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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
British Museum faces Nazi loot claim
Detail of Virgin and Child adored by St Elizabeth and the infant St John by Martin Johann Schmidt
The drawings are thought to be very valuable
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.

Detail of St Dorothy with the Christ Child by a follower of Martin Schongauer
The Nazis seized 750 drawings from the collection
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.

    Detail of An Allegory on  Poetic Inspiration with Mercury and Apollo by Nicholas Blakey
    The four works are not in the museum's first rank
    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."

  • See also:

    06 Oct 01 | Scotland
    06 Sep 01 | Entertainment
    28 Aug 01 | Entertainment
    20 Aug 01 | Entertainment
    30 May 01 | Scotland
    08 Dec 00 | Americas
    21 Oct 00 | Europe
    17 Feb 00 | UK
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