|Knight killing a King, Mediaeval stained glass, Musee de Cluny|
Art is destroyed in all revolutions, it seems to be part of the process, clearing away the old, making room for the new. There are many examples - in my own lifetime, say those statues of Lenin littering architectural salvage yards in Britain in the 1990s, the Banyam buddahs blown skywards, the libraries in Timbuktu, and this week the destruction of Nimrud by bulldozer. We may not like it. We may call it a war crime. We may not even think it qualifies as art in some cases; cultural heritage comes in many guises.
|Mediaeval book on the art of warfare, Musee de Cluny|
|Idolatry, Mediaeval stained glass, Musee de Cluny|
I was taken recently by comments in a interview with Mark Rylance in which he pointed out that Islam was about 500 years younger than Christianity and 500 years ago we were busy chopping off heads, burning people and smashing idols. It was called the Reformation (and Counter-Reformation). So is what is happening today very much of a surprise? No, not really, but at least the Assyrian culture lives on in other museums. Reason then for not giving back acquired things? Perhaps.