April 28, 2006

Feldmann case conclusion?

Posted at 12:54 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Earlier this year, the Art Newspaper indicated that the British Museum would be paying compensation to the Feldmann family in lieu of the return of four paintings. The return of the paintings was prohibited by anti-deaccessioning clauses in the British Museum act.
Further details have now emerged on the scale of the payout which is being made. Unfortunately the government still appears to be relatively slow to amend the laws governing return of looted artefacts which were talked about well before the case, but highlighted again at the time of the verdict.

Czech News Agency

Britain to compensate Czech heirs of drawings
08:03 – 28.04.2006

London- The British government will pay a 175,000-pound compensation to the heirs of four drawings from the collection of Czech Jewish lawyer Arthur Feldman that were stolen by the Nazis during WW2 and are displayed in the British Museum in London, AP news agency reported on Thursday.

Feldman’s grandson Uri Peled and the British Museum have jointly proposed the compensation which will enable the museum to preserve the valuable artifacts, AP added.

Peled said he is pleased that the Old Master drawings would stay in the British Museum since his grandfather would certainly like them to be accessible to the public and future researchers.

The Gestapo Nazi secret police stole the drawings from Feldman’s house in Brno, south Moravia. The family members were tortured and killed by the Nazis. Feldman’s wife Gisela perished in the Auschwitz (Oswiecim) extermination camp in Poland.

The official British commission investigating the cases of art looting in Europe during the war originally dealt with the case, but it shelved it after the British High Court ruled last year that the British Museum cannot return the works of art.

Under the British law, local museums must maintain the integrity of their collections, which prevents them from returning the artifacts stolen during the Nazi occupation to the original owners or their heirs.

After the British High Court’s verdict, Peled and the British Museum turned to the commission again and applied for a compensation.

Peled said that they both felt that the drawings should remain on display in the British Museum regardless of the court verdicts.

In 1946, the British Museum acquired the four drawings from Feldman’s collection – St. Dorothy with the Christ Child (1508) by a follower of German engraver Martin Schongauer, Virgin and Child Adored by St. Elizabeth and the Infant St. John by Martin Johann Schmidt from the 18th century, An Allegory on Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo by 18th-century English artist Nicholas Blakey, and The Holy Family by Italian Niccolo dell’Abbate from the 16th century.

Feldman’s art collection comprised some 750 paintings and drawings. Some of them were reportedly found in Moravia after the war.

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1 Comment »

  1. George Vardas said,

    05.09.06 at 11:31 am

    The decision of the British Government to compensate the heirs of Dr Feldmann whose Old Master drawings were looted by the Nazis and later acquired by the British Museum raises some intriguing questions. The heirs of the Feldmann Estate had previously negotiated the physical return of other works from the Czech Republic through Anne Webber of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe (“CLAE”). Suddenly, after bringing a claim for return of the four Feldmann drawings from the British Museum, the claim was “resolved” by a joint submission that the claimants be compensated instead by a payment of 175,000 pounds. The report of the UK Spoliation Advisory Panel specifically notes that the claimants had revoked all authority for the CLAE to represent them and that the British Museum and the claimants had put up instead a “preferred solution”. And yet in 2004 Ms Webber had written that she was working on behalf of the claimants with the British Museum to find a creative legal means of allowing restitution to take place. Suddenly, the claimants have accepted compensation and have even claimed that “we are sure that this is what our grandfather would have wanted for them to be available to the public”. The British Museum is absolutely petrified of a precedent being set for the Parthenon Sculptures and will clearly go to any lengths to avoid returning works of art stolen by the Nazis. The British Government has also been slow in amending the law to permit the British Museum to return looted works of art. The ghost of the Elgin Marbles is still ever present.

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