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Scottish gallery makes deal to keep Nazi loot

In a case, similar to that of the Feldmann [1] paintings, but much less widely reported, a Scottish gallery will pay £10,000 in compensation to be allowed to retain in its collection a painting that was looted by the Nazis.

The Scotsman [2]

Sun 12 Feb 2006
Deal lets gallery keep painting looted by Nazis

ONE of Scotland’s most important art galleries has paid £10,000 in compensation to keep a painting looted by the Nazis.

Le Paté de Jambon, a still life attributed to a follower of Pierre Chardin, was the subject of an inquiry by the Spoliation Advisory Panel of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

It researched claims by the descendents of the owners of the Munich-based AS Drey Gallery that the painting was the subject of a forced sale in Berlin in 1936 to meet an unjust Nazi tax demand.

In 2004, they advised the Burrell Collection in Glasgow that the oil painting should be returned to its original owners, a Jewish family based in Germany. But yesterday a spokesman for Glasgow City Council, which owns the gallery, confirmed that a payment has been made to the family.

A spokesman said: “The payment is being offered on an ex-gratia basis in recognition of the moral case that has been presented and the expenses incurred by the claimants in pursuing the claim. The decision was taken at the Cultural and Leisure Service committee after the consideration of legal advice.”

The claims date back to September 2001 when Glasgow City Council received a request from a firm of Berlin lawyers representing the descendants of two Jewish families that had owned an established art house and gallery in Munich, and offices in New York, the Hague, Paris and Brussels.

The descendants state that in February 1936, two directors of the gallery were called to a meeting with the German tax authorities. At the meeting, the directors were forced to acknowledge a tax debt of around £44,000.

The shareholders had to organise a “clearance sale” on June 17 and 18, 1936. The sale included Le Paté de Jambon. On June 22 Sir William Burrell, a shipping magnate and extensive collector of art, bought the work from Julius Bohler, a Munich-based dealer for £647. This painting was part of the collection that Sir William gifted to Glasgow.

Scotland on Sunday art critic Iain Gale said: “Glasgow has obviously done the right thing from a moral point of view, and judging by the valuation of the work, they have paid a reasonable sum of money.

“But then again what is a fair amount for something which was stolen and the family have not had the benefit of for the last 60 years. It is a very interesting phenomenon which is now coming to fruition 30 years since people began to take it seriously and realise the enormity of work that is out there. It is not the last we are going to hear about this because I am sure there are other works in public and private collections in the UK which are in the same situation.”

The resolution of the Glasgow claim comes on the back of another case involving art looted by the Nazis. Four drawings were confiscated from Dr Arthur Feldmann’s collection of 750 at his home in Brno by the Gestapo on March 15, 1939, when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia.

They were later bought by the British Museum in good faith. But in 2002 Tel Aviv-based Uri Peled, a descendant of Dr Feldmann, launched a claim for the drawings valued at around £185,000. The museum appealed to the Attorney General to ask whether it could sell back the works, but under existing legislation it was not permissible to do so. It is now expected that Peled will accept a financial offer from the British Museum of around £185,000.

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/arts.cfm?id=221232006

Last updated: 12-Feb-06 00:53 GMT