Back in 1999, the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs imposed "emergency" import restrictions on Cypriot Icons. See http://exchanges.state.gov/heritage/culprop/cyfact/pdfs/cy1999eafrn.pdf
These were later converted to "regular" restrictions, and extended along with the new, controversial restrictions on ancient coins back in 2007. See
It's a bit odd then that "La Parole Divine" is auctioning off icons that appear to be subject to restrictions at an auction in Cyprus. See http://www.laparoledivine.com/auctions.html
According to the firm's website,
Around 130 lots dating from the 15th - 20th century and representative of the religious cultures of Russia, Greece, Cyprus, the Balkans and the Orthodox Levant will be offered. Worth in excess of one million Euros, the sale provides the opportunity for established and new collectors alike to acquire artworks from this highly specialised field.
While I am happy this seems to be an effort to create a "licit market" within Cyprus, one wonders how this firm was able to accomplish what otherwise seems officially frowned upon in Cyprus (or so we have been told)-- the sale of items of cultural heritage.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that the Island's all powerful "Bank of Cyprus" has sponsored the sale. Under the circumstances, one also wonders whether this sale is getting "special treatment" due to this relationship. In short, is this another case of one rule for the "connected few" and another for the "little guy?"
For more on the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation and the controversial decision to extend import restrictions to coins, see http://culturalpropertyobserver.blogspot.com/2008/08/cyprus-caari-and-boccf-there-is-as.html