CLAE Press Release: Nazi-looted Limoges cross returns to Poland from Austria after 67 years
Family offers reward for information leading to recovery of other looted items
Zell am See, Austria 6 May 2008 – The Commission for Looted Art in Europe announced today the restitution to the heirs of the Działyńska collection at Gołuchów Castle Poland of a 13th century Limoges enamel processional cross discovered last year in Zell am See, Austria.
The Collection was formed in the second half of the nineteenth century by Countess Isabella Działyńska née Czartoryska and became renowned throughout the world. It consisted of thousands of works of art, including paintings, Egyptian, Etruscan, Phoenician, Greek and Roman antiquities, medieval and Renaissance enamels, jewellery and silver and many other rare and precious objects. The Limoges cross was acquired in France by the Countess in 1865 and was displayed in her castle at Gołuchów in Poland for many decades.
The cross on display in the castle at Goluchow pre-war (top left)
In June 1939, with the Nazi threat looming, Princess Ludwika Czartoryska, then guardian of the collection, decided that the most valuable and important objects should be removed from Gołuchów, which was close to the German border. They were hidden for two years under the carriageway of the family home in Warsaw but were discovered and seized by the Nazis in 1941. In 1944 the seized objects were moved on Hitler’s orders to Castle Fischhorn in Zell am See, Austria where they were looted again as the war ended. Soon after, the family sent representatives to Zell am See to search for looted items. But none came to light.
In 2004 the cross was obtained in a house clearance by Mrs Lydia Gruber, a resident of Zell am See. She was looking through a skip filled with the discarded possessions of an elderly neighbour when she came across the cross. In August 2007 a friend took the cross for evaluation to the local Mining Museum at Leogang where it was recognized as a valuable and rare medieval Limoges cross. Investigations carried out by the Salzburg Police revealed its rightful owners to be members and descendants of the Czartoryski family and contact was made with the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe which represents the heirs. The restitution of the cross was negotiated by Jan Gruszkiewicz of the legal firm, Draxler & Partner of Vienna, together with the Commission, on behalf of the heirs.
At a ceremony at the Mining Museum in Leogang this morning, the cross was returned to Count Adam Zamoyski, one of the heirs and Chairman of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation in Kraków where the cross will now be on display.
“I am delighted by the recovery of a precious piece from this once magnificent collection, which we hope to re-constitute in its own building in Poland one day”, said Count Zamoyski, who lives in London. “Of particular interest to us is the fact that it turned up in this area, as we have long suspected that a significant number of the looted items found their way into local homes, and this find appears to confirm our suppositions. We very much hope that the people of Zell am See and the surrounding area will be moved to consider whether they have not come across pieces of antique jewellery, glass, enamel, and similar items that might be from this collection. Any action that led to the recovery of further pieces would not go unrewarded.”
“The heirs are very grateful to Mrs Gruber”, said Anne Webber, Co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe. “If not for her, the cross would have been destroyed and disappeared for ever. We hope that news of this recovery will bring about the discovery of other precious items from the collection which may be in the area.”
The Działyńska Limoges Enamel Processional Cross
Front and back views of the cross
Width 29 cm
The cross was acquired by the Countess Działyńska in 1865 from the Germeau collection and was subsequently published by E. Rupin in his ‘L'Oeuvre de Limoges’ in 1890. In 1903 it was extensively described and illustrated by Emile Molinier in his catalogue of the Medieval and Renaissance works of art in the Gołuchów Castle collection.
The front features five enamelled plaques. The central plaque is of the Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John on the terminal ends to the left and right; above, an apostle, and St. Peter below.
The back is centred by a roundel of Christ in Majesty. To the left and right are the symbols of St. Luke and St. Mark. At the top is a plaque with the eagle of St. John and at the base the standing angel of St. Matthew. The back of the cross is further applied with five enamelled roundels, white on blue.
The Commission for Looted Art in Europe
The London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe is the expert representative body in Europe dealing with all matters relating to Nazi looted art and other cultural property. An independent, non-profit making organisation, it negotiates policies and procedures and acts on behalf of families, institutions and governments worldwide to research, identify and recover looted cultural property. In the nine years since it was founded the Commission has been instrumental in the return of some 3,000 cultural objects to their rightful owners.
Press contact details:
For interviews, more information about this story and to obtain photographs of the cross today, and on display in Gołuchów Castle pre-war, please contact:
Anne Webber or Jennifer Anderson
Commission for Looted Art in Europe
T: +44 (0) 20 7487 3401
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Issue date: 6th May 2008