Nazi-looted art set to go back to family
The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 2002Will Bennett
Four old master drawings stolen from a collector by the Nazis may be handed back to his descendants by the British Museum in the first case of its kind in Britain.
The museum acquired the drawings, now worth several hundred thousand pounds, during the late 1940s but yesterday admitted that they had been looted by the Gestapo.
Three of the drawings were bought at a Sotheby's auction in London in 1946 while the fourth was bequeathed to the museum three years later. Their history was not known at the time.
They were among 750 drawings seized from Dr Arthur Feldmann, a Jewish collector who was jailed and tortured when Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. He and his wife later died in a concentration camp.
This is the first time that his descendants have managed to track down any of the missing drawings from the collection, one of the finest in Eastern Europe.
The claim for their return was lodged by the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, based in London. The matter may now be referred to the Spoliation Advisory Panel, established by the Government to look into cases of war-looted art.
It seems almost certain that the museum, having admitted that Dr Feldmann's descendants have a valid claim, will hand back the drawings.
Last year the Government agreed to pay £125,000 compensation to a Jewish family forced to sell Jan Griffier the Elder's View of Hampton Court Palace while fleeing Nazi persecution, but the painting remained in the Tate Britain in London.
If the drawings are given back to the family it will be the first time that a major British institution has handed over war-looted art and will set an important precedent.
The drawings are The Holy Family by Niccolò dell' Abbate, An Allegory on Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo by Nicholas Blakely, Virgin and Infant Christ by Martin Johann Schmidt, and St Dorothy with the Christ Child by a follower of Martin Schongauer.