January 13, 1998


-Schiele (translations german articles and comments)

-Hold Those Paintings!
The Manhattan D.A. seizes alleged Nazi loot


- Display reflects anxiety about museum security;
The FBI's recovery of stolen artifacts spotlights problem of insider theft.

- Seeking Moral Justice by the Return of Looted Art

- Information on theft of Mona Lisa in 1911

- Copenhagen mermaid's head found


- Looted Art from Vienna and Salzburg in the Louvre?
Sabine Fehlemann, Director of the Von-der-Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal, found looted art from WWII in the Paris Louvre through a misdirected fax.

To: "Museum Security Mailinglist"
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 08:00:53 +0000

Schiele (translations german articles and comments)

Dear Museum Security Mailinglist subscribers: Antonia Kriks, originally from Austria now living in Germany, has been so kind as to translate several of the German language articles about the Schiele-Austria-USA controversy that we sent to you a few days ago. Next to her translations Antonia Kriks also offers some personal views. I am very grateful that Antonia (and some other subscribers as well) was willing to reserve time to make these translations.
Ton Cremers

More reactions about the confiscating of Schieles in New York:

The "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" writes about a 'scandal in New York'. For Austria it means that a lengthy procedure including diplomatic involvement is coming up, because the "Stiftung Leopold" was financed mainly out of public funds. Rudolf Leopold, who built the greatest Schiele collection worldwide therefore is not to blame anymore. But for coming exhibitions it looks like hard times coming up. If loan contracts are not kept like it used to be the end of international exhibitions are in sight. Persons who give loans will feel insecure and will not let their stock out of the country anymore. "Tote Stadt" and "Bildnis Wally" for sure will not be on exhibition at the next stop, which is the Picasso museum in Barcelona, the FAZ speculates. The US-"Daily Telegraph" quotes Robert Morgenthau, district attorney of Manhattan, who justifies his proceedings. The investigation has started now and therefore first action has been set to keep the paintings in Manhattan. The Daily Telegraph announces that because of "the controversy about Nazi lootings", as they call it in the headlines, some museums have doubts. They are afraid that the international exchange of works of art are disturbed by now. No doubts has Rita Reif naturally. She is convinced that this investigation will start a process which dimensions will extent. She thinks that it not just her case but also about the fate of holocaust victims and their loss of possessions. They quote Henry Bondi: "You know what Lenin said - justice is good, but better is supervising." The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" comments under the headline "Squint at Schiele" that the confiscating has to alarm the world of art. The confidence in European American cultural agreements has disappeared. But if the first of the German local museums, who lost hundreds of artefacts of the early modernistic art during the 3.Reich would start to sue the new owners, American and Swiss museums had to close down whole departments of their collections. It seems atavistic that the paintings are kept as a pawn by 'the most reputable art temple in the 'free world'.

Der Raub der Schieles - The looting of the Schiele paintings

by Andreas Untersberger

Fritz Grünbaum was one of the most amiable representatives of the austrian art of cabaret. His murder by the National socialists is because of that for a lot of people in Vienna particular painful remembered. The more natural it should have been that every precise claim for ownership and for damages of his heirs would have been handled correctly by Austrian officials. But his heirs never claimed any damage. The less understandably is the wildwest action in New York where now a painting which probably belonged to Grünbaum simply was seized, together with a second piece of art, which another well known family claims for. This action did not only damage the next stages of the big Schiele show. A very fair offer of the Leopold Museum, to find an independent mediator for the controversy, was met with rebuff.. And with that the USA has shown once again their brutality thinking they can force their view of law upon the rest of the world - even though they never reach European level in any way, even though America would not be even qualified to join the European human rights commission. No matter how this controversy ends, already one victim has fallen: The international exhibition tourism which in the last years offered a lot of terrific expositions is dead. Which Austrian minister who loves his job will still dare to authorize the dispatch of Austrian Art to foreign countries? Which museum of the world will still be willing to put its property to the legal decision of another country? Who after all will take the risk especially referring to America to trust the partners over there? We will be able to live with it. For Art lovers it just means that in future they can see certain things only in Vienna. And the USA will have to live with the fact, that for them the world of culture has gone some steps towards a banana republic.

Antonia Kriks' summary and some personal comments:

The article by Andreas Untersberger seems to have a quite typical Austrian point of view. It shows perfect a widely spread arrogant European view of culture - culture belongs traditionally to Europe and the rest of the world may participate, as long as they behave well. And that's the point where it starts. As probably everybody knows by now 'entartete Kunst' (degenerated, decadent art) was one of the Nazis most beloved - or most disgusted - things. They persecuted modern artists, burned their books, tried to destroy the paintings and finally killed hundreds of artists, the rest fled. They, and that means German and Austrian people, also killed quite a lot of jewish art collectors. Most of the jewish art collectors collected modern art at this time, because they where connoisseurs and art understanding collectors and did not think just about the money involved in art deals. Most of the Austrian Newspapers admit now that the Austrian government after the war until the early fifties still did not like the modernists too much. The prices of the paintings where still fairly cheap, and the National Museums where not keen on getting for example Schieles paintings. It seems like it was quite easy for Rudolf Leopold to deal with the Austrian Gallery. The Gallery acquired 11 paintings out of the heritage Heinrich Rieger (who died in a concentration camp) fairly cheap, and later on made a deal with the art collector Rudolf Leopold, who purchased 'Bildnis Wally' and 'Tote Stadt III', still pretty cheap. Now the collector Rudolf Leopold admits in an Interview with the Austrian newspaper "Der Standard" that he knew already in 1953, 4 years before he actually bought the 'Bildnis Wally', that Lea Bondi-Jaray laid claim on the painting, but he states that she never actually sued the austrian Government although the painting was exhibited in the Austrian Gallery for years. And that's why he thinks he acquired it legally. He told the Austrian Gallery that he did not want to have any problems by buying that piece of art. Rudolf Leopold now claims that he bought the painting off a jewish art dealer named Kallir in New York and that his father was in opposition to the nazi regime and therefore the accusation the painting was looted is ridiculous. To me it looks like the problem is that Austria (and Germany) do not want to be remembered again about the 'dark times', because such a lot of things have not been discussed in the past. No it's handled like it would be a legal problem, rooting in the different legal systems of USA and Europe, but it is more: It is the fear to be confronted with our history once again. But to me it looks like it's just a beginning of a long story: A few month ago the Italians presented a catalogue of art, 150 pieces, looted by the "Wehrmacht" in Italy during the war. Those pieces of art are spread all over the world by now - what happens, if the Italians start to claim it back? There is also the fact that American soldiers took back the one or the other piece of art from Germany to the states - not quite legally, is it? I do not know how to solve that problem - it only shows in my opinion that there is still a lot to do - and to discuss in order to solve it.

With best regards from Austria
Antonia Kriks


Hold Those Paintings!

The Manhattan D.A. seizes alleged Nazi loot


For the past couple of weeks the international museum world has been getting an increasing attack of the jitters over two works by the Austrian Expressionist artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918). Portrait of Wally, 1912, and Dead City III, 1911, were part of a large fall show of Schiele's drawings and paintings at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, all on loan from the government financed Leopold Foundation in Vienna. The two paintings have long been claimed by descendants of Viennese Jewish families from whom the Nazis stole them in the 1930s. Right at the end of the show--in fact only hours before the works were to be crated for return to Vienna--Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau took the unusual and high-handed step of hitting MOMA with a subpoena that froze the disputed Schieles in New York City until a criminal investigation had determined whose property they are. This was greeted with outrage in Austria and dismay in the U.S. Austrian Culture Minister Elizabeth Gehrer called Morgenthau's intervention a "heavy blow to the international exchange of art" that "shakes the foundations of trust." It seemed particularly insulting that Morgenthau's office had behaved as though the present Austrian government, whose conduct in the restitution of art stolen by Nazis after the Anschluss has been impeccable, would stoop to the sort of cover-up deployed by Swiss bankers over their stocks of stolen Jewish gold.
The chief claimants to the paintings are Henry Bondi, 76, a biochemical engineer in Princeton, N.J., and Rita Reif, a semiretired arts reporter for the New York Times. Wally had belonged to Bondi's aunt, a Viennese art dealer named Lea Bondi Jaray. Shortly before she fled to London in 1938, it was seized from her by a Nazi art dealer; eventually it passed through the hands of the Austrian Gallery and ended up in the collection of Dr. Rudolf Leopold, an ophthalmologist and self-styled art historian and restorer whose Schiele collection is institutionalized today as the Leopold Foundation. Dead City was owned by a relative of Reif's, a Viennese writer-comedian named Fritz Grunbaum. Nazis confiscated it before sending him to die in Dachau. Its passage through the art market before Leopold bought it from a dealer is not fully clear.
Bondi and Reif had asked MOMA to keep the works in New York until the legal title to the pictures was clarified. "The museum," said Reif, "must make a moral determination on this." Exactly wrong: the museum's responsibility for moral issues stops with the works in its own collection. MOMA had a loan contract with the Leopold Foundation to return the works to Vienna as soon as the show closed. Such contracts are, of course, vital to the arrangement of institutional art loans. The free circulation of works of art among museums depends on them. "If we can't honor our contracts, it will have the iciest chilling effect on loans," MOMA's legal counsel, Stephen Clark, told the New York Times. "Who would lend, knowing that the pictures might not come back?"
The Holocaust Art Restitution Project, a group set up last fall in Washington to document Jewish cultural losses under Nazism, got into the act and started urging MOMA and its chairman, Ronald Lauder, not to return the paintings. (As it happens, Lauder was ambassador to Austria from 1986 to 1987 and is a notable Schiele collector.) In response the Leopold Foundation proposed that an international tribunal be set up to examine the Schieles' true ownership, and it pledged to comply with the tribunal's findings. Constance Lowenthal, director of the World Jewish Congress's Commission for Art Recovery (whose chairman is Lauder), said the foundation's offer was unique in her experience, since few owners of art with clouded title are apt to be so cooperative.
So why did Morgenthau step in? Dr. Klaus Schroder, the Leopold Museum's managing director, suspects that behind the D.A.'s subpoena lies the hand of New York's Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato, who is seeking support during this election year for his bill on property restitution to the heirs of the Holocaust, which passed the Senate in November and awaits House action. "It is of course political," said Schroder. He dismisses the Reif and Bondi claims as invalid, as the statute of limitations has expired, and vehemently defends Rudolf Leopold as a good-faith purchaser.
Whether anything but rhetorical heat and resentment will come out of this whole debacle remains to be seen. At worst it could do severe damage to the loan system on which museums depend, while adding very little to the principles of restitution of stolen property. But that's what can happen when grandstanding pols and D.A.s get in on emotionally supercharged issues that ought to be resolved with tact and studious neutrality.

With Reporting by Massimo Calabresi /Vienna and Daniel S. Levy /New York

Display reflects anxiety about museum security

The FBI's recovery of stolen artifacts spotlights problem of insider theft.

By Stephan Salisbury INQUIRER STAFF WRITER When artifacts stolen from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania were placed on display at FBI headquarters in Center City on Tuesday, it was as if every institution's worst nightmare were exposed for public viewing.
Insider theft
Theft carried out by staff.
Theft by respected visitors or researchers.

"We don't have the statistics to back it up, but certainly when it comes to institutions, very often insider theft does seem to be one of the major problems," said Anna Kisluk, director of the Art Loss Registry in New York, which maintains a digital-image database of more than 100,000 missing and stolen art objects. "Those very people who should be trusted are the ones who steal." The FBI display featured about 200 artifacts with an estimated value of as much as $2 million -- a lock of George Washington's hair, several bejeweled swords, John Brown's Harpers Ferry rifle -- all allegedly stolen by one of the society's maintenance supervisors over the course of a decade.
According to an FBI affidavit, Earnest Medford removed the items from a locked storage room and sold them to a Delaware County electrician, George Csizmazia, for about $8,000. Csizmazia, a purported history buff, displayed some of the pieces in his Rutledge home and squirreled the rest away in his garage, the affidavit said. Both men have been charged with violating federal laws governing theft of so-called cultural property. Each pleaded not guilty. Leaders of other Philadelphia-area museums expressed sympathy last week with the Historical Society while at the same time asserting confidence in their own security systems and procedures. "It's tragic when any museum or cultural institution loses objects, given our mission of holding them in the public trust," said Gail Harrity, chief operating officer at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. "We have confidence in our record keeping. We have confidence in our registry record-keeping. And we have confidence in our security systems." Two objects have been purloined from the Art Museum in recent years. A Rodin bust was stolen by a gunman in a daring heist from the Rodin Museum in 1988. The other theft involved a trompe l'oeil painting of a $5 bill by William Harnett, which mysteriously disappeared in 1984. The painting and sculpture were recovered by the FBI.
Harrity would not discuss any details of the museum's security web. Leslie Moody, head of human resources at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, acknowledged that staff theft was "one of the most problematic areas" of security. That said, she described the academy's security system as a "layered program" featuring alarm systems, physical barriers and security guards. "We have not had any theft," she said. "We've been very fortunate that way." Security procedures at the Historical Society have been a concern for some time and were criticized by outside evaluators who recently reviewed overall operations. But Susan Stitt, Historical Society president, noted that ongoing renovations to the society's building at 13th and Locust Streets will result in dramatic security improvements. When the building reopens as a library-only facility in April, it will do so with a new electronic security system, a video surveillance system, additional staff desks in public reading rooms and additional secure storage facilities for frequently used materials. Library users will face more stringent sign-in procedures, and sight lines in collections areas will be unobstructed. "It's not just a question of 'do you have guards,' " said Stitt. "It's every single procedure you utilize."
Edward H. Able, president of the American Association of Museums, a service organization, called security "a major issue" confronting museums and libraries.
"The big problem is that it's not an issue funding sources seem to care about until it's too late," Able said. "It costs an inordinate amount of money to safeguard, maintain and protect the millions of dollars worth of objects that museums hold for the public. But it's not sexy and funders don't support it. . . . Security and collections care are the top priority of every museum I know. They're saying, 'Our first priority is to protect the collection. If we have to forgo a program or two, we'll just have to do that.' "
The Historical Society discovered that items were missing in November after beginning its first comprehensive computerized inventory. That one followed a less comprehensive effort in 1996 and is part of a program of regular inventories Stitt inaugurated.
Able noted that Stitt has "begun to document the collection." "That's the greatest protection against theft," Able said. Security problems will not diminish once the Historical Society reopens. The Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Butler Library at Columbia University, the New York Public Library -- indeed, virtually all libraries in the country -- have been targeted by thieves in recent years. At the Van Pelt Library of the University of Pennsylvania, a longtime employee was charged in 1990 with stealing nearly $2 million worth of rare books over a period of years. She pleaded no contest the following year.
"In any organization, it's very, very difficult to stop insider theft," said Michael T. Ryan, director of special collections at the Van Pelt Library. "There are just too many opportunities for a determined thief to steal. In an academic library, there's a precarious balance we have to maintain between access and security." Ryan said the Van Pelt conducts "ongoing inventories" of its collections. That means if something is missing, authorities can be notified sooner rather than later.
"Cost [ of doing inventories ] is an issue for all institutions -- historical societies, museums, what have you," said Kisluk of the Art Loss Registry. "And most of their collections are in storage with only a small percentage on view. Things in storage are particularly vulnerable to insider theft."
Said one federal law enforcement officer: "You've got boxes and boxes and boxes of material in the basement that you don't even have on display. How are you gonna inventory that?"

(Philadelphia Enquirer)

Seeking Moral Justice by the Return of Looted Art

By HECTOR FELICIANO PARIS--Claims over two paintings by the Austrian Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, are the latest pieces found from the enormous puzzle that Nazi art plundering created during Wold War II. It is society's duty to reconstruct it. "Portrait of Wally" and "Dead City" were both on view until last Sunday in a traveling Schiele exhibit at MOMA in New York. In two separate claims, the American heirs to these paintings argued that they were seized by the Nazis from their Jewish owners after the annexation of Austria in 1938. Both works were acquired after the war by Dr. Rudolf Leopold, whose collection in Vienna is now a government-financed foundation, which organized the traveling show. The two families asked MOMA to hold on to the paintings after the exhibit closed, until their provenances, or ownership history, could be rightly identified. But the museum, citing a contractual obligation to return the pictures, and federal and state laws that forbid the seizure of cultural properties on loan in New York, said it had to ship the pictures to the show's next destination, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. At the families' insistence, a last-minute court subpoena, issued by the Manhattan district attorney on Wednesday, stopped the paintings from leaving the country until an investigation could be completed. An increasing number of legal claims and major public disputes concerning Nazi wartime art plundering have recently emerged. As in the Schiele case, looted works have turned up in major as well as mid-sized U.S. museums, art galleries and private collections, triggering national and international demands and accusations. For the past two years, Europeans have also encountered the same unexpected situation. French state museums, for example, are under strong public pressure to find the owners of the more than 2,000 unclaimed artworks they have been holding on to since the end of World War II. Unlike in Europe, many Americans have reacted strongly and positively to this complex matter, including several American museum directors and curators, the Art Dealers Assn. of America and many art history and law professors. Looted art claims will continue to expand now that an increasing circle of American and international readers, viewers and art lovers is growing aware that many of the hundreds of thousands of artworks taken by the Nazis from Jews, Freemasons and political opponents were never returned to their rightful owners. Since the end of World War II, these missing works have, in a manner comparable to laundered money, quietly found their way into the art world, where they are now surfacing. We must find a solution to this problem without making every looted owner's claim a potentially criminal situation for an artwork's current holder. In one recent U.S. case, a looted Henri Matisse painting, "Oriental Woman Seated on Floor," was located last October at the Seattle Art Museum. A reader looking at the illustrations in my book, "The Lost Museum," recognized the painting and informed the heirs. In 1940, the painting was plundered by the Nazis from French art dealer Paul Rosenberg, taken to their stolen-art depot at the Jeu de Paume in Paris and traded into the French art market. The Matisse was subsequently brought into the U.S. in the 1950s by a New York art dealer who sold it to the Bloedel family in Seattle. The Bloedels, in turn, donated it to the museum. The painting is now being claimed by Rosenberg's American and French heirs. Another highly publicized case, in September, concerned eight rare medieval illuminated manuscripts, looted by the Nazis from the Alphonse Kann collection in Paris and found at the renowned Wildenstein & Co. gallery in New York. The Kann heirs quickly claimed the works, but discovered that, soon after their written claims were sent, the gallery had tried selling the disputed manuscripts to a book dealer. The Kanns have vowed to recover their missing works. Finally, a trial scheduled in Chicago this spring should decide the fate of an Edgar Degas work, "Landscape with Smokestacks," looted from the Gutmann family in Paris. The painting was found in the collection of Daniel Searle, former chairman of G.D. Searle Pharmaceutical Co. and a trustee of the Art Institute of Chicago. Searle has rejected the claim. The Gutmanns, husband and wife, died in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, but their daughter and grandsons are standing by their long, costly two-generation family search. Hence, art plundered by the Nazis has surfaced not only in Europe but in collections throughout the United States. What can we do to close, once and for all and with fairness, this unfinished chapter of World War II and the Holocaust? The most reasonable solution would be the creation of a permanent independent arbitration commission made up of knowledgeable members from different fields in the U.S. and Europe. After rigorously studying each case, the commission members would make a final decision--accepted as definitive by all parties involved. This commission would try to achieve justice while avoiding the sometimes astronomical legal fees and juridical technicalities that do not take human reason into account. This type of arbitration commission also possesses the advantage of acting quickly--in any case, quicker than the courts--and in a more amicable way. It will also protect the art and cultural worlds from hysterical witch hunts that usually lead to much mangling and mauling but few results. At all times, art plundering has been an essential aspect of war. Victors have always tried to annihilate their enemies not only physically but morally. We saw this most recently during the war in the former Yugoslavia. The Nazis, for their part, wanted to exterminate their enemies, but also to destroy their souls, personalities and memories. Art reflects the soul and personality of its owner. The works you own are usually a projection of your personality and constitute part of your dreams, values and family memory. Moreover, the Nazis considered many of these art collectors usurpers of the highest aesthetic values in Western culture. Unlike Napoleonic booty found today in the Louvre Museum or the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum, art looted by the Nazis still affects people alive today. Many surviving heirs intimately knew these works, which had hung in their homes before being confiscated by the Nazis. For others, their families' lives have been indelibly shaped by their long search for their missing artworks. Returning plundered art will, undoubtedly, be a complicated legal and social matter, entangling many persons, institutions and reputations. For decades, few in the art world--auction houses, art dealers, museum curators, collectors and experts--cared about the provenance of these paintings, drawings, sculptures and manuscripts. But, today, more than 50 years after the war, we have one of the last opportunities to right a wrong from that era. Returning looted art is, fundamentally, a matter of moral justice and memory. Our chance to do today that which we will not be able to do even a few years from now--to gather all the pieces of the puzzle. We should not lose sight of the fact that the story of Nazi art plunder and the puzzle that came out of it cannot be told from the point of view of the looters, nor from the point of view of the unknowing and unwitting museums or current owners. It can only be told from one point of view: the victims. - - -

Hector Feliciano Is Author of "The Lost Museum: the Nazi Conspiracy to Steal the World's Greatest Works of Art."

Copyright Los Angeles Times

Date: Thu, 08 Jan 1998 15:16:49 -0500
From: Cody dennison
Organization: Global Trade

Information on theft of Mona Lisa in 1911

Trying to gather research on the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Can you suggest a site or any references that would help.
Cody Dennison

Copenhagen mermaid's head found

THE missing head of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue has been found outside a local television station at Skovlunde, about 12 miles west of the capital. "We found the head in a box outside our main entrance after offering a 25,000 crown (£2,200) reward for its return," said a television journalist. "We didn't see anybody deliver the head, but immediately contacted the police, who came along to collect it." In its morning chat show, another television station showed photographs taken by a cameraman at a secret location of a hooded man with the severed head. The statue, Copenhagen's famous waterfront landmark and a tourist symbol of Denmark, was found decapitated for the second time in 34 years early on Tuesday after an anonymous call to a television cameraman.


Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has struck another blow for justice in the continuing battle to restore Jewish wealth stolen during the Holocaust to its rightful owners. He has subpoenaed two paintings by the artist Egon Schiele in order to keep them here in New York. The paintings were recently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, which had them on loan from Austria's Leopold Museum. But before World War II they had once been the property of Jews, one of whom was subsequently murdered in a concentration camp (the other, happily, made it to London). The paintings, which were seized illegally, rightly belong to their heirs. By taking charge of the paintings, Morgenthau has ruffled the feathers of the international art community. They say such heavy-handed governmental intervention is unprecedented, and could disrupt the complicated loan agreements that allow big collections to travel overseas. Morgenthau's action was indeed unusual - but then, so is the noble effort to achieve restitution for the victims of Nazism. And he has thrown some cold water in the faces of art-world aesthetes who may believe the highfalutin nature of their work gives them special license to shield the provenance of stolen goods from civilized scrutiny. Rudolf Leopold, a powerful Schiele collector, bought both paintings shortly after the war. The Leopold Museum may squawk at Morgenthau's action, but acquiring paintings from people intended for the gas chambers - and not paying them or their families - isn't an acceptable way to build an art collection. The Leopold Museum wants the paintings back in Austria, where it says it will convene an impartial international tribunal to determine ownership. And yet, in the very statement in which it proposes the tribunal, the museum insists it has "true ownership" of the two Schieles.
Perhaps the Austrians are right on technical grounds - they've been holding on to the looted art for quite a while. But we think that's something that could be fairly considered by a Manhattan grand jury - which is where the DA will now take the case. Certainly it will be a fairer hearing than one composed of "very responsible and prestigious people," in the words of the museum. After all, in Austria, Kurt Waldheim is a very prestigious person.
(New York Post editorial)

The following article was kindly presented to us and translated from Die Presse Vienna, edition of Jan 13th 1997 by: Antony F Anderson

Looted Art from Vienna and Salzburg in the Louvre?

Sabine Fehlemann, Director of the Von-der-Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal, found looted art from WWII in the Paris Louvre through a misdirected fax.

Looted Art taken away from Germany at the end of WW II is stored in many museums in the former Soviet Union, but also in the Louvre. Until now these cultural treasures have been regarded as lost without trace. It was quite by coincidence that Sabine Fehlemann, Director of the Von-der-Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal got on their track: in April 1997 a fax from the Louvre was misdirected to the Wuppertal museum. The letter gave information about nude study by Renoir that, along with many other works, had been regarded as missing since 1945, following the wartime evacuation of art property from Wuppertal to Koblenz.
Louvre registration number "REC 55" shows unequivocally that the preliminary pencil study for Renoir's painting "The Bathers" was transported in a French Military Administration art-convoy, first to Baden-Baden and later to Paris. "I travelled immediately to Paris and anonymously examined REC 55", says Fehlemann.
Among the abbreviations and the list of works lost from Wuppertal, she recognised "with certainty" a further eight pictures from her museum in the Louvre, amongst which were oil paintings by Corot, Delacroix, Theodore Rousseau and Ingres. None of these pictures had been plundered from Museums or from Jewish owners during the Nazi era by German occupation forces in France. Rather, Wuppertal's then museum director Viktor Dirksen, being an enthusiast for Impressionist paintings, had directed his entire purchasing policy towards France because he did not want to buy the kind of art favoured by the Nazis and he was not able to buy "degenerate art", Fehlemann explains.
Fehlemann has traced via the Louvre registers more than 1000 works with the abbreviations "REC" or "MNR" - used as inventory designations for works of art confiscated in 1945 - including treasures from museums in Vienna, Salzburg, Frankfurt/ Main, Düsseldorf, Krefeld and Essen. Her Paris colleagues were unwilling to discuss ownership claims and she interprets their attitude as follows:
the exhibits were "requisitioned with a good conscience and retained with a bad conscience". In Paris they prefer to recall De Gaulle's edict of 1943, whereby dubious business contracts made under the German occupation are invalid. The German Foreign Ministry advised Fehlemann to work informally: a dialogue between museums was suggested.
Copyright "Die Presse" Vienna

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