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Government confirms its support for private member's bill to help return art lost in the Nazi era

Spoliation Panel publishes 9th report

The Government today confirmed its backing for Andrew Dismore MP's Private Members’ Bill to allow national museums in England and Scotland to return items lost during the Nazi era (1933-1945) where the independent Spoliation Advisory Panel recommends return and Ministers agree.

The Government announced long ago its intention to legislate in this area and this Private Members’ Bill provides an opportunity to do so.  The Bill is due to have its 3rd Reading and Report Stage in the Commons, where it was introduced, on Friday 26 June 2009.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel has today published its 9th Report, on eight drawings now in the collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.  The Report concludes that, whilst the predominant reason for the sale of the drawings in 1933 by the owner, Professor Dr Curt Glaser, was Nazi oppression, the moral claim was insufficiently strong to warrant the transfer of the drawings.  In reaching this conclusion, the Panel took account of the fact that the sale prices achieved at the time were reasonable and that Dr Glaser’s widow had received compensation from the German compensation authorities after the War. 

The Panel recommended, however, that whenever any of the drawings is on show, the Courtauld should display alongside it a brief account of its history and provenance during and since the Nazi era, with special reference to the claimants’ relationship with, and historical interest in, the drawings. 

Culture Minister, Barbara Follett said:

“It is important that the questions of ownership arising out of the terrible events of the Second World War are finally resolved, and that museums are allowed to return family treasures lost during the Nazi era.  That is why the Government supports Andrew Dismore’s Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Bill which aims to remove the statutory restrictions that prevent our national museums from taking such items out of their collections.  I hope that the Bill will continue to receive wide support during its passage through Parliament.”

Notes to editors


 

  1. The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 26 January and will have 3rd Reading and Report Stage on 26 June 2009.  This is a Private Member’s Bill that the Government is supporting.  The Bill will give the governing bodies of the national institutions named in the Bill a power to transfer an object from their collection and return it to the claimant, provided that the Spoliation Advisory Panel recommends return and Ministers agree, thus putting them on the same footing as other museums which can make such returns.  The Bill will expire on the tenth anniversary of the day on which it receives Royal Assent.  The power is not needed in Wales and Northern Ireland where museums can return such items.

  1. The 9th Report of the Spoliation Advisory Panel concerns a claim made to the Courtauld Institute of Art for the return of the following 8 drawings:

 

“An Architectural Sketch”, attributed to Domenico Fossati, pen and ink, 21.8 x 24 cms.


“A Kitchen Still-Life”, Domenico Piola, pen and ink and chalk, 18 x 28.9 cms.


“Saint Charles Borromeo”, Giovanni Battista Crosato, pen and ink, watercolour and graphite, 21 x 17.4 cms.


“A Group of Figures with Bacchus”, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, pen and ink, watercolour and red chalk, 26.4 x 19.8 cms.


“The Flight into Egypt”, Giuseppe Bernardino Bison, pen and ink and watercolour, 23.7 x 18.2 cms.


“Centaurs Embracing 1911”, Lovis Corinth, graphite, 48.3 x 33.4 cms.


“Laundresses”, Pierre Auguste Renoir, graphite and pen and ink, 31.4 x 22.5 cms.


“The Lamentation”, Italian School, 17th Century, black chalk, pen and ink and watercolour, 9 x 12.7 cms.


  1. The Panel's terms of reference and report findings are available online:http://www.culture.gov.uk/what_we_do/cultural_property/3296.aspx
  2.  The then Arts Minister Alan Howarth announced the setting up of a Panel to help resolve claims on art looted during the Nazi era on 17 February 2000 (DCMS News Release 35\2000) and the full membership of the Panel on 13 April (DCMS News Release 84\2000).

  1. The Declaration of Principles agreed at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets of December 1998 states, among the other principles, that:
    • pre-War owners and their heirs should be encouraged to come forward and make known their claims to art confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted;
    • if the pre-War owners of art that is found to have been confiscated by the Nazis and not subsequently restituted, or their heirs, can be identified, steps should be taken expeditiously to achieve a just and fair solution, recognising this may vary according to the facts and circumstances surrounding a specific case.

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