Taipei, June 30 (Xinhua/UNB) -- A hot air balloon festival opened Saturday in Taitung County, east Taiwan, attracting over 10,000 visitors from the island and elsewhere.
A total of 24 hot air balloons met visitors at the opening ceremony. They were mostly in the shapes of cartoon characters and animals such as Sponge Bob, butterfly, bee and pig.
Many of this year's balloons are in shapes related to the dreams of children, aiming to attract people of different age groups, said Rao Ching-ling, magistrate of Taitung, at the ceremony.
The festival will last 45 days until August 12. Visitors can book hot air balloon trips scheduled twice a day during this period.
Berlin, Jun 29 (AP/UNB) — German says it will return to Italy a painting by Dutch artist Jan van Huysum that was stolen by Nazi troops during World War II.
The government said in a statement Saturday that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero will travel to Florence soon to hand the still-life "Vase of Flowers" back to the Uffizi Gallery.
Its director, Eike Schmidt, had made a public appeal for the return of the painting earlier this year.
The oil painting had been part of the Pitti Palace collection in Florence from 1824 until the outbreak of World War II. It was stolen by German troops and didn't surface again until after Germany's reunification.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the family that currently possesses the painting would be compensated.
Paris, Jun 27 (AP/UNB) — It's been hanging on people's walls for almost 170 years without drawing much attention, but a painting showing a group of women has turned out to be more than meets the eye.
The most recent owner of the picture, a Parisian woman, has found out that what she has is a long-forgotten painting by 19th century French Romantic artist Eugene Delacroix.
"A woman walked into the gallery with a painting under her arm, telling me she'd just visited the Delacroix exhibit at the Louvre Museum ... and that she thought her painting shared some resemblance" with the artist's "Women of Algiers in their Apartment," said Philippe Mendes, director of the Mendes Gallery in Paris.
"I took a look at the painting, which was dirty and with a very thick yellow varnish, but I felt it had Delacroix's very particular style. So I said, let's clean the painting and let's see what comes out of it," he told The Associated Press in an interview.
"After we cleaned it, the radiant and extraordinary colors typical of Delacroix really stood out and we knew we had to start doing some real research."
The painting, now hanging in Mendes' gallery as he negotiates with a U.S. museum seeking to buy it, shows a pale woman seated and an African slave standing next to her, looking at the other woman over her shoulder. The same scene is captured in "Women of Algiers in their Apartment," which was painted after in 1833-34 after Delacroix visited North Africa. That painting now lives in the Louvre.
Art historian and Delacroix expert Virginie Cauchi-Fatiga investigated the curious canvas at Mendes' request. She analyzed the technique and use of colors, compared it with other Delacroix paintings, then used infrared and X-ray images to look deeper.
After more than a year of examination, her verdict: She says with "absolute certainty" that the painting is a Delacroix work, a study for "Women of Algiers." The study was sold at auction in 1850 and hadn't been shown in public since.
She called it a discovery "of prime importance, because it really is a gateway into the artist's mind right at the moment" he was working on "Women of Algiers."
"The colors are distinctive of Delacroix's work, but it's also about how they are associated," she said. "He doesn't use color in the same way as other big classical painters - color is not an accessory for him. He shapes his painting around colors."
The painting bears no Delacroix signature, since it is only a study, she said — but does bear a stamp at the back of the canvas reading "118."
That matches the number listed for the study in the catalog of paintings sold at auction in 1850 by the Count de Mornay, a diplomat who sponsored Delacroix's trip to North Africa, Mendes said. Lot 118 was bought for a private collection, and its subsequent movements aren't known.
The Parisian woman bought the painting about 10 years ago with her father, but does not want to be publicly identified, Mendes said.
He also showed the canvas to experts at French museums that hold Delacroix paintings and received an export certificate from the Culture Ministry identifying it as a Delacroix work.
The National Eugene Delacroix Museum in Paris and its parent, the Louvre, would not comment on the painting because it is on the open market, but did not question its authenticity. The Metropolitan Museum in New York, which hosted a Delacroix exhibit in 2018, would not comment on a work outside its collection.
No one would comment on the possible value of the painting.
Paul Exbrayat of the Britain-based Art Loss Register said the painting had not been listed on international databases as missing or stolen, and described it as just long-dormant. "It has woken up from a long slumber, like Sleeping Beauty," he said.
New York, Jun 26 (AP/UNB) — Comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco will host MTV's 2019 Video Music Awards.
He'll be joined at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Aug. 26 by some of the industry's biggest stars as they celebrate the year's music videos.
Executive producer Bruce Gillmer says Maniscalco's "comedic spin on relatable topics will make this year's show truly unforgettable."
Maniscalco is currently on his North American "You Bother Me" tour.
The 45-year-old was the 2018 Billboard "Comedian of the Year" and made his feature film debut last year in the Oscar-winning "Green Book."
He'll next be seen on Netflix in Martin Scorsese's "The Irishman," with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.
Paris, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Paris-based UN educational and scientific body UNESCO on Monday unveiled the list of projetcs on best practices for the protection of underwater cultural heritage, which includes schemes from France, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Mexico.
"Designated on the recommendation of UNESCO's Scientific and Technical Advisory Board (STAB), best practice examples are projects presented by States Parties that promote responsible public access to underwater cultural heritage, promote scientific research and ensure the sustainable management of archaeological sites," UNESCO said in a statement.
The projects, which entered Best Practices Register for Underwater Cultural Heritage Protection, are France's excavation, reconstruction, restoration and presentation to the public of the Barge Arles-Rhône, underwater cultural heritage in the Chinchorro Bank from Mexico, subaquatic archaeological charter of the Azores from Portugal, Slovenia's the Ljubljanica river phenomenon and the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes Project (Spain).
"By designating these best practices, UNESCO promotes concrete and directly applicable solutions for the protection of underwater heritage. I call on all states and stakeholders concerned to draw inspiration from them to amplify the drive to protect these remains, which bear the memory of our human history," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay.
Adopted in 2001, the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage aims to provide better protection for the millions of wrecks and historic remains preserved on the seabed, and halt looting and increasing destruction of underwater heritage.
The Convention also targets to promote public access to this heritage and to encourage archaeological research. To date, it has been ratified by 61 States, according to the statement.