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Courtauld Institute to return Nazi loot

The Courtauld Institute becomes the next British Institution to reach an agreement to return items in its collection believed to have been looted by the Nazis. As I have mentioned before [1], the relatively enlightened policies involving nazi loot restitution are in marked contrast to the policies of most of Britain’s museums where other artefacts are concerned.

The Scotsman [2]

Friday, 26th January 2007
Arts institute to return art looted by Nazis
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) – Three drawings looted by the Nazis in 1939 will be returned to the original owner’s heirs by Courtauld Institute of Art, the government said on Wednesday.

“A lion”, attributed to Carl Ruthart and “An architectural capriccio”, attributed to Giuseppe Bibiena, will be handed over by the Courtauld to the heirs of Czech collector Arthur Feldmann.

The third drawing, “A dog lying down”, attributed to Frans Van Mieris the elder, will be presented back to the Courtauld by the family.

“The government has accepted the recommendation of the…Spoliation Advisory Panel to return to the heirs of Arthur Feldmann three drawings which were seized by the Gestapo in Czechoslovakia in 1939,” Culture Minister David Lammy said in a statement.

The three pictures are valued at between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds in total.

Feldmann’s collection of more than 750 drawings disappeared on March 15, 1939. The Jewish collector died two years later, his wife was killed in Auschwitz concentration camp and their heirs have been trying to trace the works since the end of World War Two.

The three drawings were acquired by renowned dealer Colnaghi at a sale at Sotheby’s, London, in October 1946 and sold to Sir Robert Witt.

They form part of the Witt bequest of more than 3,000 Old Master drawings which was made to the Courtauld in 1952.

Feldmann’s heirs contacted the Courtauld last February, and in June both sides agreed to refer the matter to the Spoliation Panel, which decides on claims by people or their heirs who lost property under the Nazis that is now in British national collections.

“There was overwhelming evidence that the drawings were illegally taken from Arthur Feldmann and the Courtauld supported his descendants’ claim to these works,” institute director Deborah Swallow said in a statement, thanking the family for their donation.

In April last year the British Museum agreed to pay undisclosed compensation to Feldmann’s heirs for four other drawings from the looted collection, so that the works could remain in the museum’s collection.

Three of the four were acquired by the museum at the same Sotheby’s auction in 1946. The fourth arrived three years later as part of a bequest.

A further 135 of the missing works were returned to Feldmann’s heirs in 2003 by the Czech museum where they had been hanging since the end of the war.

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Last updated: 24-Jan-07 20:16 GMT