer’ata Re’esu here

To learn more about Kwer’ata Re’esu and other antiquities that have been looted in times of crisis and conflict, explore the Antiquities Coalition’s Ten Most Wanted list here.