British Museum faces Nazi loot claim

BBC, 28 May 2002

The British Museum has launched an investigation into claims four valuable works of art in its collection were looted by Nazis around the time of World War II.

The drawings - thought to be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds - are said to have been stolen between 1935 and 1945 from a collection of old masters drawings owned by Dr Arthur Feldmann.

A panel was set up by the government last year to investigate claims by former owners and their families relating to looting by the Germans. 

Anonymous family members have asked for the return of the four works, said to have been stolen after the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Dr Feldmann and his family were persecuted and the collection, made up of 750 drawings, was seized.

Now unnamed descendants of the family are pursuing their claim through the Commission for Looted Art in Europe.

Ranging from the 15th to the 18th centuries, they are:

• Niccolo dell'Abbate's Holy Family
• Martin Johann Schmidt's Madonna and Child
• St Dorothy and the Christ Child by a follower of Martin Schongauer
• A Nicholas Blakey design for a book illustration

Three of the drawings were bought on behalf of the British Museum at a sale at Sotheby's in London in 1946, with the fourth coming through a bequest.

The museum could either keep the works, give them up, or pay compensation.

Dr Robert Anderson, director of the museum, said: "We thank the Commission for Looted Art in Europe for the extensive documentation that they have provided.

"We have every sympathy for the family and we will be giving this matter our urgent attention.

"Our own research and inquiries will take some weeks, and we will make a further announcement in due course."

Anne Webber, co-chair of the commission, said: "The return of these four drawings would be of immense personal significance to the family whose lives were so tragically transformed by the Nazis." · 76 Gloucester Place · London WIU 6HJ · +44 (0)20 7487 3401
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