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Dispute leads Russia to nix art loans

A decades-long dispute between Russia and an Orthodox Jewish group over ownership of holy texts collected for centuries by influential rabbis and seized by the Soviet Union has jolted the US art world, threatening an end to major cultural loans between the two countries.Russia has already frozen art loans to major American institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Houston Museum of Natural Science, fearing that its cultural property could be seized after the Brooklyn, New York-based Chabad-Lubavitch movement won a lawsuit in US District Court in 2010 compelling the return of its texts. 

 

Milestone
Database of looted Nazi art launched / Associated Press
Online portal activated by US National Archives provides access to digitized records of plundered items with cultural significance
Full story

The Met – and possibly other major lending institutions – are weighing whether to discontinue loans of cultural property to Russia.

The issue has become so important to relations between the US and Russia that the Justice Department has signaled for the first time in court papers that by Monday, it may weigh in on the legal case – which the Russians pulled out of in 2009, citing sovereign immunity.

Federal attorneys declined to comment for this story, and Russia’s Culture Ministry did not respond to numerous calls, emails and faxes from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The US State Department has worked to support Chabad’s campaign to reclaim its sacred texts since the 1990s.

Chabad is a worldwide Orthodox Hasidic Jewish movement, and has spent decades trying to reclaim the trove of thousands of religious books, manuscripts and handwritten documents, known as the Schneerson Collection, held in Russian repositories. Collected since 1772 by the leaders of the movement, the revered religious papers include Chabad’s core teachings and traditions.

Russian officials have argued that Chabad has no ownership rights over the collection and that the case belongs in Russian courts because it considers the works part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Chabad won the right to reclaim the sacred texts from a Soviet court in 1991, but after the collapse of the USSR, the new Russian authorities threw out the judgment.

Cultural objects lent from foreign countries are protected from legal claims under US law, as long as they are deemed to be “in the national interest” and “of cultural significance” by the State Department – which is the case in major exhibitions.

Nevertheless, some Russian officials are convinced that seizure of that country’s cultural property is a preordained outcome of the court’s decision.

“We know what is done in such cases: the state property – planes, ships, paintings – is arrested,” said Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, the director of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum, in a recent interview with Russian newspaper the Saint-Petersburg Vedomosty. “Consequently, the Russian government won’t issue permits for exhibitions in the US.”

But Seth Gerber of Bingham McCutchen, an attorney for Chabad, said the group had no plans to ask the court to seize Russian cultural property.

“Chabad will not seek to enforce its judgment by attaching or executing against any art or object of cultural significance which is immune from seizure under federal law and loaned by the Russian Federation to American museums,” he said in an e-mail to the AP.

Chabad filed a statement and letter to State Department officials with the court Friday, assuring the US government of its intentions.

The Russian culture minister announced the ban in January.

Since then, key works from Russia that had been destined for exhibitions at The Met, the National Gallery and J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, have been held back.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science postponed its show of 150 jeweled objects amassed by Russian royalty, an exhibition that was originally scheduled to open May 20. “We do know that the show will open at some point,” said Latha Thomas, a spokeswoman for the museum.

An exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts,” is scheduled to open on June 15, with or without the Russian objects that were to be included in the show of 250 works, a museum spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts, was forced to shutter its only major show of the year after the Russian government in March called back 37 lent objects.

“It’s all such a nightmare,” said Kent Russell, the curator of the museum, which had already spent about $300,000 promoting the show when it had to be closed. “We had a lot riding on this. We had a lot of tours that had to be canceled. The catalog is of absolutely no value to us whatsoever.”

The Met recently said it was negotiating an agreement to show its exhibit of clothing designer Paul Poiret at the Kremlin Museum in Moscow this fall. “But if the embargo continues the museum may reconsider,” said Met spokeswoman Elyse Topalian.

Legal experts and art professionals find it implausible that Russian cultural property lent to US institutions could be seized.

Howard Spiegler, an attorney with the International Art Law Group at Herrick, Feinstein, a New York-based firm, said exhibitions that are imported from abroad, as long as they are certified by the US State Department, are protected from seizure.

“What bothers me about this is that Russia is disingenuously trying to place blame on the plaintiffs in the Chabad case for Russia’s alleged inability to loan artworks for the good of the American public,” Spiegler said.The Schneerson Collection is comprised of two distinct sets: the “Library,” which was seized by Russia’s Bolshevik government during the October Revolution of 1917; and the “Archive,” which scholars say was “twice plundered” because it was looted by the Nazis in 1939 and then taken by the Red Army to the Soviet Union in 1945 as “trophy” documents.

Gerber, the movement’s lawyer, said the Russian government has repatriated Nazi-looted property taken by the Soviet military to a number of countries, including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but has stubbornly refused to return the collection.

 

Dispute leads Russia to nix art loans – Israel Culture, Ynetnews.

May 22nd, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Archive of artworks stolen by Nazis goes online
Catalogue launched to help historians and families trace art looted during Hitler era

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/05/archive-artworks-stolen-nazis-online
• Sam Jones
• guardian.co.uk, Thursday 5 May 2011 17.01 BST

US soldiers load a truck with a painting and trinkets looted by the Nazis and found hidden in a cave. Photograph: William Vandivert/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Despite a reputation for reaching for their revolvers at the merest mention of culture, the Nazis were among the most ruthless, avaricious and methodical art collectors ever to cast a greedy eye and thieving hand over other people’s property.

“Use every means of transport to get all works of art out of Florence … [save] works of art from English and Americans,” ran one of Heinrich Himmler’s orders. “In fine get anything away that you can get hold of. Heil Hitler.”

That appetite for the most beautiful and precious works of European art saw thousands of pieces stolen from their owners between 1933 and 1945 and entire collections raided, scattered and lost.

The quest to recover them and, where possible, return them to their rightful places has been under way for almost seven decades.

Now, thanks to a deal between some of the world’s leading archives and museums, an online catalogue of documents has been created to help families, historians and researchers track down the missing artworks.

Under an agreement signed on Thursday by organisations including Britain’s National Archives, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, the US National Archives and Records Administration (Nara) and Germany’sBundesarchiv, the records will be available through a single web portal.

The records include files documenting the systematic expropriation of Jewish property, Adolf Hitler’s plans to establish a Führermuseum crammed with looted art in his Austrian hometown of Linz and the interrogation of art dealers.

The British documents, which cover the years 1939 to 1961, also lay out the efforts made to identify the stolen works and reunite them with their owners.

Among them is a report from a British art expert and RAF intelligence officer who was dispatched to Switzerland in 1945. The paper may have faded to yellow, but Douglas Cooper’s exasperation with the Swiss authorities remains fresh to this day.

“Until I arrived here five weeks ago, practically nothing had been done,” he writes. “And still no steps have been taken by the Swiss government to put the looted pictures in security. This means that it is still possible for any of the present holders to dispose of them.”

Cooper concedes that “a new spirit seems to have made its appearance” since his arrival, but appeals for Foreign Office support in ensuring that dispossessed owners do not have to make individual claims through the Swiss courts “because the issue is a moral one”.

The National Archives and the Commission for Looted Art in Europe have worked together for two years to catalogue and digitise more than 128,000 pages of information, ranging from seizure orders and inventories to images of looted works and reports of the transfer of stolen pieces to neutral countries.

All the original British government files have been scanned in colour and are searchable by name, place, subject and date.

The aim of the enterprise, according to Oliver Morley, chief executive and keeper of the National Archives, is to provide unprecedented access to the past.

“By digitising and linking archival records online, researchers will be able to piece together the stories of what became of cultural objects, be they books, paintings, sculpture, jewellery or any other stolen artefacts from evidence fragmented across borders and languages,” he said.

Anne Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, said that while records from the UK, France, Belgium, Germany, the US, and Ukraine were now accessible online, other countries – including Switzerland, Poland and Italy – also held documents that could help families and historians.

“It’s been enormously difficult for families to access these records because before you had to physically go to them,” she said. “But now they’re all digitised and you can search by the name of the victim, the perpetrator, the artist and the artwork. It will dramatically change the possibilities for people, but there’s still more to come.”

via:

Archive of artworks stolen by Nazis goes online | World news | The Guardian.

May 6th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Schiele Work May Make Record $50 Million, Nazi Art Case Settled
By Scott Reyburn – May 5, 2011 4:00 AM ET

“Hauser mit bunter Waesche, ‘Vorstadt’ II” by Egon Schiele. It is being sold by the Leopold Museum, Vienna, at Sotheby’s June 22 auction of Impressionist and modern art in London. Source: Sotheby’s via Bloomberg

“Portrait of Wally” (1912) by Egon Schiele. The Leopold Museum in Vienna paid $19 million in a settlement, ending a decades-long dispute between the museum and the heirs of Jewish art dealer, Lea Bondi Jaray. Source: Leopold Museum via Bloomberg

Diethard Leopold, a Viennese psychotherapist and son of Rudolf Leopold, founder of the Leopold Museum. Leopold says he aims to settle all outstanding Nazi-era claims for art in the museum’s collection within a year. Photographer: Ian Ehm/Leopold Museum via Bloomberg

A cityscape by Egon Schiele valued at a record $50 million will be auctioned to pay for the settlement of one of the world’s longest-running art restitution cases.

The Leopold Museum, Vienna, is selling the 1914 work in London with a top estimate of about 30 million pounds on June 22 after agreeing to end an ownership dispute over another of the Austrian Expressionist’s paintings, the U.S.-based auction house Sotheby’s (BID) said in an e-mailed statement today.

Schiele’s “Hauser mit bunter Waesche, ‘Vorstadt’ II,” showing houses with washing lines, has a low estimate of 22 million pounds and is guaranteed a minimum price by a third- party “irrevocable bid,” Sotheby’s said. The valuation exceeds the $22.4 million paid in 2006 for a cityscape at Christie’s International. Sales of museum-quality oils by the short-lived artist (1890-1918) are becoming increasingly rare.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Eberhard Kohlbacher, partner in the Vienna dealership Wienerroither & Kohlbacher. “You have a few restitution cases, then it will be finished.”

The museum was founded in 1994 by the Viennese ophthalmologist and collector Rudolf Leopold, who died in 2010. It owns more than 220 works by Schiele, including another eight cityscapes.

In 1998, Schiele’s 1912 portrait of his lover Walburga (Wally) Neuzil was seized by a district attorney after being loaned to an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Descendants of the Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray claimed that “Wally,” acquired by Leopold in 1954, was stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s. The claim was upheld by a federal court inManhattan in 2009, prompting the Viennese museum to make an out-of-court settlement of $19 million last year to keep the painting.

The museum also had to pay as much as 3.5 million euros ($5.2 million) in legal costs, Leopold director Peter Weinhaeupl said. The complex case resulted in 44 countries drafting guidelines for the return of looted art known as the Washington Principles.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at sreyburn@hotmail.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at mbeech@bloomberg.net.

 

Schiele Work May Make Record $50 Million, Nazi Art Case Settled – Bloomberg.

May 6th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

VIENNA (AP) — An Austrian museum should return a precious Gustav Klimt painting to the heir of its rightful owner after researchers discovered the piece was confiscated by Nazis during World War II, officials said Thursday.

The painting, “Litzlberg am Attersee,” currently owned by Salzburg’s modern art museum, MdM Salzburg is estimated to be worth as much as €30 million ($44 million).

Research by various experts tasked with tracing the origin of the work shows the Nazis seized the now 96-year-old painting from an apartment in a village near Vienna of a woman named Amalie Redlich after deporting her to Poland in October 1941, where she was killed, Salzburg deputy governor Wilfried Haslauer and the head of the museum, Toni Stooss told reporters.

The painting was bought by Salzburg art collector and dealer Friedrich Welz who exchanged it in 1944 for a piece from Salzburg’s state gallery. It was subsequently taken over by the state gallery’s successor, the Salzburger Residenzgalerie, in 1952 and later became part of the inventory of Salzburg’s modern art museum.

“This is looted art, there’s absolutely no question about that,” Haslauer said in comments carried by Austrian radio Oe1.

Redlich’s heir is her 83-year-old grandson, Georges Jorisch, who lives in Montreal, Canada, according to Haslauer’s spokesman, Thomas Kerschbaum.

Salzburg’s government now has to decide whether to proceed with the restitution, as recommended by Haslauer. It is expected do so by this summer, Kerschbaum said.

Jorisch’s lawyer, Alfred J. Noll, appeared impressed by the way the matter has been handled so far.

“In no other case have I experienced such openness and objectivity during the discussion of individual points,” Noll said in comments also carried by Oe1. He said Stooss met personally with Jorisch.

The likely restitution is a reminder of the return in 2006 of five other Klimt paintings by Vienna’s Belvedere gallery to the late Maria Altmann of Los Angeles, niece of a Viennese art patron. Altmann had waged a seven-year fight for their return. An arbitration court had ruled that they were improperly seized by the Nazis who annexed Austria in 1938.

Austria has returned looted works of art held by federal museums to their rightful owners or heirs, most of them Jewish, under a 1998 restitution law.

Read more:

http://www.vcstar.com/news/2011/apr/21/austrian-museums-klimt-painting-seized-nazis/#ixzz1KBGS4xhd
– vcstar.com

via Austrian museum’s Klimt painting seized by Nazis » Ventura County Star.

April 21st, 2011

Posted In: WWII

RESTITUTIONS COMMITTEE ISSUES THREE RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING CLAIMS TO STOLEN WORKS OF ART

The Restitutions Committee is publishing three recommendations, which were issued in recent months. In these, the Committee advises the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science to return two works of art to the former owners’ heirs. The State Secretary will adopt the recommendations.

In a recommendation dated 31 January 2011 on the painting Landscape with classical temple by artist Hubert Robert (NK 1432), the Committee concludes that this work of art was originally owned by Jewish businessman Karl Mathiason or by his brother Hermann Mathiason and his wife. The painting was seized from their property in the Netherlands during the Second World War by order of the occupying authorities. Based on this information, the Committee advised returning the painting to the Mathiason family.

 

This same painting by Hubert Robert was part of a second application for restitution that involved the Jewish art dealership I. Rosenbaum N.V. in Amsterdam. In a second recommendation dated 31 January 2011, the Committee advised rejecting the claim, as the painting turned out not to have been owned by the Rosenbaum art dealership.

 

In a third case, concerning which the Committee had already issued a recommendation on 6 December 2010, the Committee finds that Jewish banker and art collector Fritz Gutmann was the original owner of a five-piece garniture (NK 3223 A-E). The Committee concludes that Gutmann lost possession of this garniture involuntarily as a direct consequence of the Nazi regime. The Committee advised the State Secretary to allow the application for restitution by the heirs of Fritz Gutmann. In the same recommendation, it advised rejecting a competing claim to the garniture from a different branch of the Gutmann family. The Committee will issue another recommendation concerning the Gutmann family’s art collection shortly.


The Restitutions Committee

Since January 2002, the Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War has issued 99 recommendations and 123 claims were presented to it. The Committee is chaired by Willibrord Davids.

For the recommendations in the restitution cases on Mathiason (RC 1.108), Rosenbaum (RC 1.82-A) and Gutmann (RC 1.114-A), go to http://www.restitutiecommissie.nl/en/overzicht_adviezen.html.

 

More information

For more information, please contact Evelien Campfens (secretary/rapporteur) on +31 (0)70 376 59 92.

 

 

 

Mrs. Evelien Campfens, LLM

secretary/rapporteur

Restitutions Committee

Lange Voorhout 9

PO Box 556

2501 CN The Hague

The Netherlands

T + 31 (0)70 376 5993

F + 31 (0)70 362 9654

E e.campfens@restitutiecommissie.nl

http://www.restitutiecommissie.nl

______________________________________________________

 

April 14th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Berlin’s state library handed back 13 books stolen by the Nazis to the Jewish community Wednesday as the German government pledged to redouble its efforts to return plundered cultural treasures.

The emotional ceremony came about thanks to a new drive to research the provenance of state holdings with the aim of restitution, German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said.

“The 13 books being returned today preserve the memory of the Berlin Jewish community which was decimated and its members murdered or driven out,” Neumann said. “That is why such projects are so important now and in the future.”

The books returned at the event, held in the Centrum Judaicum cultural centre at Berlin’s New Synagogue, included 19th and 20th century novels, history books, poetry collections, travel guides and bound newspaper volumes.

The yellowed pages bore fading stamps such as “Jewish Reading Room and Library Berlin” or “Jewish Community-Boys School Berlin”.

Many of the stamps had been simply covered over for more than six decades with the label of a German state institution.

Although their monetary value is negligible, the returned books symbolise a commitment to systematically account for the countless cultural objects stolen by the Nazis, said the head of the Berlin Jewish community, Lala Suesskind.

“This handover reminds us all that even after all these years, injustice has no statute of limitations,” she said.

The library said the origin of about 200,000 of its volumes needed to be researched.

About 25,000 books have been investigated in the last 10 years and 5,100 of them categorised as likely stolen under the Nazis, who systematically looted Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, schools and community centres.

Those books that were not torched or lost often found their way to German libraries.

More than 100 books have now been returned to their rightful owners but the library estimates it will take another 10 years to complete the detective work.

Annette Gerlach, who is spearheading the recovery efforts at the state library, described the case of Holocaust survivor Walter Lachman, who now lives in California and was handed back a schoolbook given to him at Hanukkah in 1937 just three years ago.

After the book was recovered, a German magazine featured it prominently in an article about restitution efforts. A rabbi read the story and asked whether the book could be Lachmann’s.

His daughter came to Berlin to reclaim the volume, her father’s only surviving memento from his German childhood, and Lachmann hopes to travel to the German capital himself later this year, Gerlach told AFP.

The culture ministry and the cultural foundation of the 16 German states contribute 1.2 million euros ($1.7 million) per year to provenance research.

Neumann said great progress had been made in the last three years, with 100 art historians in Germany now working full time on the issue, but called on the regional states to step up the investigation of their own holdings.

“Too little time, effort and funds were committed to provenance research in the past for items stolen under the Nazis,” he said. “That had to change.”

Berlin’s Free University said Wednesday it would begin the world’s first degree programme dedicated to researching the provenance of art works and cultural objects.

At a conference in Washington in 1998, 44 countries pledged to report cultural holdings stolen by the Nazis and not returned and identify their rightful owners. Germany made the same commitment the next year.

via Berlin library returns books stolen by Nazis.

April 14th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Genealogist Karen Franklin returns loot stolen by Nazis to rightful owners.

At the Hebrew Home for the Aged, genealogist Karen Franklin shows Seder plate taken during WWII by the Nazis when they looted Jewish people’s homes.

When a large, silver Seder plate was donated to the Derfner Judaica Museum in Riverdale in 2001, genealogistKaren Franklin, the museum’s director at the time, knew she had to learn its history.

“If it was looted, we had to give it back,” she said.

The story of the Seder plate would unfold in twists and turns over the next 10 years, and it would join the long roster of Nazi-era items that have become Franklin’s life work.

Franklin has traveled the world tracking down art pieces and possessions stolen from Jewish homes in Germanyduring World War II. She returned Wenesday to the Derfner Judaica Museum on the campus of The Hebrew Home to share some of those stories.

“Returning something that belonged to a family who lost it during the Nazi era is one the the most fulfilling things that I do,” Franklin told a rapt audience of nearly 40 community members and Hebrew Home residents.

In 2006, she was called on to find the heir to 12 paintings on display at the Jewish Historical Museum inAmsterdam. The museum had put on a special exhibit called “Looted, but from Whom?” It was the Dutch government’s attempt to return the stolen items.

Franklin managed to track down an engagement announcement online for a relative of the family who originally owned the paintings. Through her work, the family received about $300,000 in compensation.

Many of her findings don’t make headlines, Franklin said, but their recovery is nonetheless priceless.

“You hear about the major properties worth millions of dollars,” she said, “but there’s not a lot written about those little items that were pilfered from these homes.”

When a woman from Philadelphia donated the Seder plate to the Derfner Judaica Museum in 2001, Franklin had no idea it would spark a decade-long hunt that took her to Germany and Israel.

It turned out that the plate was taken from a Jewish home by a German soldier, but under surprising circumstances.

The soldier was married to a Jewish woman, who was the only survivor of her family. He rescued the plate, and it was handed down through the family, winding up with the woman from Philadelphia, a distant relative to the soldier.

Franklin has told the story of that Seder plate at many functions.

“People ask ‘Was it worth all that effort for a plate that couldn’t cost more than $200?'” she said. “And I say ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s worth $200 or $2 million. If you’re returning something to a family member, it is priceless.'”

Riverdale resident Ron Maas was fascinated.

“There’s a lot of history about this art that to this day we still don’t know what’s happened to the majority of it,” Maas said. “I find it very interesting.”

tsamuels@nydailynews.com

March 10th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

News from Poland – Stolen Painting Found in Russia.

“The Girl with a Dove” was painted by Antoine Pesne, a court painter of King Frederick II of Prussia, in 1754. Eight years before World War II, Museum in Poznan bought the painting from a private collector. “The price of it was 3,000 Polish money, a lot for those times” – says Piotr Michalowski of the National Museum in Poznan.

In 1943, the German occupation authorities ordered the evacuation of the museum. The collection was transported away to eastern Germany. Two years later, the paintings were taken over by the Red Army. Only part of the collection returned to Poland after the war. “The girl with the Dove” disappeared without trace.

Last year, the merchant from Moscow contacted the Polish Ministry of Culture. He recognised the lost painting in one of his canvases. Michalowski went to Russia. “I was able to confirm the authenticity of the work by comparing with photographs taken before the war. The picture is damaged, but fortunately very little” – he says.

National Museum in Poznan would like to recover the painting. “Its value is difficult to estimate. But it would be the only painting by Pesne in our collection” – highlights Michalowski. But the matter is not simple. Poles will probably have to pay for the canvas. Negotiations, since the summer of 2010, are carried out by the Ministry of Culture.

February 28th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Nazi looting: Italy denies U.S. export license to Baroque painting looted by Nazis – latimes.com.

The first time Philippa Calnan saw the Nazi-looted painting of St. Catherine of Alexandria by Bernardo Strozzi that had once belonged to her family was “an extremely moving moment.” Now, the Beverly Hills art aficionado says her emotions are running high for another reason: The Italian courts recently denied her application for an export license that would allow her to bring the painting back to the U.S.

The Italian Baroque painting, dating from the early 17th century, measures roughly 5.6 by 4 feet. It features a troubled-looking Saint Catherine seated in a flowing robe besides a spiked wheel, a torture device so closely associated with her martyrdom that it’s known as the Catherine Wheel.

“St. Catherine of Alexandria” was one of many masterpieces acquired by Calnan’s grandfather, Charles A. Loeser, a century ago. A New Yorker by birth who studied art history at Harvard (where the legendary scholar Bernard Berenson was a classmate), Loeser spent most of his life in Florence, writing about art and building a first-rate collection. Upon his death in 1928, he bequeathed eight Cézanne paintings to the White House and a cache of 262 drawings, rich with Italian Masters, to the Fogg Museum at his alma mater.

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He also donated more than 30 medieval and Renaissance works of art and furniture to the city of Florence, where they are housed at the Palazzo Vecchio. In exchange for his generosity, the government granted his family permission to export, free of charge, any remaining works from his collection up until two years after the death of his daughter, Matilda Loeser Calnan.

What they did not foresee is that a group of artworks from Loeser’s Villa Torri Gattaia in Florence would later be stolen by the Nazis, after being seized in 1942 by the prefect of Florence under the anti-Jewish “racial laws” issued by the Italian fascist regime. Rodolfo Siviero, the Italian art historian (turned secret agent for the Allied Forces) who helped to leadItaly’s post-World War II efforts at recovering Nazi-plundered artwork, included the Strozzi painting of Saint Catherine in a book of looted paintings.

Philippa Calnan, the Beverly Hills resident who says she is now Loeser’s sole heir, says Sotheby’s Milan office contacted her in 2009 to let her know that an individual had offered the painting, which they had identified as the looted Strozzi, for one of their upcoming auctions. It was a surprise to her. “I remember growing up hearing my mother and father talking about things that were missing, but I had never heard of this painting,” she says. (Nor, she says, does she know the whereabouts of two other family paintings known to have been looted.)

Shortly after speaking to Sotheby’s, she says she received a call from art-loss specialists with the Carabinieri, or Italian state police, inviting her to look at the painting in a back room at the auction house.

“When I first saw the painting, tears welled up in my eyes,” says Calnan, who herself worked in the art world before retiring, most recently as the director of public affairs for the Getty Trust. “It’s a big and very beautiful painting, and I almost felt presence of my grandfather coming down from above and saying: Now it’s up to you.”

She says she was given permission by the Carabinieri to remove the painting, by one estimate worth approximately $700,000. Within a matter of weeks, she placed it in storage in Milan in her name. “I thought I would then be able to export it to Los Angeles.”

Instead, a regional court in Lombardy known as the Tribunali Amministrativi Regionali, or TAR for short, denied her application for an export permit on the grounds that the deadline had expired in 2004, two years after the death of her mother. The first denial took place last year; a second rejection, prompted by an appeal, took place earlier this month. (The director of cultural heritage in Lombardy was unavailable for comment.)

Calnan says she is “mystified” by the decision. “All I can imagine is that some little guy in the basement of TAR with a calculator, looking at the agreement between my grandfather and city of Florence completely out of context, figured out that there was a period where my mother could have sold that painting. They didn’t look at the bigger picture — the fact that my grandfather left a very important collection to Florence and that we were ‘enemy aliens’ and had to escape from the Nazis.”

They missed the key point, she says: “My mother did export a number of things, but it was not possible to export this work because it was stolen.”

Her attorney Alessandro Pallottino calls the decision “wrong and unfair.” Not only was the painting missing for decades, he says, but “no application for an export license can be submitted without, at the same time, submitting the painting itself.”

Pallottino says he is preparing to appeal the decision with the Council of State, Italy’s highest court. He also confirms that criminal proceedings are beginning against the unidentified individual who claimed ownership of the Strozzi painting and offered it for sale at Sotheby’s.

February 25th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Count Heinrich von Bruehl, a former prime minister of Saxony.

During World War II, the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand was stolen. After a forensic investigation by ICE, the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand, which has been in the Toledo Museum of Art’s collection since 1956, was determined to be the same piece taken from Dresden. Custody will transfer to the Dresden State Art Collections on behalf of the von Bruehl heirs, who have agreed to lend the work to the Dresden museum upon its return to Germany.

the Nereid Sweetmeat Stand “Today’s ceremony rights a decades-old wrong and reconnects this valuable artifact to its rightful cultural origin and history,” said ICE Director John Morton. “This artifact represents an important part of the German national heritage and identity and we are grateful to be involved in its return.”

“While we are certainly sad to see the Nereid leave us, we take pride in the fact that the Toledo Museum of Art upholds the highest standards of museum practice by fully cooperating with the investigation and then returning a beloved piece that has been definitively proven not to be ours,” said Carol Bintz, chief operating officer of the Toledo Museum.

more:

Transfer ceremony marks return of antique porcelain to heirs of former German prime minister.

February 25th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

There are those who believe that two of the world’s most high-profile missing artifacts are hidden somewhere in the Dallas area. It’s an interesting coincidence, given that the man leading the search for them and other cultural treasures lost since World War II happens to live right here.

The objects are reliquaries from the Dark Ages, sacred containers housing what are said to be the physical remains of saints. One is a crystal carved into the shape of a mitre. The other is a hollow gold cross. Not necessarily distinctive, as far as reliquaries go, but they are valuable, perhaps worth millions of dollars each. And as far as Robert Edsel knows, they could be in your attic. Or your mother’s attic. With the last of our World War II veterans now leaving us, more and more stolen objects from the war are turning up as estates are settled. If you find one of the reliquaries, though, please don’t put it on eBay. Call Edsel instead. It would be much better to return it to its rightful owner.

Robert Edsel’s specialty is finding and returning artifacts and culturally significant items missing since the Nazi era. He calls his work the great final chapter of World War II. He is founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art, based in Dallas. The name of his organization comes from a heroic, if somewhat oddball, group of GIs responsible for rescuing more than 5 million cultural objects stolen by the Nazis. Edsel has made it his mission to tell their story and to continue their work by finding what’s still missing and sending it home. His work has also led to two books and a documentary film, which is why on March 1 he will receive the Texas Medal of Arts in a biennial awards ceremony that recognizes the state’s most outstanding artists and philanthropists.

Though Edsel is in his 50s and his hair has gone white, he looks and carries himself with a youthful intensity like he could still be in his 30s. Efficient and directed, he recounts the skepticism he meets with the glee of a man used to having the last laugh.

more:

D Magazine : The Nazi Treasure Hunter.

February 25th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Hungary has responded to the complaint filed against it and its museums for artworks looted from the Herzog family with an attempt to avoid a review of the merits of the family’s complaint by the U.S. District Court. Without denying the family’s assertion that it never voluntarily parted with its art collection, Hungary would have the court dismiss the lawsuit on technical grounds and a wholly false assertion, already rejected by the Hungarian Supreme Court, that the claim was settled by the U.S. government and also that compensation was paid to the family.

“The U.S. is not a communist or post communist country”

Hungary agreed with 47 other nations in 2009 at an international conference on Holocaust looted property that claims should be decided on the merits and not on technical grounds such as those it has now raised in court. Although Hungary relinquished any right to property from Holocaust victims in its 1947 Peace Treaty with the Allies following World War II, it has never honored its agreement to return the property to the Jews from whom it was stolen, such as the Herzog family. Hungary, following the examples of Russia and Poland, continues to refuse to honor its obligations under international law and restitute art looted from Jews in the course of Hungary’s attempt at their genocide, which was declared a crime against humanity by the charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Michael Shuster, counsel to the Herzog family, will urge the court to reach an independent decision on the merits of the family’s claim and disregard the technical roadblocks once more being raised by Hungary.

“The U.S. is not a communist or post communist country,” said Shuster. “The Hungarian government must justify its looting from the Jews that it murdered and not hide behind a wall of lies. Other countries, such as Austria, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Great Britain, refuse to allow technical arguments to defeat claims for restitution. Hungary, now holding the Presidency of the European Union, should comply with its ethical and legal obligations and honor its commitments to the resolutions of the European Council, the Washington Principles, and the Terezin Declaration.”

Heirs to the Herzog Collection filed suit in July 2010 to seek the return of artworks illegally held by Hungary since the Holocaust. In their lawsuit, the heirs also demand a full and transparent inventory of looted art from the Herzog Collection held by Hungary. The lawsuit seeks the return of over 40 artworks with a combined value of over $100 million, including masterworks by El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, and Lucas Cranach the Elder. The works come from the collection of Baron Mór Lipót Herzog, a passionate Jewish art collector. Hungary, a WWII-era ally of Nazi Germany, has held the artworks since the genocide of its Jewish population and continues to circumvent justice by refusing to restitute the artworks.

Additional materials, including a copy of the publicly filed complaint and photos of the artwork are available online at http://www.hungarylootedart.com/.

via Hungary’s Response to Herzog Collection Lawsuit Avoids the Case’s Merits | Business Wire.

February 17th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

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February 13th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Wo die stille Diplomatie versagt – Nachrichten Print – DIE WELT – Kultur – WELT ONLINE.


Die Rückführung von Beutekunst ist eine delikate Angelegenheit.
Deshalb setzt auch Polen, das nach dem großen Kunstraub im Zweiten
Weltkrieg einiges zurückzugewinnen hätte, dabei auf stille Diplomatie.
So still geht es gelegentlich zu, dass die großen polnischen Zeitungen
vorige Woche glatt übersehen haben, was das Warschauer
Kulturministerium neu auf seiner Internetseite präsentierte: einen
Katalog der 1939-1945 verschollenen Kulturgüter mit Fotos der Werke.
Hier werden zunächst nur 2000 Objekte vorgestellt, ein Bruchteil der
tatsächlichen Verluste.

February 11th, 2011

Posted In: WWII

Most of us know about World War II and the widespread genocide carried out by the Nazis. Many, though, are unaware of the fact that that the Nazis stole tons of money, possessions, and artwork from their victims.

Stories like that of Max Stern, the art historian, gallery owner, and arts philanthropist, who had his collection looted and his career almost destroyed by the Nazis, are an eye opener and a reminder that justice still hasn’t been completely carried out. Luckily, the Jewish Museum of Florida‘s “Auktion 392” exhibit tells the story of Nazi pillaging and the difficulties of returning many priceless works of arts to their rightful owners. Just as importantly, the exhibit actually displays some of that stolen and eventually found art.

Cultist spoke with Marcia Jo Zerivetz, the founding executive director and chief curator of the museum, about the importance of this exhibit. Read what she had to say after the jump.

New Times: Why is it important for the Jewish Museum of Florida to exhibit Auktion 392?

Marcia Jo Zerivetz: Because restitution of Nazi-looted art is a very hot topic in the art world today. Private collectors, galleries, and museums that do not check the provenance of what they buy or show may be holding art that belongs to a Jewish family from which the Nazi stole their art. I have been told that 25 museums in the U.S. have already returned “looted art” and there could be many more that are unaware. This exhibit increases awareness of the topic.

Do you think it is important for Jews and non-Jews alike to see the exhibit?

Absolutely. This is a topic for anyone interested in justice — in seeing that the art is returned to its rightful, legal owners.

How did the Nazis affect Jewish art, artists, and art collectors?

They took it all and destroyed generations of culture. This represents a black period of history when the law was not upheld, when the Nazis attempted to destroy the culture of Europe and determine what was art and what was not. They declared that everything belonged to them and they would determine its fate. They destroyed the livelihoods of Jewish families by taking away the licenses of all professionals and businesspeople, businesses that had been built over generations.

Auktion 392 is already open and runs until April 25 at the Jewish Museum of Florida (301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach). Tickets cost between $5 and $6 for individuals. A family pass costs $12 and museum members get in free. Visit jewishmuseum.com or call 305-672-5044.

via http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/cultist/2011/02/anal_nazi_nature_helps_looting.php

February 11th, 2011

Posted In: WWII