Monday, November 14, 2011

Returning the "loot"

Okay, I thought this was a really interesting story. The fact that it transpired at my university right under my nose makes it all the more pertinent, and hence I decided to share it with you all.

The Flagellation of Christ, attributed to the Master of the St. Goar Altar
German, fl. late 15th century
Panel from an altarpiece, 1480s
Oil on oak panel
Gift of Herman B. Wells, 85.59
Deaccessioned 2011

This Flagellation of Christ is thought to be the wing of a late 15th century German altarpiece, attributed to the Master of the St. Goar altar. It ended up here after former Indiana University President Herman B. Wells purchased it in good faith in London in 1967, then donated it to the museum in 1985. It had been on display here for many, many years and was a favorite for President Wells to visit as he grew older and more frail. IUAM Director Heidi Gealt believed that he identified with the Christian symbol of endurance.

However, in 2004 it was learned that this piece had been stolen from the Jadgschloss Grunewald, a small museum on the outskirts of Berlin, in the summer of 1945, which classifies it as World War II looted art. Along with 15 other paintings, this piece had been commendeared by Russian or British (likely British) soldiers from the Jadgschloss Grunewald, only to reappear on the London art market in 1966 with its past completely obscured. In 2006, after extensive research, the IUAM agreed to return the work. Now, 5 years later and as President Wells would have wanted had he known the truth, this piece is being officially returned to Berlin, its restitution ceremony taking place on November 21st.

You can visit IUAM's official provenance page for this piece HERE. Provenance is the history of ownership for a work of art. From this page you can access provenance research for other pieces in the IUAM collection.

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