Art News

French Engineer Saves Damascus Treasures

By: Khaled Yacoub Oweis
DAMASCUS (REUTERS).- When French engineer Jacques Montlucon bought one of the famed, centuries-old courtyard houses of Old Damascus six years ago he had no idea it contained an architectural marvel. But Montlucon, who has restored artifacts from the Titanic and helped rescue goods from a sunken Napoleonic merchant ship, has a knack for uncovering the unexpected. “I was removing the heavy varnish covering the wood-paneled walls in the iwan (reception room) when figures of painted strange birds, monsters and castles started to emerge,” he said, pointing to the fine drawing between the carved wood. “The paintings are dated 1789, the year of the French Revolution. But who knows how long it had taken for the news to travel from Paris to Syria,” he said. An imaginary black bird pulls a boat. A man points a rifle from the top of a castle on a sea and monsters fly over the water. The wood ceiling resembles an intricate Persian carpet. “It’s a fairytale, but no o