An article in The Art Newspaper for September concerns a collection of 51 glazed polychrome bricks from the Mannaean site of Qalaichi near Bukan in Western Iran that have recently been returned to Iran from Switzerland. They were looted in the 1980s and taken to a bonded warehouse in Switzerland where they were seen in 1991 by John Curtis, then Keeper of the Middle East Department in the British Museum and now Academic Director of the Iran Heritage Foundation. He stressed that the bricks should be returned to Iran.
This eventually happened in December 2020, following the intervention of the Swiss authorities and with the help of London lawyer Jeremy Scott. The bricks, dating from the 8th century BC, have a wide variety of painted motifs, such as winged lions and bulls with human heads, mythological figures, birds of prey, deer and floral or geometric designs. The bricks are an important source of information for the art of Mannaea, and show there was much Assyrian influence but with a local interpretation.
You can read the full article on The Art Newspaper’s website here.
There will be exhibitions of the bricks both in Bukan and Tehran as soon as the Covid-19 situation allows. In the meantime, there is a full publication of the bricks in an exhibition catalogue in Persian and English by Yousef Hassanzadeh and John Curtis, entitled The Repatriated Boukan Glazed Brick Collection from Switzerland (Tehran 2021). This catalogue is part-sponsored by the Sarikhani Foundation and can be obtained from the National Museum of Iran.