St Katharine Cree church delighted at return of decades-lost work, part of a monument to a famous Elizabethan

Carving from St Katharine Cree church’s Sir Nicholas Throckmorton monument.
Carving from St Katharine Cree church’s Sir Nicholas Throckmorton monument. Photograph: St Katharine Cree church 

A historic church in the City of London is to be reunited with a magnificent 16th-century carving that was stolen from it decades ago.

St Katharine Cree church in Leadenhall Street is a survivor of both the Great Fire of 1666 and the second world war blitz, while the 80cm-high alabaster carving was part of a monument to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, a prominent figure in the reign of Elizabeth I, dating from the 1570s. The diplomat was the uncle of Sir Francis Throckmorton, a conspirator in the Throckmorton Plot.

Klaas Muller, an art specialist in Brussels, bought the work in good faith in Belgium last year. He agreed to return it unconditionally after being approached by Christopher A Marinello, a lawyer and director of Art Recovery International, which specialises in the recovery of stolen, missing and disputed cultural property.

The monument to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton
The monument to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton. Photograph: Phil Manning

Marinello, who acted pro bono for St Katharine Cree, said it was an honour to return a sculpture of such importance to the church.

He said: “As a good faith buyer under Belgian law, Muller could have easily defended his possession of this monument. Instead, he chose to be magnanimous by willingly and enthusiastically returning a work of art that clearly belongs to St Katharine Cree.

“Muller’s actions should teach the trade a thing or two about the possession of stolen and looted works of art. It is not always about protecting profits and it is always the season to do the right thing.”

Phil Manning, a churchwarden at St Katharine Cree, said: “This is an amazing time for this carving to be coming back to the church … The building is on the heritage at risk register and there are significant plans for its restoration over the next few years. The return of a fine piece of carving which belongs on an existing monument of a historically important figure is really quite something.

“It is not only a beautiful object but a gateway to the understanding and interpretation of our heritage.”

With medieval foundations, St Katharine Cree is an important 1630s building with a 16th-century tower. Its imposing Jacobean architecture, including perpendicular vaulting and neoclassical arches, is unique in London. Its original organ was played by Purcell and Handel.

Manning said that the church was consecrated in 1630 by William Laud, the Bishop of London, who was later accused of treason and executed in 1645.

“The way he conducted the consecration service was used in evidence at his trial to suggest that he was actually a Catholic,” said Manning. “The account of the service describes much genuflecting and bowing. On entering the church, he threw dust into the air and declared: ‘This is holy ground.’ His emphasis was on the beauty of holiness, but the zeal with which he sought to reform public worship made him a number of enemies, notably among the Puritans, and this led to his downfall.”

A 1793 engraving and a 1929 photograph show the Throckmorton monument in its complete state. Precisely when the carving disappeared is unclear.

Muller will be out of pocket by thousands of pounds, although he had paid a fraction of the work’s true value. He bought it from a fellow dealer, and said he is hoping for a refund.

Muller was shocked when he first realised that it belonged to the church. He said that, “historically and ethically”, returning it was the right thing to do, adding: “I thought it could be a nice Christmas present.”

The recovery was made possible by Patrick Damiaens, a Belgian ornamental and heraldic woodcarver, who was shown the carving by Muller. Intrigued, Damiaens began researching it, and his detective work established its significance.

The craftsmanship is of such high quality that it may have come from a workshop in Southwark where many Flemish refugees settled in the 16th century.

For Marinello and Manning, history is repeating itself. In 2010, they recovered a 17th-century alabaster bust of Peter Turner, a botanist and physician, that had been stolen from another City of London church, St Olave’s, during the blitz. It too had ended up with a Belgian dealer, who agreed to return it.


Artive will be the first central, technological resource of its kind.

Christopher Marinello, CEO of the Art Recovery International, with a recovered Matisse. Photo Courtesy Art Recovery International.

Art Recovery International (ARI) announced today launch of Artive, a new non-profit organization formed with the aim of protecting and preserving the world’s cultural heritage through technological means.

Artive will serve as the first non-for-profit to identify claims in regards to artworks, and will consolidate the seemingly-limitless amount of information about at-risk, stolen, looted, and destroyed works of art and cultural property. The organization will function as an expansion of Artclaim, ARI’s pre-existing database project.

“By providing a central, not-for-profit data resource,” the press release states,” Artive will create a new permanent platform preserving cultural heritage for present and future generations.”

Though headquartered in the US, the non-profit seeks to stretch its reach throughout the globe, and is encouraging “cultural institutions, law enforcement agencies, intergovernmental bodies, and all holders and custodians of data worldwide” to use the archival system, branded as “the most technologically advanced and agile collection management tool in the world.”

Christopher A. Marinello, head of ARI, will continue in his chief role that specializes in Nazi-era restitution, provenance analysis, and title disputes. He will serve on Artive’s advisory board.

As the destruction of cultural heritage becomes more prevalent worldwide, Artive arrives in a timely fashion. “We believe in the power of community to solve problems by sharing information,” said CEO Jason Sousa.

“Together, we can create and manage the world’s most comprehensive public database to protect and preserve cultural heritage today, tomorrow and for generations to come.”


LONDON, 16 NOVEMBER 2016:  Art Recovery International today announces the expansion of its pioneering and award-winning ArtClaim database project with the formation of ARTIVE, a new independent non-profit organization with a stated mission to protect and preserve the world’s cultural heritage through the use of technology. The not-for-profit will be headquartered in the United States but will operate with an international mission.

Lawyer Christopher A. Marinello, will continue to head Art Recovery International, one of the world’s leading private art recovery organizations specializing in Nazi-era restitution, provenance research and the mediation of complex art related title disputes, and will serve on Artive’s advisory board.

Artive is seeking to unify the vast amount of information about at-risk, stolen, looted and destroyed works of art and cultural property held by a diverse and dispersed range of institutions and organizations. By providing a central, not-for-profit data resource, Artive will create a new permanent platform preserving cultural heritage for present and future generations.

The Artive database system and records will also have a pertinent application to due diligence practices in the commercial art market. Artive will be the first not-for-profit, impartial service for identifying claims or taints attached to works of art.

Christopher A. Marinello says:

“This partition fulfills our promise to the art market to create an ethical source for due diligence totally devoid of conflicts of interest.  Those who discover a match or title dispute when using the Artive Database can engage their own lawyer, expert, or law enforcement official to aid in the recovery or restitution of an object.”

“With over $500M worth of artwork recovered over the years, I am confident that victims, dealers, insurers, and collectors will continue to reach out to Art Recovery International to help resolve disputes over title to fine art.”


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For more information or additional comment, please contact:

Christopher A. Marinello
CEO, Art Recovery International
+44 (0) 203 763 3540
+44 (0) 7702 206 913
+1 917 450 5799

Notes to editors:

ART RECOVERY INTERNATIONAL provides research, dispute resolution and art recovery services, offering clients expert and ethical advice on the management, acquisition and return of cultural property.

More information regarding art recovery services can be found at or follow our Twitter account for regular art crime and cultural heritage news and updates.

ARTIVE INC is a not-for-profit organization headquartered in the United States with a stated mission of protecting and preserving the world’s cultural heritage through the use of technology.  More information about its mission, and database registration and search services can be found at

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