Saturday, October 31, 2015

Looted sculpture returned

A bust of the goddess Diana looted from the Royal Lazienki Palace in Warsaw by the Nazis has been returned to the Polish government following an amicable resolution with the current possessor who had consigned the work for sale at a Viennese auction house.

From the late 18th century, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s ‘Bust of the Goddess Diana’ was displayed in the collection of King Stanislaw August at the Royal Lazienki Palace.  In 1940, under Nazi occupation, the Houdon sculpture and 56 paintings from the National Museum in Warsaw were packed and transported to Krakow, the headquarters of the General Governor, Hans Frank.

The location of the Houdon bust remained a mystery until it was identified by the Polish Ministry of Culture whith help of the National Museum in Warsaw when it was offered for sale at Im Kinsky auction house in Vienna. The Polish Ministry of Culture contacted Art Recovery Group who, acting on a pro-bono basis, worked together to encourage the co-operation of the auction house and the consigner in ensuring the restitution of the Houdon bust.

Utilising their extensive international network, Christopher Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, also recruited a former adversary, Hannes Hartung, Managing Partner at Themis Partners and the erstwhile representative of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, and his colleague Andreas Cwitkovits, to provide assistance at a local level.

With priceless diplomatic support offered by the Polish Ambassador to Austria, Artur Lorkowski, an amicable resolution between the consignor and the Polish government was reached. The Houdon bust will now be returned to the Polish government ahead of a formal restitution ceremony at the Royal Lazienki Palace next month.

There are still many works of art that as a result of Nazi plundering stays in Austria. The Polish government persists in it’s efforts to find and recovery all of them:


    “There are still a lot of Nazi-looted works of art in private hands in Austria but an unfortunate reluctance to recognise legitimate claims continues to obstruct restitution efforts. In this instance the commendable actions of the possessor have set an admirable example and we are very pleased that Diana is going home.

    “Countless objects looted by the Nazis remain unaccounted for and we encourage the art market to exercise greater diligence in establishing the true provenance of works bought and sold. Passing these problems on to the next generation is not the answer, they need to be resolved now.”